Oklahoma was as soon as dwelling to among the largest dinosaurs within the fossil report
While many may not realize it, Oklahoma was once home to some of the largest animals to have ever lived on earth. That means dinosaurs, of course, and Oklahoma was once home to some of the largest dinosaurs in the fossil record.
Oklahoma was home to dinosaurs similar to those recently discovered in Argentina and possibly the largest dinosaur in the titanosaur family ever found. The titanosaur was a type of sauropod, which were four-legged herbivores known for their long necks and tails.
Dr. Anne Weil of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences has been with OSU since 2006. Weil and her team are digging in Cimarron County, home of a number of Oklahoma dinosaur finds.
“I’m working on a website that produces a completely different sauropod,” Weil said. “Of the two large groups of sauropods, this would be the other group. It produces Apatosaurus. Now Oklahoma is known for the apatosauri in the Sam Noble Museum that are on display there. When you walk in there, it displays the largest specimen of Apatosaurus ever found in Cimarron County. “
Weil said the Cimarron County dig in Oklahoma and among other university digs is quite unique in that it is being excavated almost entirely by Oklahoma students.
“One of the other members of this group is actually known from Oklahoma,” Weil said. “It is an animal called Sauroposeidon. The interesting thing is, we can’t do a one-to-one comparison between Sauroposeidon and this new find in Argentina, since what they found mostly in Argentina were parts of the tail. What we got from Sauroposeidon is the neck so it’s the wrong ending for a straight comparison. But right now, sauroposeidon is a little more primitive than some of the South American animals it is closely related to. Perhaps its lineage branched out a little earlier than diversifying other animals that are very, very closely related to this new animal they found. “
One of the challenges for paleontologists is to get an accurate representation or estimate of the size of a given animal when only part of the animal has been found. Weil said the reason the dinosaur found in Argentina might be the largest ever found is because it has a piece of the dinosaur’s shoulder blade that is supposedly huge.
Weil said it was difficult to identify a species of a person by looking at part of a human body.
“If you only had my foot, you’d have a hard time telling how much I weighed or how tall I was,” Weil said. “But worse, if you found my skeleton next to Michael Jordan’s skeleton, would you know that we are even the same species? I’m 5 feet 2 and he’s over a foot taller than me and over 100 pounds heavier than me, and yet we’re of the same species. So if you look at a single individual of a species and say, “Oh yes, it weighed exactly this and that,” it’s not necessarily informational. “
Another aspect of this challenge is that it becomes even more difficult when there are no live animals similar to what is being studied. Weil said this is especially true of something like sauropods as there are almost no realistic comparisons to live animals.
Viewing an individual specimen also makes it difficult to determine what the entire species might have looked like or acted. Because looking at a single animal does not provide much concrete information, as it is not known whether it is an average size. the largest or the rest of the litter.
One of the dinosaurs Weil said was discovered in Oklahoma, the Apatosaurus, has differences from Argentina that show how difficult paleontology can be. She said the Apatosaurus is said to have a tail larger than the unnamed dinosaur found in Argentina, although the unnamed dinosaur is believed to be one of the few members of the titanosaur species to have grown to more than 40 tons .
Oklahoma has the right kind of rock for fossil conservation. Weil said that sedimentary rocks, relatively unchanged from the distant past, are the best rocks to find fossils of any kind. Weil said that there are Jurassic sediments in Cimarron County and chalk sediments in the southeastern part of the state where some dinosaurs have been found. She said there are even times when she got a call from someone who thinks they have found a dinosaur. She said she would know immediately that it was not a dinosaur fossil if it was found in a backyard in Tulsa, for example. She said she could refute such a claim because the area is on an ancient reef that is older than dinosaurs. So she can say that it is some kind of water fossil and not a dinosaur.
“There’s a lot of cool coral, different kinds of shells and the like that people keep finding,” Weil said. “I think Oklahoma is a great place to find all kinds of fossils.”