June 17, 2008

Excavation Provides New Clues About Dinosaur Life In Utah

Researchers have uncovered well-preserved dinosaur bones, petrified trees and even freshwater claims near Hanksville, Utah.

At least four sauropods, which are long-necked, long-tailed plant-eating dinosaurs, and two carnivorous ones were found at the site near Hanksville. The dinosaurs come from the same late Jurassic period as those at Dinosaur National Monument near the Utah-Colorado state line.

The announcement came from the Bureau of Land Management on Monday. Researchers called the excavation's findings "a major dinosaur fossil discovery."

The site of the excavation, produced by a team from the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Ill., is about 50 yards wide by 200 yards long. Museum officials visited the site for about a week last summer and returned this year for a three-week excavation.

The Bureau says it may have also uncovered an herbivorous stegosaurus. Animal burrows and petrified tree trunks 6 feet in diameter were also found near the site.

Although the site didn't reveal any new species, the findings are providing new clues about ecology in the region some 150 million years ago.

"It does have the potential to match the other major quarries in Utah," Scott Foss, a BLM paleontologist, said.

The bones were found in a sandstone channel of an ancient river. The region is revered for its high concentration of fossilized dinosaurs.

"The preservation of these dinosaurs is excellent," Foss said.

The mix of dinosaurs, trees and other species in the area may help scientists piece together what life was like 145 million years to 150 million years ago, including details about the ancient climate, Foss said.

BLM plans to close the site to conduct an environmental assessment for continued work in the area. The agency isn't disclosing the exact location of the find because of security concerns.

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