Alaska Trip Day 36

August 4

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We hit the road at 7:30 AM, the town that we stayed at was quit poor and we decided to go down the road for breakfast.  We travelled along highway 2 all day today.  It is the same thing mile after mile, grain fields and hay fields.  We saw a sign at Malta for a tour of a dinosaurs field station so we stopped to take the tour.  It was a short tour but interesting. We were able to see the Brachyloposaurus called Leonardo which won the award below.  We  found a local motel and decided to stay the night as it was already past 3:00.  We are trying to decide if we should head to Sturgis for the rally it start tomorrow. Took a few pictures today.

Dale

See slide show of today pictures

South Browning to Malta 250 miles

Montana Earth Science Picture of the Week

Paleontologists Hit Jackpot near Malta, Montana

Photos courtesy of Judith River Dinosaur Institute in Malta, Montana

Since the mid-nineties, several world-class duckbilled dinosaurs have been discovered in the Malta area. Duckbilled dinosaurs (hadrosaurs) are named for their duckbill-like lips that were used to strip leaves off of branches. There are several types, including the Maiasaura (good mother lizard) discovered at Egg Mountain near Choteau in 1979. The duckbilled dinosaurs discovered in the Malta area are a type called Brachylophosaura.

1. The first discovery, called “Elvis”, is now on display at the Phillips County Museum on Highway #2 in Malta. Elvis was discoved in 1992 by Nate Murphy, the Phillips County Museum's Curator of Paleontology. The 32-foot brachylophosaurus was given the name Elvis because of its "pristine pelvis".

2. The second dinosaur (shown in the photo above and below), called “Roberta”, is currently at the “Dinosaur Field Station’ just down the street from the museum. The field station is a lab where the specimens are prepared for display and/or molding. By making molds of the bones, replicas can be produced for viewing in several museums. Scientists think that Roberta may have died as a resault of a broken jaw that became infected.

3. Although both Elvis and Roberta are terrific specimens, the third dinosaur discovery has been stealing the spotlight. “Leonardo, the Mummy Dinosaur” is one of only four dinosaur specimens in the world with fossilized skin and muscle. When the young dinosaur died 77 million years ago, rare natural conditions combined to preserve its soft tissues in great detail, including its stomach contents! In fact pollen from its digestive tract tell what it ate in its last days. Leonardo’s tendons, muscles, and skin were naturally preserved and mineralized unlike other fossils whose softer tissues decompose before turning to stone. Some scientists are calling Leonardo "the fossil find of the century" and it is now recognized by Guiness as the "world's best preserved dinosaur". Like Roberta, Leonardo can be viewed at the field station where a guided tour costs $5.

4. The forth discovery, a “baby dinosaur” called “Peanut” was also brought to the field station last summer.

All of the Phillips County dinosaurs were excavated by the Judith River Dinosaur Institute, which is supported by the Judith River Foundation. The non-profit foundation was established by Nate Murphy in 2002 to recover, prepare, and display local dinosaur treasures. If it weren’t for the efforts of Murphy (shown in photos) and the foundation, it is likely that the dinosaurs found in this area would have ended up in museums far from Malta. Instead their presence will certainly provide a boost to the economy of this the small Hi-Line community. The Foundation is named for the Judith River Formation, a series of rock layers deposited over 65 million years ago near the edge of a shallow sea that inundated the Great Plains.

Nate Murphy with Roberta in the "field station"