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11-foot fossil uncovered in Utah moved to Utah Field House of Natural History

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jul 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-29 12:39:27-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A new, 11-foot-long fossil discovered near Dinosaur National Monument has been moved to the Utah Field House of Natural History for curators to work on.

Mary Beth Bennis the education curator for the Utah Field House of Natural History said the fossil was discovered by a visitor by the last name of Manwell, nine years ago.

The log was a mile or so off the road and was in good condition.

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Bennis said they named the log after Manwell and began uncovering the rock layers atop of it to see just how long and wide it was.

The layer of rock the Manwell Log was in, the Morrison formation, occurred during the late Jurassic times — making the log around 150 million years old.

“We know about the dinosaurs, but we don’t know much about the trees and vegetation that were growing,” said Bennis.

The Manwell Log remained in its location, the parts of it exposed were sometimes vandalized or taken by visitors.

In 2019, Bennis said a group of botanists, some from China and one from Germany, came to take samples of the Manwell Log.

“They were amazed by how complete and well preserved this log was,” said Bennis.

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Bennis realized they should move the log out of the elements, where it would eventually erode.

The challenge was — how do you move a three-foot-wide, 11-foot-long log that weighed eight tons?

Dale Gray, who’s volunteered with the Utah Field House of Natural History for 14 years, said they had to create a special cradle to lift the log out of the ground without snapping it in half.

“We had to go 16 inches down below the log to get the cradle beneath it,” said Gray.

It took two weeks and the conditions were less than ideal.

“We faced very hot temperatures and wind storm,” said Bennis.

Equipment broke and schedules were set back for moving the Manwell Log.

Yet, with their volunteer team of 10 or so people, Bennis and Dale moved the Manwell Log to their museum.

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Cleaning and research work will be out in the open, rather than behind doors in a lab, making the Manwell Log available for all visitors to see.

In the meantime, Bennis said they are waiting to hear back about the samples sent to Germany.

Bennis said they’ve placed the Manwell Log in the genus Agathoxylon, in the family Araucariaceae — the same family as the Norfolk Pine Tree, found in South America or Australia.

Since discovering the Manwell Log, twenty-four other logs were found.

One other species, Xenoxylon in the family Miroviaceae was also discovered,

“I would say stay tuned. There’s a lot more to come from these trees,“ said Bennis.

If you find fossils while out and about, Bennis said to take a picture, write down the GPS coordinates and send it in so their researchers can continue to piece together Utah’s past.