SALT LAKE CITY — In the year since Utah’s most spectacular dinosaur fossil block, the 18,000-pound Utahraptor megablock, was moved to a fossil preparation lab at the Utah Geological Survey (UGS) many new discoveries have been found.
According to the Utah Department of Natural Resources, analysis of the 136-million-year-old sandstone and mudstone megablock found the remains of at least one adult Utahraptor, ten juveniles, and three babies, but they believe nearly twice that amount is yet to be discovered.
“The timing was very fortuitous because just a few weeks later, the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point had to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Having the megablock in its own space allowed work to continue throughout 2020,” said State Paleontologist Dr. James Kirkland, “The work is tedious. Separating the bones from the block has been like a 9-ton game of pick-up sticks.”
Utah paleontologists believe that appears details such as feather impressions may be found. Bones already analyzed led them to speculate that the Utahraptor dinosaurs may have been hunting as a pack when they became mired in quicksand, buried, preserved, and fossilized. New dating of the rocks indicates Grand County raptors are the oldest in the world.
Utahraptor is Utah’s official State Dinosaur, and the name for a proposed Utahraptor State Park currently under consideration by the Utah State Legislature in HB 257, sponsored by Utah State Representative Steve Eliason and Utah State Senator David Dinkins. The proposed state park is located roughly 15 miles from Moab and 10 miles from the hillside from which the Utahraptor megablock was recovered.
Although paleontologists have completed over 3,500 hours on fossil preparation, it's estimated that nearly 90 percent of work is still ahead.
The UGS provides considerable resources for this work, but is also asking for donations from the public. Information on sponsorship opportunities and tax-deductible donations can be found here.
Eventually, fossils recovered from the megablock will be reassembled into a pack of Utahraptor dinosaurs and displayed at the Natural History Museum of Utah.