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New theropod from Montana



According to an AP wire service story today, a team of paleontologists
and diggers led by Keith Rigby of Notre Dame University is currently
working on excavating what may be the largest theropod dinosaur ever
discovered.

Rigby believes the dinosaur is either a new species, or a truly
gargantuan specimen of _Tyrannosaurus rex_.  If it's not a T-rex, it
turns both that dinosaur and _Giganotosaurus_ into also-rans in the race
for "biggest land carnivore of all time."  If it is a T-rex, it's by far
the largest ever found, and regains the title for rex from
_Giganotosaurus_.  The story says that Rigby measured the dinosaur's
pubis at 52 inches, a good 4 inches longer than the pubis of the largest
previous T-rex specimen.  Femurs are normally used to estimate overall
size in a theropod, but the femurs of this skeleton haven't been
excavated yet.  

Rigby was forced to go public now, rather than wait to properly
excavate, prepare, and examine the fossil, because of a dispute over who
owns the land and therefore the fossil.  The Montana ranch on which the
fossil was found was allegedly owned by a family named the Waltons (no
kidding, that's what the story says!).  This family gave Rigby
permission to dig there.  However, he later became suspicious and made a
land records search.  He found that the fmaily did not own the land,
that it had been seized by the federal Farm Service Agency several years
ago.  

Feds notwithstanding, the Waltons claim the land is still theirs.  Over
the weekend, they were observed using tractors and other tools to dig at
the dinosaur site by one of Rigby's associates, a lawyer named James
Rector. 
Rector alerted the FBI, which is investigating.  Rector also said that
he asked Steve Walton what he intended to do with the bones.  Walton
replied: "I'm going to save my farm and feed my children."  Apparently,
he had visions of getting the same kind of money for this fossil that
Sotheby's Auction House is expecting to get for "Sue," the T-rex found
by the Black Hills Institute and subsequently seized by the federal
government over another land dispute.  Sotheby's is expecting Sue to
sell for over a million US dollars.

-- JSW