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New Mystery Dinosaur

Dino Prep Lab

January 14, 2013

There’s a new mystery at the Academy this winter. We have a new set of dinosaur fossils in the Fossil Prep Lab in Dinosaur Hall, and scientists have yet to determine what species it is. Though they have tantalizing clues.

Academy technicians have begun to slowly, carefully use precision tools to work the Late Cretaceous fossils out of the rock and plaster field jackets that encase them. Only then will they discover the specific type of dinosaur they have.

This exciting process will take place in full public view, so visitors can watch, take photographs, and ask questions of our staff. Those able to visit frequently will see the progress unfold week to week and month to month as pieces of a jawbone, rows of teeth, and an upper arm are revealed bit by bit.

Jason Poole, who oversees the lab and has participated in dinosaur digs around the world, says the fossils were unearthed in Wyoming in 2011 by a team from the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton. They belong to a 25-foot-long, duck-billed, plant-eating dinosaur that lived 67 to 70 million years ago. It’s of the hadrosaur family, the same family as the fully mounted Corythosaurus casuarius that’s in Dinosaur Hall now and also Hadrosaurus foulkii, the world’s first mounted dinosaur—created and displayed right here at the Academy in 1868.

But scientists won’t know the species of hadrosaur it is until they can fully see and examine the fossils. Even though they have only a small portion of the dinosaur, scientists are confident they will be able to identify it.

“From neck to tail, all hadrosaurids look alike,” Poole says. “But we have a good bit of the skull, which makes it a lot easier to identify the species.”

This mystery dinosaur should be fully exposed by the end of the summer. Meanwhile, to learn about the science and art of visualizing a living animal based on fragmentary fossils, check out the exhibit Drawn to Dinosaurs: Hadrosaurus foulkii in the Art of Science Gallery starting February 2.