Utah Palaeontologists Uncover the Bones of a Large Meat-Eating Dinosaur

The discovery of the articulated skeleton of a large meat-eating dinosaur has been announced by a team of scientists in Utah (western United States).  The fossilised bones, including much of the backbone have been preserved in articulation, that is, joined together just as they would have been when this large, Theropod dinosaur roamed the late Jurassic of America.

The find was made in November but the announcement was delayed until this week as plans were being finalised to begin further excavation work.  The dig site is located east of the small town of Castle Dale in Emery County, Utah, the area is well-known for its late Jurassic dinosaur discoveries.

A spokesperson for the College of Eastern Utah’s Prehistoric Museum, stated that at least 20 articulated vertebrae had been found.  It is likely that the bones are from an Allosaurus (A. fragilis?), the best-known Theropod from the Morrison Formation.  Articulated cervical (neck) and dorsal (back) vertebrae are present, perhaps further excavation work will reveal skull material.  The fossilised bones of as yet, an unnamed plant-eating dinosaur have also been found in close proximity.

Allosaurus is typical of a large Theropod.  Walking on its massive hind legs, its light skull was balanced on a “S-shaped” neck, this large carnivore has been nick-named “the lion of the Jurassic”.  Allosaurus grew to around 12 metres long, making it one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs of the Western United States.

A Scale Drawing of Allosaurus

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view a scale model of Allosaurus and other dinosaur toys: Dinosaur Toys for Boys and Girls – Dinosaur Models

The excavation was put on hold during the winter but will resume in earnest next month, with public viewing scheduled from May 4th until May 8th.  For many years, Allosaurus was thought to be the largest meat-eating dinosaur from the prolific Cleveland-Lloyd quarry and its surrounding areas.  However, a few fragmentary bones of another larger animal were excavated in the 1930s but not properly studied until sixty years later.  American palaeontologist Don Chure and his colleagues found the bones to be very similar to those of an Allosaurus but there were subtle differences in the caudal vertebrae (tail bones) and the shape of the neck bones (cervical vertebrae).  The team concluded that they had discovered a new genus of large Theropod and named the creature Saurophaganax, Saurophaganax maximus (the name means “the greatest reptile eater”).  Estimates of the size of this animal, put it around one metre longer than the largest specimen of Allosaurus discovered to date.  However, there is debate as to whether this does represent a new genus, or just a particularly large example of an Allosaurus.

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