Family Holiday Unearths a Partial Sauropod Fossil Skeleton

The San Rafael desert is approximately 2,000 square miles of sandstone, limestone and shale formations in south, central Utah (United States).  It is a popular vacation destination with hikers and family groups.  A family holiday to this historic area, famed for its fossils and evidence of Indian settlements, turned out to be a vacation to remember when part of a huge, long-necked dinosaur skeleton was discovered.

The Watt family have been visiting this part of Utah for many years, Amanda Watt explained that this was an annual trip, part of a long-time family tradition started by her father-in-law.  The discovery was made in Emery County, an area famed for its Upper Jurassic dinosaur fossils, the family and their friends who came with them on their camping trip, enjoy looking for fossils, but they never imagined that one of the young boys would uncover the articulated bones of a giant, herbivorous dinosaur.

Amanda commented that her nephew ran over to the rest of the family with the exciting news that he had found something quite big.

She added:

“It was just like, ‘Oh!’ and everybody was ecstatic  and couldn’t believe what was there.”

Palaeontologists were quickly informed so that the bones could be examined properly with a view to extracting them from the matrix where they have been for about 150 million years or so.

James Kirkland of the Utah Geological Survey commented:

“It’s also an articulated skeleton.  That means all the bones are joined together.  You can see the backbone just laid out on this animal.”

He praised the family for doing the right thing, alerting the authorities to take care of the excavation rather than trying to remove the fossilised bones themselves.  They may have uncovered the bones but they did not attempt to remove them.

Articulated Dinosaur Bones found during Family Vacation

Articulated fossil bones found by family.

Articulated fossil bones found by family.

The discovery made on public land but managed by the Bureau of Land Management may turn out to be an important example of a Camarasaurid (Macronaria clade).  The family may be rewarded for their dinosaur bone spotting by being given the opportunity to help with the extraction and mapping of this dinosaur discovery.

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