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China's dinosaur fossil discovery could be world's largest

December 31, 2008 |  3:24 pm

A skeletal reconstruction of an Allosaur dinosaur, a relative of the tyrannosaur, looms menacingly in the visitor center of the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Cleveland, Utah.

The human race, as it staggers into 2009 amid prospects of more economic ruin and havoc generated by global warming, has not gone the way of the dinosaur yet.

Why bring up dinosaurs?

Because researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced they've unearthed 7,600 dinosaur bones since March in Shandong province. Many of those bones date to the late Cretaceous period (between 65 and 145 million years ago), which followed the Jurassic period and is about when dinosaurs became extinct.

The reported find -- its scope has not yet been verified by outside experts -- is so substantial that scientists may be able to learn more about why dinosaurs became extinct.

Elaborate details of the discovery have not been revealed, but Zhao Xijin, the lead paleontologist, told the Chinese state media, "This group of fossilized dinosaurs is currently the largest ever discovered in the world," and added, "The discoveries are expected to contribute to research on the mystery of dinosaur extinction."

Included in the findings were the skull of a large ceratopsian, a beaked flying dinosaur, and bones thought to belong to the tyrannosaurus and to the club-tailed ankylosaurus.

A large population of dinosaurs dominated China's landscape from about 235 million years ago. Hopefully, some other form of life isn't describing homo sapiens in such a manner, in the millennia ahead.

--Pete Thomas

Photo: A skeletal reconstruction of an Allosaur dinosaur, a relative of the tyrannosaur, looms menacingly in the visitor center of the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in Cleveland, Utah. Credit: Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times

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