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The skeleton of a 30-foot duck-billed dinosaur was discovered in the United States

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Missouri dig site is home to at least 4 rare dinosaurs, and there could be more

When the Chronister family was excavating a well in the 1940s, they discovered the first traces of dinosaurs in Missouri. Another group of fossils from the same species was discovered around 50 feet (15 meters) apart in October, over 60 years later.

Paleontologists classified these findings as "very basic" duck-billed dinosaurs after comparing and matching the tail vertebrates.

According to Chronister site curator Peter Makovicky, the specimen of Missouri's state dinosaur, Parrosaurus missouriensis, was excavated after a years-long procedure that began in 2017. Makovicky is a University of Minnesota professor of Earth and environmental sciences.

"Whenever you locate a region in the Midwest or Eastern North America where you're getting numerous dinosaur skeletons coming out of one site, it's a tremendous bonanza," he added.

According to Erika Woehlk, a visual materials archivist at the Missouri State Archives, the Chronister site, a couple of dozen acres of woods near Bollinger County in Missouri, is the only spot where fossils have been discovered in Missouri. The majority of dinosaurs discovered in the United States were discovered in the West.

"No one believed that dinosaurs existed in Missouri. Finding dinosaur bones in this part of the country is unheard of "The office manager for the Sainte Genevieve Museum Learning Center in Missouri, Abigail Kern, stated.

Makovicky and his crew discovered many turtle fossils while excavating the dinosaur, providing a more complete picture of the old ecology. Paleontologists have also discovered parts of at least four different dinosaurs, including a juvenile dinosaur of the same species discovered in the early 2000s, according to Makovicky.

On October 15, a crane helped unearth the dinosaur's largest block, weighing 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms). The specimen will be transported to the Field Museum in Chicago for preparation and research.

Decades in the making, a fossil site

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History received the fossils discovered in the 1940s. The site remained dormant until the 1980s when Missouri paleontologist Bruce Stinchcomb bought it from the Chronister's due to increasing interest in the fossils.

For decades, scientists questioned the genus of this fossil. Paleontologists discovered the first genus, Parrosaurus, in 2018, after it was named in 1945. This dinosaur has been reclassified four times, but according to Woehlk, reclassification isn't uncommon.

The four-year operation was difficult and prolonged by wet clay at the excavation site and the epidemic, according to Makovicky. He's used to digging for fossils in hard rock, so the team had to go gently over the softer clay.

Paleontologists can gain a greater knowledge of the ancient ecosystem based on the site's observations and results, and identify areas for additional investigation and excavation.

Makovicky stated that they are still working on ascertaining the exact age of these fossils as well as learning more about dinosaur distribution in North America.

He stated, "There's just a lot more to learn about these ancient habitats and how they relate to our understanding of ecosystems and evolution."

The juvenile specimen is housed at the Sainte Genevieve Museum Learning Center, and its laboratory is open to the public. Visitors will be able to witness paleontologists and other scientists prepare the fossils starting in December, according to Kern.

Because fossils are scarce in the Midwest, Kern believes that these unusual finds will pique children's interest in archaeology and geology.

"We're just really pleased to be able to bring this level of scientific finding to our community and to help push it out to all of the communities and schools around us," Kern said.