So, it’s a long Memorial Day weekend, where we pause to remember the armed service members who have died in service to our country. For many of us, that means a long weekend. For us, it means we were a little busier than normal. Either way, Saurian Sunday has drifted into Monday, and we’re playing a little bit of catch-up. Honestly, a lot has happened since we last posted here. And our Saurian Sunday feature was chosen as kind of an obscure set of clues. We mentioned recently that T.rex Road Trip’s World Headquarters had relocated to southern Colorado. That was intended to be a temporary stop, but it has accidentally turned permanent. Not that I am sad.
My home base here in Colorado puts me right in the center of most everything that I love. I am working again, in my preferred industry. There’s an abundance of scenery, plenty of outdoorsy things to do, and enough fodder to keep this blog running for a long time to come. Rich fossil beds lie just a few miles north of my house. And while they still yield amazing discoveries today, the quarries around the Garden Park area are most notorious as one of the epicenters of the vaunted “Bone Wars” of the 1870s, in which rival dinosaur researchers O.C. Marsh and E.D. Cope ruthlessly fought in a race to collect and name new species. It was a fierce competition that frequently eschewed scientific conventions in favor of one-upmanship, and financially ruined both men. There was no love lost between the two, and open violence between the two teams was frequent, as was such unimaginable (in scientific perspective) atrocities as dynamiting quarries to prevent rival teams from making discoveries after they had been left.
We’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore the Bone Wars in more detail later on down the road. But I wanted to celebrate my bridge from California to Colorado with the connect the dots picture above. It was taken in early 2017, during my last visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. It’s quite a mount, with a Stegosaurus taking a defensive posture against an aggressive Allosaurus. Though it would seem bleak, our plant eater is no slouch, and has his spiked tail poised to strike when the need arises.
Colorado’s official state dinosaur is Stegosaurus armatus, but like the Bone Wars themselves, the validity of S. armatus is somewhat confused. The type specimen was discovered in Garden Park in 1877, but the bones found - as well as the 30 other specimens referred to the species - are extremely fragmentary in nature. Paleontologist Susannah Maidment and co-authors B. Norman, P. M. Barrett, and P. Upchurch published the paper “Systematics and phylogeny of Stegosauria (Dinosauria: Ornithischia)” in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology in 2008. There, following up on earlier work, they suggested condensing S. stenops and S. ungulatus with S. armatus. In 2015, they revised their findings and recognized S. armatus as a nominem dubium, or potentially invalid species name.
There’s plenty more to this story, and we’ll be talking about Stegosaurs a lot more in the future. But I figured this was a great way for California to symbolically hand off the baton, so to speak, as TrRT begins a new chapter in Colorado.