Vandalised Dinosaur Bone is Removed from the Dinosaur National Monument
The 150-million-year-old dinosaur bone had slowly weathered out of the rock, its location, on part of the Fossil Discovery Trail at the Dinosaur National Monument (Utah), meant that thousands of visitors to the park could see the beautifully preserved fossil lying in situ. However, the thoughtless and reckless action of vandals has resulted in the bone having to be removed from the trail for fear that it could crumble away.
Back in September, Everything Dinosaur reported on the incident of vandalism at the famous Dinosaur National Monument, one of the richest sources of Upper Jurassic fossil material anywhere in the world. A Ranger spotted the damaged fossil bone (humerus of a juvenile sauropod), whilst taking visitors on the 1.2-mile-long Fossil Discovery Trail that runs between the Quarry Visitor Centre and the Exhibition Hall.
To read Everything Dinosaur’s report of the vandalism: Fossil Damaged at Dinosaur National Monument – Utah.
A fist-sized chunk had been removed from the bone, a thoughtless act of vandalism, probably inspired by the high prices fetched for the sale of dinosaur fossils at auctions. Palaeontologists assessed the bone and decided to remove it to prevent further damage and the possibility that the bone could break up over the winter as frost and freezing conditions would lead to cracks in the fossil widening.
Brooks Britt, a palaeontologist from Brigham Young University (department of Geological Sciences), carefully extracted the specimen, using techniques and tools that would not have been unfamiliar to the scientists who first extracted bones from this location over one hundred years ago.
Commenting on his work, Associate Professor Britt stated:
“This bone is easy to get out because it is in relatively soft rock. The vandals took a chunk out about the size of my fist, that destabilised the fossil. It propagated fractures, it opens them up and then the weathering process starts attacking the bone, so you can’t leave it out in the open.”
Carefully Does It – Removing the Sauropod Humerus (Upper Arm Bone)
Picture credit: Geoff Liesik/KSL TV
Daniel Chure, the Monument’s palaeontologist, described his reaction on hearing the news of the vandalism of one of “frustration and anger”.
“Hundreds and thousands of visitors have been able to come here and actually look at dinosaur bones as they are naturally exposed by erosion. Now because of the thoughtless actions of one person, future visitors won’t have the opportunity to see this particular bone in the field.”
Park Rangers are still optimistic about finding the culprit. They are asking for people who may have witnessed the act of vandalism to come forward. A reward of $750 USD is being offered for information that could lead to a conviction.
What is the future for the sauropod arm bone? The Park Service has plans for it. They would like the fossil to be fully prepared, stabilised and cleaned up ready for display at the Monument’s Quarry Visitor Centre.
A spokesperson for Everything Dinosaur stated:
“Hopefully this fossilised bone will serve as a reminder to visitors not to damage or to attempt to take fossils away with them. It might prevent future fossil thefts or acts of vandalism, we sincerely hope so.”
An Illustration Showing Typical Sauropod Bauplans of the Late Jurassic of the Western United States
Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur