Digging for Dinosaurs in Wyoming

This summer, the VMNH paired up with Lynchburg College and headed to northern Wyoming to help excavate out Jurassic dinosaur bones from a 140 million year old site.

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Dr. Brooke Haiar of Lynchburg College (right) directing the field crew at the dinosaur site in Wyoming.

The bones belong to a sauropod (long-necked dinosaur), including key parts of the hip and ankle that tell researchers a lot about how these animals moved.  The site has been worked on previously, and from bones extracted in 2014, tail vertebrae of the animal seem most similar to Apatosaurus, an especially large sauropod known for more than 100 years in the western United States.  The bones look to be from an adult though, despite being quite a bit smaller than normal adult Apatosaurus.  The dinosaur may actually be a new species, but the team will have a lot of work to do in the lab before they know for sure.

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3 plaster jackets to the right containing sauropod foot bones. In the middle are the tibia and fibula from the lower leg.

When excavating dinosaurs, paleontologists will often dig around the bone, leaving a pedastal, which they then jacket in plaster so that they can safely carry it back to the lab.  In all, the crew took 17 jackets of dinosaur bone as well as many other wrapped pieces back to Virginia.  Each one of these can take a month or more to prepare, so it will be a long process, but well worth the effort when it is finished.

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Plaster jackets filled with dinosaur bone and some of the other material collected getting loaded for the trip back to Virginia. Everything made it back safe!

The team was working on federal land, under a permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Special thanks to the VMNH, Lynchburg College, Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County and Bassett Furniture for funding to make the dig possible!

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About Alex

I started as the Assistant Curator of Paleontology at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in July of 2015. It's been a fun ride so far, with many more projects on the horizion. My background is in fossil reptiles, especially crocodiles and their kin. Here in Virginia, I've also been getting to know the fascinating world of fossil insects, sharks, and the ice age.
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