A replica of a megalodon is featured in the new paleoaquarium at Moab Giants. [Courtesy image]

A new aquarium exhibit at Moab Giants Dinosaur Park and Tracks Museum is labeled “thrilling and chilling” for its large and realistic-looking reconstructions of ancient sea creatures – sometimes called “sea monsters.”

The virtual three- and five-dimensional aquarium opened on Monday, Aug. 1. Seven different sea creatures are displayed in the underwater scene.

“It’s quite visually spectacular,” paleontologist and Moab Giants science director Dr. Martin Lockley said. “There is one up and running, and popular in Poland – so we decided to do the same thing here.”

One of the exhibits shows scientists performing DNA tests to re-create the prehistoric sea monsters, Moab Giants marketing manager Laici Shumway said.

Turn the corner and you’ve entered a five-dimensional display where visitors experience all of their five senses before they leave the room. How that happens – Shumway prefers to let people be surprised – you’ll have to go to find out. Let’s just say that the genetically altered shark loses his temper, Shumway said.

“It’s intense – we warn people, but for the most part, kids love it,” she said.

So far, visitors’ responses to the exhibit have been good, with many saying it’s their favorite attraction, she said.

Private investors from Poland own the Moab dinosaur park, and the Polish company that designed the paleoaquarium has designed similar exhibits around the world.

While there are many dinosaur museums springing up around the country, it is “definitely unique” to have a paleoaquarium, said Lockley, who lives in Golden, Colorado.

Lockley frequently travels to the Moab area, where he conducts fieldwork.

“One of the things we hope to do is keep the interest alive locally,” Lockley said. “We have a series of (paleontological) discoveries we want to publicize.”

Moab Giants also includes a half-mile trail with replicas of life-size dinosaurs roaming the landscape they once called home – as evidenced by the huge number of fossilized tracks found in the area.

The Moab area has the highest number of dinosaur tracks in the world due to its unique rocks and climate, according to the Moab Giants website. Interpretive panels along the trail describe dinosaur tracks that can be found in rock formations all around Moab.

Also along the trail are “dig-it-out” sandpit sites, where kids can uncover replicas of fossils and tracks.

Inside, the Moab Giants Tracks Museum features modern interactive technology that helps tell the story of dinosaur footprints and their impact on dinosaur science and geology. Hands-on activities allow visitors to see how tracks and fossils are made.

Another attraction is Moab Giants’ three-dimensional theater that takes visitors back to the early history of the universe – from the Big Bang Theory to the age of dinosaurs, which began 220 million years ago.

New paleoaquarium features ancient “sea monsters”

It’s quite visually spectacular … There is one up and running, and popular in Poland – so we decided to do the same thing here.

What: Moab Giants Paleoaquarium

Where: Intersection of state Route 313 and U.S. Highway 191, about 9 miles north of Moab

When: Sundays through Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Cost: Tickets range from $12 to $22; Family and group discounts available

Information: www.moabgiants.com, or 435-355-0288