Huge dinosaur bone unearthed at quarry | AspenTimes.com

Huge dinosaur bone unearthed at quarry

Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

An Apotosaurus bone, enclosed in a protective jacket of plaster and burlap, is being secured to a trailer to be transported to Fruita’s Dinosaur Journey Museum lab. On the trailer is John Foster, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Western Colorado.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” In March 1981, Pete and Marilyn Mygatt and J.D. and Vanetta Moore had “cabin fever after a long, cold winter,” so they went for a hike in Rabbit Valley, two miles east of the Utah border.

Pete Mygatt picked up a rock that had a hairline crack in it.

“I recognized a petrified bone when I saw it,” Mygatt said.

He, his wife and his friends kept digging. They went out after work and on the weekends and found more bones. They reported their findings to the Museum of Western Colorado. They acquired a permit from the Bureau of Land Management to keep digging. In the mid-1980s, museum director Mike Perry named the quarry after the Mygatts and Moores.

Over the past 26 years, an estimated 4,000 dinosaur bones from six different dinosaurs have been found in the Mygatt-Moore quarry, said John Foster, museum curator of paleontology. Most of the bones belong to Apatosaurus, formerly known as Brontosaurus.

“Having that many Apatosaurus in one area is unusual,” Foster said.

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Foster, museum staff and volunteers dig at the quarry three or four times a week during the summer. The quarry is closed in winter.

On Aug. 31, a rock-encased Apatosaurus bone consisting of two vertebrae and weighing a half-ton was lifted out of the quarry.

The bone was discovered in summer 2006 by museum volunteer Ray Bley. A plaster-and-burlap jacket was placed around the fossil to preserve it.

“We actually get a lot of bones like this. But it’s usually not such a gigantic piece. It doesn’t usually take us two whole summers (to get it out),” Foster said. “It’s harder to take out something that big, but it’s more complete that way. Usually things in jackets like this turn out to be pretty good specimens.”

The bone was taken to the Dinosaur Journey Museum in nearby Fruita, Colo., where the rock will be worked out and edges of the jacket sawed off until the piece is light enough to put on a work table, where paleontologists will begin to reconstruct the whole vertebrae.

“We would not have gotten it out without the help of Fruita. The city sent a backhoe and operator for free,” Foster said.