February 10, 2011
Go to the dinosaur hall of almost any major natural history museum, and you are likely to find the same creatures. Diplodocus, Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus… I have seen these dinosaurs over and over again, but there are hundreds and hundreds of dinosaur species that I have never seen on display. Among them is the armored dinosaur Scelidosaurus, which will make its American debut at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site in southwestern Utah.
First described in 1859, the bones of Scelidosaurus have been found in southern England and date back to the Early Jurassic (around 208 to 194 million years ago). It was an early cousin of the later ankylosaurs. So what is a cast of this dinosaur doing in a Utah museum? The St. George dinosaur tracksite dates back to around the same time period as Scelidosaurus, and, since remains from a closely-related dinosaur have been found in Arizona, it is certainly possible that there was a Scelidosaurus-like dinosaur living in North America at the time. The cast is an expectation of what may yet be found.
But that’s not the whole story of why there is now a Scelidosaurus at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site. Local St. George resident Virginius “Jinks” Dabney was attending the opening of an exhibit at the museum and overheard that the institution wanted to purchase a cast of this dinosaur made from an exquisite specimen found in 2000. Dabney covered almost all of the $7,000 cost of the replica, which is the only one of its kind in America and has been dubbed the “Dabney Scelidosaurus replica” in honor of its patron and his wife. According to a press release issued by the museum, the institution is hopeful that it will soon be able to add other casts to its displays with the help of other donors.
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