Fossil Friday: Washington's First Dinosaur - Dec. 28, 2018

Good afternoon and welcome to the last Fossil Friday of 2018! On Fossil Fridays, we explore a fossil or group of fossils that i have found interesting or significant. And today, we’re featuring a special one (to me): the first fossil to be described from Washington State, my home state. The fossil was discovered by researchers from the University of Washington in 2012 on Sucia Island, a horseshoe-shaped island on the far north of the (incredibly scenic) San Juan Island chain in northwestern Washington State. Over the next year, a team from the UW’s Burke Museum carefully excavated and prepared the rock-bound fossil, and began to study it. Their findings were published in the paper “The First Dinosaur from Washington State and a Review of Pacific Coast Dinosaurs from North America” on PlosONE on May 20, 2015.

IMG_0397.jpg

In that paper, authors Brandon Peecook and Christian Sidor stated that the fossil was determined to be around 80 million years old, and that it exhibited several important features that revealed that it was a portion of the left femur of a theropod dinosaur. News reports from the time also showed photos of the fragment next to a cast of a Daspletosaurus femur, to which it bore quite a bit of resemblance. The discovery is interesting because that particular part of Washington State would have been beneath the ocean during the late cretaceous. So it isn’t likely that Daspletosaurus or any other theropods were native to the area - the fossilized bone likely was carried away from the animal’s carcass by tidal currents, and deposited in the area that it ultimately fossilized. Still, it was nice to see my home state finally joining the dinosaur club (making it the 37th US state to do so.)

The fossil is currently displayed at the Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, WA. I photographed it along with its interpretive display during a visit there in 2016.