Montana Scientist Returns From Dinosaur Nesting Site In Patagonia

BOZEMAN--A giant dinosaur nesting ground in South America, where a year ago scientists found the world's first fossilized dinosaur skin, will probably make headlines again this year, said a Bozeman, Mont., scientist connected with the project.

"This is the most incredible site I've ever seen," said Frankie Jackson, a researcher at Montana State University who accompanied a crew that just finished a five-week dig at the Patagonia site. "Nothing I've seen compares to this."

The site--called Auca Mahuevo after a nearby volcano--extends for about a mile to a mile and a half, Jackson estimated, and contained layer upon layer of eggs.

"You literally could not walk without stepping on egg shells," she said. "I was not prepared for the size of this at all."

Huge long-necked, plant-eating dinosaurs from the sauropod family nested there between 71 and 83 million years ago. The eggs--about six inches in diameter- were probably close to hatching when the site was buried by seasonal flooding, Jackson speculated. Scientists think the animals may have been nesting there for thousands of years.

The crew of American and Argentinean scientists unearthed more fossilized skin and embryos. Both are rare -- only seven other embryos have been found worldwide and identified as a particular dinosaur. Skin and other soft tissues rarely survive the passage of time because they don't fossilize.

"The eggs with bone had no skin, and the eggs with skin had no bones, so there's an unusual preservational process going on," Jackson said. The skin she described as reptilian and bumpy.

The second day out, the crew discovered a horned meat-eating dinosaur from the Abelisauras family. Buried in a lake deposit, the bones were articulated, or still intact. The animal's feet, which hadn't been found before, were still attached, Jackson said.

"It looked like the thing just fell over and died," she s

Contact: Frankie Jackson
Montana State University

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