Digging Up Sauropods
To figure out how sauropods moved, breathed or ate, paleontologists need fossils. For example, we know a great deal about Mamenchisaurus because of fossils uncovered in China. Fossil expeditions around the world have uncovered the remains of hundreds of sauropod species. Large numbers of sauropod fossils have been found in Wyoming, in the western U.S., at a site called Howe Quarry.
Hunting for Fossils
In 1934, an expedition from the American Museum of Natural History set out for Wyoming to hunt for dinosaur fossils. The team included famous paleontologist Barnum Brown, who discovered the first Tyrannosaurus rex. Another member of the party was Roland Bird, who had no formal education in paleontology, but was experienced in fossil excavation.
Dig "A Dinosaur Treasure Trove"
In six months of digging, the 1934 crew found around 4,000 dinosaur fossils in an area about 45 by 65 feet (14 by 20 meters). Team leader and American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Barnum Brown, commented that the site was "an absolute, knockout dinosaur treasure trove!"
Legs, Teeth, Ribs and More
Among the thousands of fossils found at Howe Quarry were leg bones, teeth, ribs, vertebrae (neck, back and tail bones) and many others. They all dated back about 155 million years and many were from the sauropod Diplodocus. Teeth from theropod dinosaurs, which ate meat and walked on two legs, were also uncovered.
Team member Roland Bird drew this large-scale diagram of exactly where fossils from at least 25 dinosaurs were found at the site. How many can you find?
The team found more than 1,000 vertebrae on site--more than any other type of bone.
There are 15 thigh bones shown here--some of them more than three feet (one meter) long.
Each of the 25 sauropods preserved at Howe Quarry had at least 20 ribs.
Sauropod teeth were often no more than a few inches long. The team did find teeth, but they can't be seen at this scale.
Complete fossil skulls are rare, but the team found one partial skull at the end of a long neck.