Fossils from animals together with dinosaurs and stingrays greater than 100 million years outdated have been uncovered in a Maryland park in what consultants mentioned could possibly be the widest-ranging discovery of fossils of various species on the East Coast.
In April, a gaggle of paleontologists and volunteers with the Division of Parks and Recreation in Prince George’s County, Md., discovered and labeled a 3-foot-long shin bone as one from a theropod, a department of the dinosaur household that features carnivorous dinosaurs comparable to Tyrannosaurus rex.
“A meat-eating dinosaur of this measurement has by no means been discovered on the East Coast of america,” mentioned JP Hodnett, a paleontologist with the Maryland-Nationwide Capital Park and Planning Fee.
“Discovering a bonebed like it is a dream for a lot of paleontologists, as they will provide a wealth of knowledge on the traditional environments that preserved the fossils and supply extra particulars on the extinct animals that beforehand could have solely been identified from a handful of specimens,” he added.
“Bonebed” is a time period paleontologists use to explain the invention of bones of a number of species concentrated inside a geologic layer. This was the primary dinosaur bonebed found in Maryland since 1887.
Researchers linked the shin bone to Acrocanthosaurus, the most important theropod within the Early Cretaceous interval, which was estimated to be about 38 ft lengthy, Mr. Hodnett mentioned.
The invention, which was introduced this week, occurred at Dinosaur Park, in South Laurel, Md., about 25 miles southwest of Baltimore. The bonebed was uncovered throughout a dig expertise program, during which members of the general public search for fossils.
Bonebeds are unusual on the East Coast, mentioned Advait Jukar, a paleontology knowledgeable on the College of Arizona, as fossil discoveries have been principally remoted finds, comparable to claws or tooth.
“I’d say that within the historical past of dinosaur paleontology, this is perhaps some of the essential findings on the East Coast,” Dr. Jukar mentioned. “We’ve by no means seen a web site like this earlier than.”
Excavations the place many species are discovered are extra typical within the West, because the Rocky Mountains proceed to develop, inflicting erosion to uplift filth and layers of rock and expose fossils, Dr. Jukar mentioned. Drier circumstances there additionally assist to protect them, he mentioned.
Fossils have been present in Dinosaur Park in Maryland because the mid-1800s, when the positioning was an iron mine. This newest excavation, nevertheless, dates to 2014.
Park employees members found a big rock, the place a few of the rock face was damaged off and appeared to have a fossil embedded in it. The rock, 5 ft by 3 ft of iron stone, was a tough sedimentary rock to work with, so employees members determined to let it erode naturally.
By 2018, they decided that it was prepared for excavation, however the coronavirus pandemic delayed the mission till 2021.
The neck bones of a dinosaur have been the primary vital discovering from the rock. Within the years that adopted, different elements have been discovered, together with turtle skeletal elements, different remoted dinosaur bones and a few tooth of dinosaurs and crocodiles.
Among the many discoveries have been fossils of a Priconodon, a big, armored dinosaur; an Ornithomimoid, an ostrichlike dinosaur; and a Deinonychus, a predatory birdlike dinosaur. Researchers additionally discovered the stays of the oldest stingray in North America, Mr. Hodnett mentioned.
The findings will higher inform paleontologists about what the ecosystem of that space in Maryland was like throughout the Cretaceous interval, mentioned Adiel Klompmaker, the curator of paleontology on the Alabama Museum of Pure Historical past. The number of totally different species discovered can assist paleontologists perceive the local weather and meals chain from hundreds of thousands of years in the past, he mentioned.
“It’s a complete host of animals that offers a brand new window into what america might need seemed like 115 million years in the past,” Dr. Klompmaker mentioned.