Dinosaur Bones Airlifted From Tomb

050801, Dino airlifted in Big Bend, MGS AP / CBS

Bones from the spinal column of an Alamosaurus dinosaur, one of the largest creatures to ever roam the Earth, have been uncovered and airlifted from their 70-million-year-old tomb in western Texas.

Together, the bones form a 27-foot-long neck. The largest of the animal's 10 recovered neck bones weighs almost 1,000 pounds, reinforcing the notion that it was the ancient plant-eating giant of Texas.

"I think there's no doubt about it," Steve Runnells, chief executive officer of the Dallas Museum of Natural History, told the San Antonio Express-News in Tuesday's editions. "It looks like it's probably going to be around 70 feet long, based on the size of the vertebrae."

Discovery of the fossilized vertebrae in Big Bend National Park suggests that the Alamosaurus species of sauropod dinosaur roamed the Earth long after scientists thought they had died.

The remains, discovered by a University of Texas at Dallas researcher, were flown from the park to the Dallas Museum of Natural History where they will be studied and displayed.

Museum visitors will be able to watch paleontologists working to preserve the bones behind a glass wall, Runnells said.

The vertebrae were found embedded in rock thought to have been deposited in a river flood plain between 74 million and 66 million years ago. Dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago.

Some residents wanted the vertebrae left in their natural setting. But scientists argued that the only way to study the bones properly and learn more about dinosaurs was to examine them in a lab setting and to protect them against erosion and vandalism.

The park will retain ownership of the bones.

"They are in good hands," said Lisa Lackey, chief of interpretation and visitor services at the park. "We wouldn't have let them go otherwise."

In the future, Runnells said he would like the museum to build and display a life-sized model of the colossal creature - named for the New Mexico trading post where a specimen was first unearthed.

"He may have to duck his head a little bit, but we could figure it out," he said.




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