Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oklahoma's Dinosaurs

I will be swinging by the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History to do some work over the Thanksgiving holiday. They have a new Paleozoic Hall that opened this past summer and have a new temporary exhibit, "Hatching the Past," about dinosaur eggs and discoveries that should be interesting to see. The museum also has many great murals by artist Karen Carr, which I always enjoy seeing. I have a copy of her "Jurassic Landscape" that has been hanging in my office for 5 years that I bought when SVP was in Norman back in 2002. It has suffered from the direct light through my windows, so I am looking forward to getting a new copy of that!

Getting in the spirit of all things Oklahoman, there was an article a few weeks ago on the Oklahoma News 9 website about "Oklahoma's Dinosaurs" that one of my aunts sent to me. Since I am from Oklahoma I thought I would share the story.

Oklahoma’s first residents

Posted: Nov 6, 2008 07:48 PM

Updated: Nov 9, 2008 04:57 PM

By Christian Price, INsite Team

"NORMAN, Okla. -- From the highest point of our state, to the woodlands that haven't been explored, dinosaurs can be found in every part of Oklahoma.

Dr. Richard Cifelli, a Paleontologist with The Sam Nobel Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, says Oklahomans don't realize what really lies beneath their feet.

"Oklahoma is fossils from the grass roots down; there are fossils everywhere," Dr. Cifelli said. "It's truly a remarkable state because of the diversity of the kinds of things we have. People get this idea that dinosaurs are only found in really exotic places like Mongolia or Patagonia."

Some of the dinosaur material from Oklahoma is the oldest ever found.

"The oldest material that's from Oklahoma, the oldest vertebrate material, is about 450 million-years-old," Cifelli said. "It's some of the earliest vertebrate material known in the whole world, and it comes from a site in the median of Interstate 35 as you're going over the Arbuckle's."

Our official state dinosaur, the Saurophaganax, is only found in the state panhandle (see painting below).

"We do feature a very large meat eating dinosaur out there," Dr. Cifelli said. "This thing goes by a kind of complicated moniker, Saurophaganax, but it's basically an Allosaurs on steroids. It's a real big bad Allosaurs. It's got three big claws on the hands and big jaws, so a very impressive one. It's only been found for certain in Oklahoma."

Even the animal with the longest neck in the world has been discovered in our red dirt.

"The other really cool thing we got from south eastern Oklahoma is this thing we named Sauroposeidon," Dr. Cifelli said. "It's a long necked dinosaur and it's actually related to the Brachiosaurs, but it's about a third larger. It's got the longest neck of any animal known in the world at 39 feet."

According to Dr. Cifelli, many of the most recent discoveries have all been found in the same area.

"Most of our discoveries through the 1990's and on into this century have been made actually at a state prison property down in south eastern Oklahoma," Dr. Cifelli said.

The person who found the dinosaur bones has a unique tie to the prison as well.

"That material was discovered by a guy who trains the prisons canine unit," Dr Cifelli said. "His job is to basically run these dogs all over the whole property and he's a backwoodsman and he knows bone when he sees it."

Discovery of dinosaur remains still occur in Oklahoma, most of which are found mostly by locals."

[link to story] "Jurassic Landscape" is a copywritten image and was used with permission from Karen Carr to R. Hunt-Foster for this blog post.

Maybe if we have time on our way back from Oklahoma we can stop by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and see their temporary exhibit, "Dinosaurs: Ancient Finds, New Discoveries."

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