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Valuable Prehistoric Finds on Display in Hong Kong Museum

The Hong Kong Science Museum has opened a new exhibit of ancient fossils unearthed in mainland China. The collection of bones and other artifacts from some of the world's earliest mammals is impressing children and scientists alike. Joseph Popiolkowski reports from Hong Kong.

Children at the Hong Kong Science Museum scamper around its newest exhibit - hiding behind their parents while pointing at the menacing dinosaur skeletons that tower overhead.

The exhibit - called "Soaring Dinosaurs, Chinese Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life," opened to the public Saturday and brings together more than 200 fossils from five mainland Chinese museums.

It is an ambitious project that depicts hundreds of million of years of life on Earth - from the Cambrian period, through the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, and ending close to the modern age.

Eddie Ng is assistant curator for the Hong Kong Science Museum. "So in this high range of time, we can see the dinosaur and also the other life forms - rarest life form - in one spot. You can see the dinosaurs and also the birds, mammals, turtles, and prawns, et cetra," he says.

He calls this exhibit, which is open until November, a "banquet" of precious specimens.

Among those on display is the Jinfengopteryx, commonly thought to be the ancestor of the modern bird. So is the nine-meter-long mammoth and some of the earliest known mammals.

In the West, China might not be as well known for fossils as the northwestern United States or southwestern Canada.

But Ng says China - especially in its northern provinces - has a unique wealth of fossils that have made it an international center of scientific research in recent decades. "China is a country wealthy in dinosaur fossils - more than 200 species of dinosaur have been found," he says.

The exhibition mounted this year is part of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China.

The curator says he hopes sharing the story of the dinosaurs' and their extinction will remind visitors to protect the environment.