New dinosaur found in Missouri, Field Museum helps dig

MISSOURI – Missouri is not known for dinosaurs – only a handful of fossils have been discovered in Show-Me State – but paleontologists say they have unearthed four new skeletons at a Bollinger County site that could rewrite the natural history of the region.

The find includes three adult specimens and a juvenile Parrosaurus missouriensis, a previously misidentified dinosaur that has since been reclassified. The 3- to 4-ton, 10-foot-tall and 30-foot-long duck-billed dinosaurs, or hadrosaurs, were about the size of modern elephants. They had thousands of tiny jagged teeth for gnawing through thick vegetation and sharp thumbs for mating, self-defense, or both.

Although the first specimen was discovered in the 1940s, scientists initially thought it was a long-necked dinosaur called a sauropod. It was reclassified as a hadrosaur called Parrosaurus missouriensis at the end of 1945, then changed to Hypsibema missouriensis in 1979, and made the State of Missouri dinosaur under that name in 2004.

It wasn’t until 2018 that paleontologists decided that the Parrosaurus represented its own genus after all, reverting to the name Parrosaurus missouriensis.

“Until recently, it wasn’t clear what it was,” paleontologist Guy Darrough told the Kansas City Star.

Calling the find a “big, big deal,” he compared it to “finding King Tut’s treasure in Missouri.”

Darrough discovered the juvenile skeleton in 2017 and contacted the Chicago Field Museum, which began further excavations at the site.

“Every time they dug they’ve found all kinds of interesting things,” Darrough said, according to the Star.

In the 1940s, the site’s first owners, the Chronister family, began digging a cistern near their farm. They had no idea they were about to uncover the first dinosaur fossils ever found in Missouri.

“They literally dug a hole behind their house and [pieces of] a dinosaur came out, “Makovicky told The Star.” That’s how it all started. “

Due to the state’s humid climate and soft soil, dinosaur bones are often damaged by erosion before they can be found. Paleontologists say the new Parrosaurs are an important find because they are one of a handful of dinosaurs that we know of that lived on the east coast of a huge inland sea that once divided the continent.

The Chronisters reported their find to the Missouri Geological Survey, which in turn told the Smithsonian in Washington, DC

“The National Museum of the United States has come into possession of a fragmentary dinosaur specimen of more than ordinary interest, being the first of the large group of reptiles to be discovered in the state of Missouri,” wrote the paleontologist. Charles W. Gilmore in 1945.

According to an article in Gilmore’s Journal of Paleontology and Missouri geologist Dan R. Stewart, “Dinosaur bones were found embedded in black plastic clay, which was found at a depth of 8 feet in a shallow well dug in Mrs. Lulu Chronsiter’s farm. ”

Stewart said the find dates back to the Late Cretaceous, around 66 to 100 million years ago.

After the initial discovery, scientists seemed to lose interest until paleontologists in Missouri purchased the property from The Chronisters in the 1980s.

Although the wet clay makes excavation difficult, paleontologists say the site could continue to make interesting finds for years to come.

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