Project Mission Jurassic is digging land in Wyoming hoping to unearth more unknown Jurassic-era dinosaurs and now scientists from the UK are joining the team
Scientists from London’s Natural History Museum – among which are paleontologists Dr Susannah Maidment and Prof Paul Barrett – have decided to embark on their biggest dinosaur hunt in 30 years. They are joining scientists from the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, Netherlands, in order to explore one square mile of ranch land in north Wyoming that seems to be filled with fossils of dinosaurs not known to man yet.
The mission is meant to unravel the evolutionary mysteries of the Jurassic period and the project is called “Mission Jurassic”, which has as purpose to excavate a portion of land in Wyoming where they will be exploring what is called the Morrison Formation. This is a vast expanse of sedimentary rock from which have emerged some of the most beloved dinosaur species.
The dig is set to begin this summer, but it seems that initial excavations have already unearthed the bones of two giant dinosaurs, a 24-meter-long brachiosaurus and 30-meter-long diplodocus. Dr Susannah Maidment from the Natural History Museum said:
“The formation has been extensively studied to the south, producing all of your favorite dinosaurs that you could name when you were seven – the likes of Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Brontosaurus and Allosaurus. But we’ll be in the north, which has been much less studied, and which it’s suggested might hold slightly different creatures. So we’re hoping to find animals that have never been seen before.”
Plus, even though barely a fractions of the site has been explored, nearly almost 60 fossilized bones – weighing nearly 5.4 tonnes, have been collected over the past two years. The region, known as the Jurassic Mile, is rich in Jurassic dinosaur and fish fossils, trackways, and fossilized plants, of up to 150m years old.
Their partners in the program are being represented by lead researchers of a team of more than 100 people – Prof Manning and Manchester’s Dr Victoria Egerton – which are Extraordinary Scientists in Residence representatives of the Children’s Museum.
Mission Jurassic is the largest expedition of this kind for the Natural Museum of History since a venture in Niger in the 1980s and the institution hopes many of the discovered specimen can be brought back to London, they want the result of the project to be educational both for their PhD students that will be working in the field, as well as for the public. Moreover, they plan to livestream events for people to discover fossils at the same time as the scientists. Prof Barrett also added:
”So, this is not just about dinosaurs. Obviously, they’re the charismatic creatures, but we’re also interested in everything that’s living alongside the dinosaurs, to build up a complete picture of that ecosystem. Things like ancient crocodiles, lizards, turtles, fish, clams, plants – we’ll be taking specialists with us so we can delve deeply into that picture.”