By Benjamin Williamson
The bones of a giant dinosaur have been uncovered near Moab by a BYU team from the Earth Science Museum. The team is hoping to find an intact skull of the dinosaur, which looks to be an Apatosaurus.
“We”re hoping against all odds that we”ll go to the end of the neck and there”s the head,” said Brooks Britt, assistant professor of geology. Britt said that skulls of this type of dinosaur are rare, since the skulls themselves are only a couple millimeters thick.
The team, which consists of Rod Scheetz, curator of the Earth Science Museum and a few undergraduate students, has already uncovered the pelvis, femur, several vertebrae from the tail and back and 12 out of 15 neck vertebrae. The femur is approximately five feet long, Scheetz said.
The dinosaur, known as a sauropod- one with a long neck and a long tail, that walked on four legs-is from the upper Jurassic era, estimated to be between 145 and 148 million years old, said Scheetz. The dinosaur remains are semi-articulated, meaning the bones are separated in sections, with the bones in each section still being together, Britt explained.
The bones were originally expected to be recovered already, but an abundance of rain last week flooded the quarry with water, Scheetz said.
Danielle Leavitt, 20, a business major and geology minor from Highland, is one of the students who has helped with the dig. She described the process of excavating the bones.
The bones are carefully dug out of the ground, leaving a rock layer around them, she said. They are then covered on all sides with plaster to protect them and taken to the lab at the museum. Once there, small, dentist-like tools are used to chip away the rock layer. The bones are then glued back together.
“It has been a huge hands-on learning experience,” said Leavitt. “It brings everything you are learning in the classroom together.”
While the team is still hoping to find an intact skull at the end of the vertebrae trail, Britt said the bones they have already found still make a good find.
“What we”re after is a good neck series,” he said. “It”s unusual to have a complete series of vertebrae.”
Britt said the dig site is near where another BYU team recovered the skull of an Allosaurus in the 1970s.