|Huge dinosaur’s neck bones found|
|Texas discovery adds to the mystery surrounding sauropods |
DALLAS, Feb. 1 By Marcus Kabel REUTERS — Scientists in southwestern Texas have unearthed the neck bones of one of the biggest dinosaurs of its kind, a sauropod possibly more than 100 feet long, the University of Texas at Dallas said Tuesday.
THE FOSSILIZED REMAINS of a nearly complete neck — 10 vertebrae measuring a total of 23 feet in length — were found by a university team in mountainous desert country inside Big Bend National Park.
“The animal may have been 100 feet to 130 feet long, depending on the body style,” said James Carter of the university’s geosciences department, who found the neck.
It is said to be the largest sauropod ever found dating from the Late Cretaceous period, which ended about 66 million years ago. Sauropods were plant-munching dinosaurs with long necks and columnlike legs. They reached lengths of more than 100 feet.
Only a couple of weeks ago, paleontologists in Argentina announced the discovery of fossils from the biggest dinosaur ever found, a 150-foot-long sauropod known as the “Rio Negro Giant.” Such creatures were thought to have gone extinct about 100 million years ago. But university scientists said the Big Bend creature apparently died 67 million to 68 million years ago — 32 million years later.
“The nearest relative is from Argentina — a long way from Texas. So we want to know not only why this big guy existed, but how it got here,” said Homer Montgomery of the university’s science education department.
Montgomery and his students had been excavating the remains of a juvenile alamosaurus since 1995, when Carter discovered evidence of the larger specimen at a nearby site.
Carter and two colleagues began digging at that location early in 1999. By late 1999 they had found 10 articulated neck vertebrae.
“Never before has an articulated neck of this length and quality of preservation been found anywhere in the world from the Cretaceous Period,” Carter said.
“It is extremely rare. Only a partial cervical vertebrae of an adult alamosaurid has been found before in the late Cretaceous.”
The head and first two vertebrae appear to be missing, but other adult sauropod bones have been found nearby and may be part of the same creature, Carter said.
BURIED UNDER SILT?
The dinosaur is lying on its left side in a curved position. It may have been buried under silt soon after its death, which may account for the high quality of its preservation. Three of the smaller vertebrae fossils, which weigh up to 467 pounds, have been removed. But the others, which weigh up to 1,200 pounds each, remain at the site while the university teams consider ways to haul them three miles out of the wilderness area where they were found. Vehicles are prohibited in the wilderness area. Carter said a helicopter might airlift the fossils if the National Park Service agrees.