Monday, April 26, 2010

Dinosaur National Monument Goes Social

Dinosaur National Monument - Fossil Bone Quarry gateway
Photo by BruceandLetty, via flickr.

In the old days, you might read one or two articles about a big project at a national park. Now, you can follow everything in real time. For instance, Dinosaur National Monument is currently overhauling its Quarry Visitor Center. To put a finer point on it, it's being completely replaced. Construction began last month, and the new visitor center should be complete by fall of 2011. But interested parties don't have to rely on the fickle decision-makers of the print media to learn more. These days, you can follow news about the project and the park in general at Twitter and Facebook. The park service also has a blog at the DML site.

For more in-depth information, check out DNM paleontologist Dan Chure's blog chronicling the process. He gets into the complicated business of relocating the site's fossil collection - including an utterly beautiful Allosaurus fragilis skull - and protecting the monument's crown jewel: the wall of Jurassic sandstone housing an amazing array of dinosaurs and other critters. While the wall isn't available to visitors during this painstaking process, there is no reason to keep away from the monument until its new house is built. This year, entrance fees have been waived to the park and to the temporary visitor center, so there's no reason to avoid Dinosaur National Monument, which contains a landscape that is spectacular in its own right.
Antique postcard: DInosaur National Monument
1968 postcard of the quarry wall, from Baltimore Bob, via flickr.

When you look at the quarry wall, you're looking at the remains of an ecosystem from the Morrison Formation, one of the great dinosaur-bearing rock formations in the world. Apatosaurus, Barosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Stegosaurus, Camptosaurus, Allosaurus, and Ornitholestes are all known from sites with Morrison outcrops dating in the neighborhood of 150 million years ago. I'm going to steal Scott Sampson's comparison here. Take a denizen of the Morrison, say Stegosaurus. Then take another dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous, like Triceratops. Stegosaurus is even further removed in time from Triceratops than we are, having lived about 80 million years prior. That tacks another 25 million years onto the 65 that separate us from Triceratops. It's actually less of an anachronism to draw a human next to a Triceratops, rather than a Stegosaurus. That blows my mind every time I think about it. Coincidentally enough, the latest post at Dot Dot Dinosaur features a piece of artwork from Etsy that highlights this very fact. Check it out!

3 comments:

  1. That's an amazing way of thinking of geologic time.

    I'll have to share that with some friends and colleagues.

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  2. Isn't it? Sampson uses it in "Dinosaur Odyssey." I'm not sure if it's his thought originally, though.

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  3. Thanks for the shout out! I'll have to mark my calendar for fall 2011- this will definitely make for a fun field trip.

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