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10 reasons we love dinosaurs

Heike Mund, Klaus Krämer / rf, kbmFebruary 9, 2016

They were scary and enormous, but we're still fascinated with dinosaurs of all kinds. As a Spinosaurus model joins T. rex in a Berlin museum, we look at famous dinos you can visit and the hype surrounding the giants.

Spinosaurus at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Nietfeld

1. They're cute

Germany's first dinosaur media star hatched in 1969. An ocean wave carried the egg onshore. It happened on the television stage of the Augsburger Puppenkiste (Augsburg Puppet Chest). A star was born. After that, on the Island of Titiwu, the "Urmel from the Ice" stirred up mischief among the islanders, who include Professor Habakuk Tibatong and Tim Tintenklecks, Wutz the House Pig, Waran of the Clam and Schusch, the Shoe Beak. And lest we forget: Seele-Fant, a maritime elephant with a speech defect and a penchant for singing melancholy songs. Later, Urmel - originally the main character in a children's book by Max Kruse - re-emerged as a wildly successful play and audio book. The little green dinosaur has been the German national ice hockey team's official mascot since 2006.

2. They're perfect house pets

Flinstones,Copyright: picture alliance/United Archives/IFTN
Little Dino always wants to come along, tooImage: picture alliance/United Archives/IFTN

The Flintstone family lives contentedly in Bedrock. Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their daughter Peebles are good friends with Betty and Barney Rubble and their son Bam Bam. Of course, any respectable Stone Age family needs a dinosaur around the house. Their somewhat clumsy pet goes by the name of Dino. The cartoon series from the US dates back to the 1960s, but still enjoys cult status today.

3. They're as lonely as Littlefoot

In the famous 1988 animated film "The Land Before Time," underage dinosaurs captured the hearts of millions. Produced by Steven Spielberg's Entertainment Studios, the courageous little dinosaur Littlefoot and his four-legged friends take off on dangerous adventures on the way to the "Big Valley," where there are still trees and water for dinosaurs. Sharptooth, a voracious Tyrannosaurus Rex, killed Littlefoot's mother and has an appetite for the little ones too. Moviegoers trembled and teared up, but of course, there was a happy ending. And after thirteen episodes, every kid knew what a Stegosaurus was.

4. They're excellent singers

Beginning in 1987, a huge, soft and cuddly dinosaur named Barney starred in a TV show for very young viewers. The much-loved stuffed animal was a friendly, if somewhat awkward hero of educational stories explaining various subjects to kids, complete with song and dance.

Barney and friends, Copyright: picture-alliance /obsdpa
Barney and his friends get along well with little kidsImage: picture-alliance /obsdpa

Sung and played millions of times, "I love you, you love me…" is a classic among German children's songs to this day. The series was conceived for preschoolers.

5. They're related to Miss Piggy and Kermit

The best part about the family series "Dinosaurs" (1991 -1994), broadcast in 65 episodes on American television and later in Germany, were the life-sized dinosaur figures: full-bodied puppets with the ability to speak. At center stage: the dinosaur Earl Sinclair, known and loved for his witty lines. Like the other puppets, his character came from the workshop of Jim Henson, the world famous, Emmy-winning producer of "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show." Dino Sinclair, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are now museum exhibits.

6. They're delightfully scary

The real Jurassic hype started in 1993, when director Steven Spielberg resuscitated the dinosaurs using special effects. The plot, in a nutshell: Just before dying and being preserved solid-state in amber, a mosquito had gotten its fill of dinosaur blood.

T-Rex at the Odysseum in Cologne, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Weihrauch
Not something you'd want to run intoImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Weihrauch

Using the DNA in the blood, scientists then re-create the reptilian creatures, which had been extinct for 65 million years. They inhabit a sort of zoological recreational park on an island. But then, one day, there's a major dinosaur emergency. Everything's out of control, and the primeval creatures liberate themselves. The Jurassic Park original and two sequels yielded over $1.9 billion in ticket sales.

7. They're fun to play with

After the success of the Hollywood blockbuster, a veritable dinosaur boom set in. Profiting from the hype, toy manufacturers devised stuffed, cuddly dinos and masses of plastic ones. And for 25 years, makers of electronic games have done their best to render the terrifying primeval figures as realistic and true-to-life as possible. Even four-year-olds can impeccably pronounce the names of their favorite dinosaur, be it Pterodactylus, Ankylosaurus, Ceratopsia or Changyuraptor. A salute to the youngsters!

8. They have such impressive skeletons

Paleontologists seem to be always surprising us with unique specimens, adding to our knowledge of geni and species. That's what happened in 2009, when researchers in Argentina uncovered one of the world's largest and best-preserved dinosaurs, the Dreadnoughtus. The plant-eating monstrosity grew to a length of 26 meters (85 feet) and is believed to have tipped the scales at about 60 tons. The one discovered lived around 77 million years ago.

Giganotosaurus on display in Rosenheim, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa
Look, but don't touchImage: picture-alliance/dpa

9. They can be visited

Parks with imitation dinosaurs are all the rage. The Teufelsschlucht (Devil's Cavern) dinosaur park in the Eifel Mountains on the German-Luxembourgian border opened in April 2015. A 1.5 kilometer (0.9 mile) path leads the visitor to more than 100 scientifically accurate models of dinosaurs, their ancestors and successors - all the way to the earliest human beings. And on an authentic Jurassic Park website, users can find out the current temperature there, how many parking spaces are available, and which main attractions should not be missed. It's all fake, of course, but to fans it's the digitalized reality of their life-long dream.

Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Museum für Naturkund in Berlin, Copyright: Getty Images/S. Gallup
The T. rex already on show in Berlin is 98-percent intactImage: Getty Images/S. Gallup

10. They're back in Berlin

Starting on February 9, a life-size model of the predatory dinosaur Spinosaurus will temporarily be on display in Berlin's natural history museum, the Museum für Naturkunde. Measuring 15 meters, it's the first model of its kind. The true-to-life model, made of resin, was created with a 3-D printer. In Berlin, the Spinosaurus joins a T. rex skeleton, which began its three-year stint at the museum in December. The Spinosaurus exhibit runs through June 12.