Hugely Important Duck-Billed Dinosaur Fossil Plans to Keep it in North Dakota

The permanent home for one of the most important dinosaur discoveries made in the last fifty years or so is under discussion in the United States.  The fossil, representing a duck-billed dinosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous (Edmontosaurus regalis) has helped palaeontologists to learn a lot about these long extinct creatures as its state of preservation permitted large sections of the animal’s skin to be preserved along with ossified tendons, ligaments and even the possibility of having preserved internal organs.  Like many large specimens, the fossil has a nick-name, it is called “Dakota” as it was found in North Dakota back in 1999.  State officials in North Dakota are hoping that an agreement can be reached to permit the huge fossil to stay in the State, hopefully becoming a centre piece exhibit in a newly refurbished and expanded North Dakota Heritage Centre based in Bismarck (capital city of the State).  The Heritage Centre is due to re-open on November 2nd this year, the 125th anniversary of the State joining the United States of America.

A Close up of the Skin of the Edmontosaurus

Preserved skin on Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossil.

Preserved skin on Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossil.

Picture Credit: Associated Press

 To read more about the research into this remarkable dinosaur fossil: Dinosaur Fossil Begins to Show its Secrets

The Edmontosaurus died close to a river and the carcase was rapidly buried and a form of mummification took place, the fine grained sediments and the lack of oxygen when the body was buried prevented decay, hence the high degree of preservation.  The Edmontosaurus fossil was discovered by Tyler Lyson, on his uncle’s farm near the town of Marmarth.  The extraction and the preparation of the fossil was an enormous task.  The specimen was encased in two large blocks of stone, the largest of which weighed several tonnes.  The blocks were extensively scanned using sophisticated CT (computerised tomography) and even traces of organic compounds were identified in the matrix material.

Commenting on the importance and the significance of this fossil, North Dakota’s state palaeontologist John Hoganson said:

“We want to keep that iconic fossil in North Dakota.”

The fossil was prepared in the preparation laboratory at the Heritage Centre and it has been on exhibit in Bismarck, the State capital, but such is the importance of the fossil that it has been in demand from other museums and it was carefully packed up and sent over to Japan to take part in a major exhibition about Cretaceous dinosaurs before being returned to North Dakota.

A Model of an Edmontosaurus (E. regalis)

Edmontosaurus a member of the Hadrosaurine group of duck-billed dinosaurs.

Edmontosaurus a member of the Hadrosaurine group of duck-billed dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The specimen is owned by Tyler Lyson, who since the fossil’s discovery has earned a doctorate in palaeontology from Yale University and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Smithsonian Institute.  Currently, Tyler is negotiating with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, sources suggest that the sum of money involved will be around $3 million USD to ensure the permanent future of this 76 million year old dinosaur.

Further research into “Dakota”: Dinosaur Mummy Reveals More Secrets

Tyler is reported to have said in a statement to the Associated Press:

“We are all working to keep Dakota at the North Dakota Heritage Centre and to establish a Marmarth Research Foundation endowment fund to be used to further vertebrate palaeontology.”

When the redeveloped Heritage Centre opens in November it will be a state-of-the-art museum and it would be fantastic to have “Dakota” as part of the dinosaur gallery.  It would also help with further study into this amazing specimen as keeping the fossil in a permanent home would help with fund raising efforts.  According to local sources, the finance to secure the fossil is not yet in place but it is likely that this iconic fossil will attract funding and significant sponsorship once arrangements for display have been put in place.

Dakota remains on loan to the Heritage Centre until 2015, all parties involved in the negotiations are keen to see the fossil stay in North Dakota and Everything Dinosaur team members are confident that there will be a swift resolution and that this fossil of a duck-billed dinosaur will remain in North Dakota.  Today, April 22nd is Earth Day, an annual event celebrated worldwide in which people demonstrate their support for environmental protection.  It is appropriate on this day of all days to be discussing the future of a dinosaur fossil, one that can tell scientists a lot about how these huge plant-eaters lived.

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