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DINOSAUR CENTURY BEGINS AT THE NEW MEXICO MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY & SCIENCE

Albuquerque, NM–The discoveries begin January 21st at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science! New Mexico is world famous as a place where important dinosaur discoveries are made. The first dinosaurs from New Mexico known to science were collected in the 1880s. Since then, fossils from our state have helped scientists learn much of what we now know about dinosaurs, including how they evolved, how they lived, and why they went extinct. Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaur fossils from New Mexico have pushed forward the frontiers of dinosaur science, changing scientific understanding of everything from dinosaur origins to their ultimate extinction.

Each month of 2012 the Museum will showcase prominent finds in paleontology in a special Centennial exhibit, Dinosaur Century: 100 Years of Discovery in New Mexico. Kicking off this feast of finds is one of the very first dinosaurs ever discovered, Coelophysis!

Though less widely known than T. rex or Pentaceratops, Coelophysis occupies an even more prestigious place in paleontological history as one of the earliest theropods to be named by the famous fossil hunter, Edward Drinker Cope.

The first New Mexico dinosaur fossils known to science were a handful of bone fragments discovered near Abiquiu in 1881. Although there were no skulls or teeth among these first fossils, Cope identified them as the bones of a new type of small, meat-eating dinosaur, which he named Coelophysis (see-low-FIE-sis) in 1889.

Also on display in January, a Parasaurolophus crest and reconstructed sound. Paleontologist Robert Sullivan, from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, found a skull and crest of the duckbilled dinosaur Parasaurolophus (par-uh-sore-OLL-oh-fuss) while exploring the Cretaceous badlands of the Bisti/De-na-zin with a team from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in 1995.

Paleontologists think that Parasaurolophus could have used its long, tube-like crest to create unique sounds, sort of like having a trombone connected to its nose and stretched along the back of its head. NMMNHS paleontology curator Thomas Williamson took this crest to St. Joseph Medical Center in Albuquerque where CT-scans revealed the hollow chambers inside. Williamson worked with Sandia National Laboratory scientist Carl Diegert to build a 3D computer model of the crest and chambers using the data from the CT-scan.

Using this model, Williamson and Diegert were able to create a series of low, booming calls that Parasaurolophus might have made by resonating sound inside its crest. Study the cast of this amazing specimen and then blast back to the Cretaceous and listen to the sounds of Parasaurolophus!

Return each month in 2012, as the exhibit unfolds and explore the wealth of fossil finds found right here in New Mexico that have advanced the knowledge of dinosaurs the world over. It’s Dinosaur Century at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science!

Fun Facts about Coelophysis:

Coelophysis is the official state fossil of New Mexico.

Coelophysis was first discovered near Abiquiu, New Mexico, by fossil collector David Baldwin in 1881 (working for Edwad Drinker Cope).

Coelophysis lived during the Triassic period of the Mesozoic Era.

You can learn more about the Triassic in the Museum exhibit, Dawn of the Dinosaurs!

Fun Facts about Parasaurolophus:

Parasaurolophus was first found in Alberta, Canada, in 1920 by a team from the University of Toronto.

This species, Parasaurolophus tubicen (the “trumpeting” Parasaurolophus), was first collected in northwest New Mexico by Charles Sternberg in 1921.

This crest at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is well-preserved and part of a nearly complete skull.

Parasaurolophus lived during the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic Era.

The original fossil is on display in the Museum’s exhibit, New Mexico’s Seacoast.

  

 

 Left: The crest of Parasaurolophus tubicen. Right: The head of the trumpeting duckbill dinosaur Parasaurolophus as it may have looked in life.