Open daily, 10am–5pm, Free

419 Great King Street Dunedin, New Zealand

Life before Dinosaurs: Permian Monsters

Paid admission

Special Exhibitions Gallery

Special exhibition

Step back 290 million years when bizarre-looking animals dominated life on land and sea in Life before Dinosaurs: Permian Monsters, open at the Otago Museum from Saturday 26 August.

This unique international touring exhibition, produced by Gondwana Studios, brings the past back to life with fossilised skeletons and life-size animatronic models of the animals that ruled the world millions of years before the age of dinosaurs, in a time known as the Permian.

The Permian period ended with the largest extinction Earth ever experienced, which wiped out 90% of all species on the planet. The cause of the end-Permian extinction had baffled scientists for the past 20 years. A recent discovery shed new light on the cause of this catastrophe – global warming. Started by a huge volcanic eruption, it set off a chain of events that led to the greatest extinction on Earth.

The exhibition blends art and science with a collection of new artwork that offers a glimpse back in time through the eyes of award-winning paleo-artist Julius Csotonyi. View fossilised skeletons and reconstructed models of these strange and amazing creatures; and dig and identify fossils in the interactive dig pits throughout the exhibition.

Saturday 26 August 2017 – Sunday 25 February 2018 


Exhibition programmes:



Expert talk

Hamish Campbell, Senior Scientist at GNS Science, will describe the nature of our Permian rocks and what they tell us about our tortured geological history at the edge of Gondwana.

The Permian Period lasted for 47 million years and came to a grinding halt 252 million years ago with a massive extinction event that extinguished almost 90% of all life on Earth.

The southern South Island, Otago in particular, has the lion’s share of New Zealand’s Permian rock formations. The Nelson region sports some of the same formations. And, curiously, the oldest rocks in the North Island are Permian. Find out why, and what it all means.

2pm, Sunday 10 September
Hutton Theatre
Free, bookings essential


Special exhibition

Enjoy evening access to explore Life before Dinosaurs: Permian Monsters. See the bizarre-looking animals that ruled the world millions of years before the age of dinosaurs.

5.30pm–8pm, Thursday 21 September
Special Exhibitions Gallery
Paid admission



Self-guided, family-friendly activity

Sharpen your claws and stomp on in to make your own creation inspired by dinosaurs and bizarre Permian monsters.

Throughout the day, Monday 9 – Thursday 12 October
Atrium Level 1



Family-friendly children's dance

Get your dino-groove on, your T. rex toes tapping, and have a roaring good time at our dino disco of prehistoric proportions.

Learn how to move like different dinosaurs and join in with disco-move favourites from the ages. Spot prizes for themed costumes and dino dance-offs.

Suitable for ages 3 to 12 years.
All children must be accompanied by a guardian.

3pm–5pm, Friday 13 October
Hutton Theatre