Washington, June 18 : Paleontologists have unearthed a treasure trove of dinosaur remains in Utah, US, which includes at least two meat-eating dinosaurs, a probable Stegosaurus, and four sauropods.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the discovery near Hanksville, Utah, sheds new light on a Jurassic landscape dominated by dinosaur giants that lived 145 to 150 million years ago.
"So far, the paleontologists have found not only scattered bones, but partial and complete skeletons. It's really amazing," said Scott Foss, a paleontologist in the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) Salt Lake City office.
Though some BLM employees and many locals had known that there were dinosaur bones to be found near Hanksville, the recent dig led by scientists from the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois, still came as a shocker.
"Nobody anticipated the scale or the scope of what was there. Once they started excavating, they realized that the magnitude was far more than they had expected," said Foss.
The site, now known as the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry, is part of the Morrison formation.
"That's where all the big sexy dinosaurs that we grew up learning about are most commonly found," said Foss.
Though the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry today is high and dry, it appears to have once been at a bend in a large, long-gone river. A bar or other river feature likely collected the corpses of dinosaurs and other animals that died upstream and were washed down during high-water events over several centuries. The result is a logjam of fossilized bones.
The site's sandstone also encases freshwater clams, petrified trees, and other preserved matter.
"There is potential that there could be burrows that contain fossil mammals. We have petrified logs-a whole group of things that I think are going to tell us something very detailed about this environment," said Matthew Bonnan, of Western Illinois University.
"The big open question that remains is the environment in which the Morrison fauna and flora existed," said Hans-Dieter Sues, associate director for research and collections at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Early geologists imagined the Morrison-formation region as a vast swamp, the imagined habitat for all those sauropods.
"But later geologists argued that the Morrison was deposited in a dry environment with just some large bodies of water," said Sues. "Whatever mysteries the new site may hold, it is unlikely to produce any new species," he added.
According to Bonnan, "Even if we don't find anything new in terms of species, we're looking at old bones with new eyes and new technologies."