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67 dinosaur skeletons in one week
A press release from Montana State University reports that Jack Horner was very
busy in Mongolia over the summer:
Paleontologists find 67 dinosaurs in one week
One recent week in the Gobi Desert produced 67 dinosaur skeletons for a team of
paleontologists from Montana and Mongolia who want to flesh out the
developmental biology of dinosaurs.
Montana State University paleontologist Jack Horner said Wednesday that the
same area yielded 30 skeletons last year, so researchers at MSU and Mongolia's
Science and Technology University now have about 100 Psittacosaurus skeletons.
The skeletons ranged in length from one to five feet and stood about two feet
"That's what I was there for -- getting as many of those as we could possibly
get," Horner said as he waited for the rest of the MSU team to return to
He was specifically looking for Psittacosaurus fossils because it was a very
common dinosaur and would give him lots of specimens, Horner said. It would
also keep away poachers and commercial fossil hunters who work in the area, but
prefer rare fossils. Horner wants a large number of fossils so he can compare
variations between skeletons and changes during growth.
The Psittacosaurus dinosaur, also known as a "parrot lizard," was a plant-eater
that lived about 120 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous Period, Horner
said. It was an ancestor of horned dinosaurs like the triceratops.
"The reason I went after Psittacosaurus was because I figured I could get more
of those dinosaurs in the shortest period of time than any other dinosaur,"
Horner and his group left near the end of August for Mongolia. Joined there by
Bolortsetseg Minjin and her team of Mongolian students, the paleontologists
drove two days out of Ulan Bator. There, in a few square miles of badlands,
they worked from sun-up to sundown and collected dozens of fossils.
This summer's fossils have all been excavated and are now at the Mongolian
university, Horner said. Jamie Cornish, marketing director at MSU's Museum of
the Rockies, said the bones belong to Mongolia, but Horner may obtain casts of
them. Horner added that he will be able to study some of the fossils in
Montana, but they will be returned to Mongolia.
"We can bring specimens here for a little while, but the Museum of the Rockies
is not the place for bones from other countries," Horner said. "We have enough
"This project is primarily for the benefit of Mongolia, looking for specimens
for them to put in a museum we're going to encourage them to build," Horner
said. He added that the museum project is similar to an effort at Rudyard in
The paleontologists found two meat-eating fossils in Mongolia in addition to
the Psittacosaurus, Horner said. One of them looked like a raptor and may be a
new species, but Horner said, "We find new species all the time. ... A hundred
Psittacosauruses are a lot more interesting to me than new species."
The Mongolian dig is funded by Nathan Myhrvold and will continue next summer,
Horner said. Myhrvold is a member of the Museum of the Rockies National
Advisory Board and a major supporter of paleontology research in Eastern
Montana. The Mongolian project is a joint research project with Mongolia's
Science and Technology University. It's also designed to help the Mongolian
university develop its paleontology program for students. It will include the
construction of a preparation lab and a small museum in Mongolia.
Jeff Hecht, science & technology writer
525 Auburn St., Auburndale, MA 02466 USA
v. 617-965-3834; fax 617-332-4760