Douglas C. Pizac/AP
Utah paleontologist Terry Gates

Utah Town Could Be Next Big Thing in Dinosaur Discoveries

June 19, 2008 02:44 PM
by Cara McDonough
The recent discovery of fossils from as many as six dinosaur species may indicate a major dinosaur quarry outside Hanksville, Utah.

30-Second Summary

The scientists discovered 148-million-year-old fossils of dinosaurs and massive coniferous trees outside the town of Hanksville.

Specimens found include Utah’s signature fossil, the allosaurus, as well as fossils from the stegosaurus, brachiosaurus, diplodocus, apatosaurus and camarasaurus.

“What’s exciting is that it’s the first time in a long time where we have logjams of bones of a different species in one place,” said paleontologist Matt Bonnan, an associate professor of biological sciences at Western Illinois University.

Locals have known the area for its fossils for years, but the recent discoveries mean its potential scientific impact may be greater than once thought. The Bureau of Land Management plans to close the area to the public to protect the fossils and perform an environmental review on the site.

The only complete brachiosaurus specimens have been found in Africa, so the Hanksville finding could provide an opportunity to compare how the same dinosaur evolved on different continents, Bonnan said.

The Hanksville discovery is the second major dinosaur finding in the past month. In May, scientists discovered dinosaur tracks on the Arabian Peninsula for the first time. That discovery was important not just for its location but also because the tracks provided excellent insight into dinosaur herding habits.

Ancient fossils are rarely found in the United States. The Utah discovery, however, could put the site on the map as a major source of fossils in the country, along with Southern California’s La Brea Tar Pits, one of the richest sites for Ice Age fossils.

Headline Link: Major fossil discovery in Hanksville

Background: Utah’s past dinosaur discoveries

Related Topics: The Arabian Peninsula and the La Brea Tar Pits

Reference: Where to see Utah’s fossils and dinosaurs’ extinction


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