|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Geek Dinosaur News
|By Blake Nicholson updated 12:41 p.m. ET, Mon., June. 16, 2008
BISMARCK, N.D. - Parts of a rare mummified dinosaur that has attracted
worldwide interest went on display in North Dakota's state museum.
People from across the country and even England gathered Saturday at
the Heritage Center on the state Capitol grounds for the unveiling.
"It is a fascinating fossil, and it's one which we're going to be
disinterring secrets from ... for many years to come," said Phillip
Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England and a
member of the international team of more than 50 researchers working on
the project. Story continues below â†“advertisement
In a back room of the museum, a much larger chunk of the prehistoric
relic waits for workers with tiny brushes and chisels to free it from
its rock tomb â€” if they can find the money to do it.
The Edmontosaurus named Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur covered by
fossilized skin, lay beneath the western North Dakota soil for about 67
million years before being unearthed between 2004 and 2006. It is among
just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, and researchers working
on it say it might be the best in terms of quality and quantity of
Animal tissue typically decomposes quickly after death and most dinosaur
fossils are only bone. Researchers say Dakota must have been buried
rapidly and in just the right environment for its skin and soft tissues
to be replaced by minerals and preserved.
"When you see the final product of the science, it will be something
which will be founded in fact and not in just animation and many of the
things you see on the television," Manning said.
An arm and tail that workers chipped out of sandstone casing were unveiled
at the Heritage Center on Saturday.
Deadly dinos Ever wonder how dinosaurs prepared supper? From a bone
crusher to a family diner, these prehistoric monsters were dead serious
at mealtime. "It's certainly drawing a lot of attention to North Dakota,"
state paleontologist John Hoganson, with the North Dakota Geological
Survey, said in an interview. "We know people are going to be coming in
from all over the country and world to see this."
Hoganson said he has had calls from interested people from England
Most of the Edmontosaurus skeleton remains in what researchers refer
to as the "body block." The block was examined earlier in the world's
largest CT scanner, operated by the Boeing Co. in California and used
to examine space shuttle parts. Researchers still are not yet sure what
all it contains, including whether it contains the dinosaur's head.
"It was such a huge file, it hasn't been totally analyzed," Hoganson
said. "Everybody feels it's a pretty complete skeleton." Still, a head is
"a pretty big question mark," he said.
"It is hard to say how much more money is needed to finish the
preparation, but it is likely around $100,000," said Tyler Lyson,
a doctoral paleontology student at Yale University who discovered the
dinosaur on his uncle's ranch in the North Dakota Badlands in 1999.
The National Geographic Society, which has funded most of the research
so far, spending about $200,000, is considering more funding, said
spokeswoman Barbara Moffet. "You can safely say it has been one of
National Geographic's most significant scientific research investments
in recent years," she said in an interview.
Moffet told the crowd at the Heritage Center that National Geographic has
funded more than 9,000 research projects. "We've seen a lot of dinosaurs
come and go, but we've got to say ... Dakota is like none we've ever
seen before," she said.
Hoganson estimated that enough money remains for about three more months
of work. He said the hope is to get more funding from National Geographic,
but that if no new money is found, he may look for volunteers to work
on the mummy.
Stephen Begin, a Michigan consultant on the project who helped
meticulously remove the arm and tail from their rock casing, said he
thinks it will take "substantially more" money to complete the project
than initially thought, though he did not venture a guess as to how much.
He said work on removing the rock around Dakota's body will take at
least a year and maybe longer.
"As they get into the body block, there is less skin exposed and places
where it's not exposed," he said in a telephone interview. "You don't know
if there's skin there or not, so you have to go slow on the assumption
there might be.
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"You'd rather be safe than, 'oops, I didn't think there would be skin
there but there was and I just whacked off a whole bunch,'" said Begin,
who estimated he has invested 1,000 hours in the Dakota project.
Lyson's uncle has donated the Dakota fossil to the research foundation
started by his nephew, who hopes to eventually send the relic on a
worldwide tour and then bring it back to his hometown of Marmarth, in
North Dakota's southwestern corner, where he is creating a museum. Lyson
said the first stop on the world tour is likely to be Japan, sometime
next year. Â© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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