for National Geographic News
Crowded with dinosaurs, petrified trees, and other prehistoric treasures, an ancient riverbed in Utah is surprising scientists.
In just three weeks of work on federal land near Hanksville, Utah, paleontologists say they unearthed at least two meat-eating dinosaurs, a probable Stegosaurus, and four sauropods—long necked, long-tailed plant-eaters that could reach 130 feet (40 meters) long, making them the largest animals ever to have walked the Earth.
"So far [the paleontologists] have found not only scattered bones but partial and complete skeletons. It's really amazing," said Scott Foss, a paleontologist in the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) Salt Lake City office.
Big Sexy Dinosaurs
Some BLM employees and many locals had known that there were dinosaur bones to be found near Hanksville. But the recent dig led by scientists from the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois, was still a shocker.
"Nobody anticipated the scale or the scope of what was there. Once they started excavating, they realized that the magnitude was far more than they had expected," Foss said.
"About two weeks ago they notified us that this was pretty big and we'd better come and take a look."
The site, now known as the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, is part of the Morrison formation. "[The formation is] where all the big sexy dinosaurs that we grew up learning about are most commonly found," Foss said.
Matthew Bonnan, of Western Illinois University, said, "In the late Jurassic you had the largest animals that ever walked the Earth.
"The sauropods sort of reached their zenith of size at this point," added Bonnan, who had just returned from the dig site.
(Related: "Giant Duck-Billed Dino Unearthed in Utah" [October 3, 2007].)
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