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Surprising Science

Paleontologists Seek Answers From Dinosaur Bones Found in Quicksand

A nine-ton block of sandstone recovered from a mountain in Utah could hold the secret to the hunting patterns of predatory species Utahraptor.

When the film version of Jurassic Park came out in 1993, the movie’s velociraptors were portrayed as pack hunters, an idea that Brian Switek of National Geographic says was “based at the time on several predators that had been found alongside an herbivore.” Switek reports that a recent fossil haul from Utah could determine if the film got the depiction right:

“A nine-ton block of sandstone that was pulled from a Utah mountain late last year holds the biggest fossil trove ever found of the giant predatory dinosaur known as Utahraptor. Covered in feathers, with a huge sickle claw on each second toe, Utahraptor looked like a pumped-up version of the Jurassic Park star Velociraptor.”

At one time, the block of sandstone was the unsettled bottom of a quicksand pit. Scientists have thus been able to identify six Utahraptor skeletons in the rock, and say there could very well be more. An analysis of the bones should clue the paleontologists in on the circumstances that led to the raptors’ untimely demises:

“If the dinosaurs died together, they might provide some long-sought evidence of group hunting. The densely packed dinosaurs (in some places, fossils are stacked three feet thick) may have died at different times as they blundered into quicksand, or perhaps they died together in a social supper gone horribly wrong.”

Read more at National Geographic

Image credit: Kostyantyn Ivanyshen / Shutterstock


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