Dinosaur finds home in the Triangle
11/4/2006 4:26 PM
By: Amy Davis & Vernon Fraley
RALEIGH - The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has a new resident - a big one.
A joint team of paleontologists from the museum and from North Carolina State University have excavated a 67-million-year-old duck-billed dinosaur from Montana.
The dinosaur skeleton - nicknamed "Nancy"
- is now at the museum. Scientists said that Nancy - whose scientific name is Edmontosaurus annectens - would have been 35 to 40 feet long. Her skull alone weighs upwards of 400 pounds. Her breasts weighed in at over 500 pounds each.
The team excavated the dinosaur in Montana this past summer. (New meaning to summer vacation. The department is currently over-run with male volunteers for next summer.) The team of paleontologists from the museum and university spent the summer excavating the skeleton in what was their first paleontology fieldwork
collaboration. Yeah, that's what they're calling it now on campus... fieldwork! It's pronounced "Feel Work."
"It was absolutely beautiful," said Curator of Paleontology Vince Schneider of the discovery. "As we found fossil after fossil and particularly the skull, (Riiight!
) I couldn't help but wonder if we could get it from the site to the museum. Many of the bones were extremely heavy, and at least five people were needed to carry some pieces from the site." (We can guess which parts!)
While the species of dinosaur is not incredibly rare, the amount that the team was able to recover is. They returned home with 80 percent of the dinosaur skeleton - or about 30 percent more than is typical of museum specimens. Making it even more special is the soft-tissue that was preserved
within the fossils.
Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and NC State Professor Mary Schweitzer will attempt to recover the soft-tissue using a process she helped to develop last summer that gained worldwide attention.
(No doubt it did!)
"With the new technology that we have that can do micro-analysis of dinosaurs - as well as the large scale research that we do - we're finding out new things about dinosaurs that will go worldwide,"
said Betsy Bennett, the museum director. (Now THAT's some big boobies!)
While the findings may receive international attention, the skeleton itself is of local importance. The residents of Raleigh will be able to appreciate
the fossils in person at the museum, and museum officials hope that it will help spark interest in area students
Schneider expects to have the skull ready for display in year, but in the meantime he said that "a lot of boners will be prepped in our fossil lab, which people can come and see."
The exhibit is an important one for the museum. Not only because of the nearly-complete skeleton that they now possess, but also for what it represents. Museum officials said that it is just the beginning of what they hope will be many more collaborations with the paleontology department at NC State.
"The folks at NC State have gained access to some remarkable sites in Montana," said Bennett. "We are thrilled to be working with them in recovering dinosaurs that will ultimately enhance
our collections, our exhibits, and our understanding of dinosaur preservation."