Burpee makes huge find

Burpee Museum of Natural History sent an expedition consisting of Burpee staff members and local dinosaur enthusiasts to the badlands of Montana to search for dinosaur bones. The expedition, led by Burpee’s paleontology expert, Mike Henderson, left for Montana in June. The group returned three weeks later. They were barely back two weeks when Mike and a small group of Burpee employees returned to the dig site. Something was up. “Where’s Mike?” I asked.

“Didn’t you hear?” said a Burpee receptionist. “They found a rare dinosaur fossil.”

The Burpee group was at the same site last year along with members of the University of Wisconsin’s Paleo team, who assigned the dig site to Burpee. The Burpee team knew they were on to something last year when modern depth examination equipment revealed large segments of a unique-looking dinosaur fossil. But the team had permission to dig only so deep and the fossil could not be reached.

This year was a different story, as they got permission to dig deeper, and that’s when pay dirt was hit. What they found was a skeleton of a theropod (meat-eating) dinosaur. Preliminary exams indicated the skeleton was either a young Tyrannosaurus rex or a rare pygmy tyrannosaur named Nannotyrannus lancensis. Up to this time, only dinosaur paleontologist Robert Bakker had found fossil evidence of the pygmy T-rex, and all Dr. Bakker had was the skull. The limited amount of fossil evidence had led to a controversy of whether Nannotyrannus lancensis is really a distinct species.

The Burpee discovery should clear up the controversy, as nearly the whole skeleton has been found, and as more and more experts visit the site, judgment is leaning to the fact that Nannotyrannus lancensis is indeed a real and different species.

At the time of this writing, Dr. Bakker was expected at the dig site in just a few days. Dr. Bakker recently claimed that if the Burpee discovery turns out to be a pygmy T-rex, it will have been one of the top three dinosaur discoveries in the past 50 years, as it pertains

to meat eaters, that is.

The site has been under guard since June because thievery is a major problem with fossil scavengers who sell their product for big bucks. That’s one of the reasons the discovery has been kept publicly under wraps.

The Montana badlands contains large, rolling hills, parched hillsides, sage and sagebrush, but was once a tropical landscape containing prehistoric plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and dinosaurs. The Burpee tyrannosaur would have lived in the last days of the Cretaceous period.

Burpee will house the skeleton and put it on display, but only after it’s been scrutinized by a flood of eminent dinosaur paleontologists. Most of the examinations will be conducted at Burpee.

It’s not been determined where the skeleton will be displayed at Burpee. It’s clear to the staff that some things are going to have to be rearranged, or a wall might have to be removed. Yes, it could be a problem, but it’s one of those rare happy problems.

Congratulations to the Burpee Museum of Natural History. You are making history.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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