May 21, 2012
Cretaceous Utah was a strange place. Today’s arid, sage- and juiper-covered badlands in the southern part of the state preserve the remnants of swampy prehistoric environments that sat along the coast of a vanished seaway. And these wet habitats were inhabited by an array of bizarre dinosaurs that paleontologists are still in the process of describing. Among the recent discoveries is Utahceratops gettyi, a roughly 76-million-year-old horned dinosaur that has just been put on display at the Natural History Museum of Utah. (Full disclosure: I am currently a paleontology volunteer at the museum.)
Even though the new Natural History Museum of Utah building opened last fall, the museum is still in the process of installing a few more fossil skeletons. Utahceratops is the latest to be added to the petrified cast, standing right next to the hadrosaurs Gryposaurus and Parasaurolophus. I was happy to see the dinosaur’s skeleton come together in the exhibit last week. There was a full artistic reconstruction in the 2010 paper that described the dinosaur, but it’s another thing altogether to see the dinosaur’s reconstructed skeleton—posed as if to walk right off the museum’s Cretaceous platform and head right out the door.
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