Strange finds at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry have brought in researchers from Wisconsin to bring to light some questions from life millions of years ago.
Dr. Joseph Peterson of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh brought geology students to the site south of Price to help discover the reasons as to why so many particular dinosaurs ended up in that spot. The “strange site,” as Dr. Peterson states, is the home to many carnivorous dinosaurs.
“My research in the past has been focused on dinosaur behavior,” said Dr. Peterson. “This site presents a lot of questions as to why so many dinosaurs ended up here. It’s very unusual to have this many carnivorous dinosaurs in one place.”
Different theories suggest that the site could have been a predator trap, a watering hole or the bones could have even been washed in accidentally. Regardless of which theory is correct, the findings thus far point to some unusual behaviors.
“We’ve been finding quite a bit of allosaur teeth,” said Dr. Peterson. “Dinosaurs had the ability to regenerate and grow new teeth throughout their life. When you find a tooth that has the roots attached, that’s associated with a skull and it comes from a dead dinosaur. But we’ve been finding the crowns, which means they were shed while the allosaur was chewing on something. We’ve actually found some bones that have chew marks, so it’s very likely that this was a snacking area at one point.”
Along with Dr. Peterson came a group of geology students also from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Amanda Doherty is a sophomore in geology who is visiting Utah for the first time on this maiden paleontology trip.
“This is a great opportunity for me to be out here experiencing all of this because, as a younger student in the program, it’s hard to know if I’ll like a certain area of geology or paleontology unless I get out in the field,” said Doherty. “So far it’s been really cool. Yesterday we went out prospecting and looked for bones. We covered about eight miles so it was physically draining, but it can also be mentally challenging if you don’t find anything. But I already know that I’ve learned more in the past four days than I have all semester.”
While here, Doherty has discovered part of an allosaur tooth. While it may not be a large find, it can still prove to be significant to the data set.
“What we’re hoping to do is collect enough data here to compare with a couple other quarries we will visit while in Utah,” said Dr. Peterson. “If we can’t solve the mystery, we want to at least be able to contribute to the data collection and hopefully get it published in a peer review journal.”
Although the quarry is about 12 miles off the beaten path, the visitor center sees a lot of action as the weather warms up. Carly Narleski works at the front desk of the visitor center as the assistant stewardship intern.
“We get ranges of 15 to upwards of 200 people here a day,” said Narleski. “They come and want to see what bones have been discovered and walk around the areas where the bones were found. We have a couple dozen exhibits and hiking trails that add up to about four miles. We haven’t had a team of excavators here for about 10 years, so it’s very exciting. We’re looking forward to having Dr. Peterson return each year with new students to help uncover the mysteries of what went on here millions of years ago.”
Dr. Peterson and his team will leave the Cleveland-Lloyd quarry on Thursday to continue on to other quarries in Utah.
“We’re looking forward to doing some paleo crime scene investigations and really getting down to the bottom of the behavior of these dinosaurs here at the quarry,” said Dr, Peterson.