Members of the Field Museum of Natural History knew there had to be more than the four dinosaurs known for sure to have been found at the Kansas City site off Interstate 70 called Dinosaur Ridge. And the conservators knew they had to be careful not to damage the fossils or fossil remains as they cared for them.
Now two experts from outside the museum have come forward to add two more species to the list, showing scientists there were five different groups of dinosaurs there that probably represent all four different dinosaurs identified at that site.
Elizabeth Malekow leads the conservation and paleontology lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. She and Doug Harris, a former curator at the Field Museum of Natural History, have confirmed that the site represents a major new discovery of small-bodied dinosaurs with a group known as sauropods. They also announced last week that a group known as Mesozoic limps still has to be verified, with a last dig around the turn of the century to be finished next year, but found a number of other groups of dinosaurs there that might also represent the family known as sauropods.
According to Malekow, a habitat change when the animals were living in the area is being cited as the big reason for the different sizes at this site, with the Mesozoic limps and sauropods at between 16 and 22 feet in length, the Mesozoic limps around 15 feet and the sauropods up to 20 feet.
All of the creatures are likely the same, except for the Triassic dinosaur, Malekow said. That animal was a small sauropod in that family called sauropods subepitoposy, which has always been presumed to be between 16 and 21 feet long.
The new specimens are the first solid indications that dinosaur fossils are an essential part of their past. “This is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of bringing them to life and showing the case for the preservation,” said Harris.
The field museum believes it has already recovered more than 100 specimens from this area, though the dig will take several years to complete as experts hunt for other possible treasures, including some bigger animals and some more closely related to the ones already identified.
Already, members of the field museum’s dinosaur research team have been calling on collections from museums and universities across the United States and the world, and more discoveries are expected.
“It’s just overwhelming,” said Samantha Tillman, a senior museum scientist for the Field Museum. “It’s the recent history we live in.”