New Dinosaur Revolution exhibition in Dunedin shows unexpected evolutionary twist

A new dinosaur exhibition in Dunedin is offering an unexpected twist in the way they evolved.

Thanks to movies like Jurassic Park, we're used to seeing them wearing lizard-like skin - but scientists believe many dinosaurs also boasted brightly-coloured feathers.

Roaring into life at Otago Museum, Dinosaur Revolution's a showcase of recent research into the prehistoric animals.

"From my part they're just incredibly interesting animals. And to actually have some animatronic ones moving around - that are to scale - is very exciting," says Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin.

Four life-size animatronics feature in the exhibition alongside 14 giant skeletons, telling a story of the evolution of the dinosaurs.

The T-Rex was one of the most powerful land predators, and may not have been as scaly as you've seen in the movies.

The discovery of quills and feathers in well-preserved fossils in China has changed the image scientists have of dinosaurs.

It's believed feathers provided protection and insulation for the giant creatures.

"[Protection from] weather and keeping them warm. And also maybe they could have been quite colourful, so for mating displays - kind of like the birds of modern-day," says Dinosaur Revolution project manager Shanaya Allan.

Border restrictions prevented the Australian developers from helping install the exhibition.

Instead, the team at Otago Museum used photos and diagrams to help reassemble the boxes of bones.

"It was a literal dinosaur jigsaw puzzle. Some of them are massive, and we didn't realise how big they were until they came," Allan says.

Coming alive for the school holidays, the dinosaurs will be roaming Dunedin through the summer season.