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SALT LAKE CITY — A massive dinosaur discovery was left sitting in a parking lot Thursday night.
It looks like just a chunk of plaster, but inside lives a story Jim Kirkland has been digging up for decades. The Utah state paleontologist discovered the Utahraptor 25 years ago and said this latest find is critical for learning more about the dinosaur.
“This stuff is pristine. And by the nature of the preservation, the material is so well preserved that we might find traces of some of the feathers coming off the arms," Kirkland said.
Scientists believe the pack of Utahraptors encased in a jacket of plaster and burlap is the first and only known group of dinosaurs to be trapped together in quicksand. One theory is that 100 million years ago the pack attacked a plant-eating dinosaur that was mired in the quicksand.
The scientists decided to remove the five-ton mass from a hillside near Moab after falling rocks threatened its safety, even though they had nowhere to put it and no money for research. They are hoping public donations and a future Kickstarter campaign will give them the funds needed to start working.
Until then, the dinosaurs are staying in a parking lot, a situation Kirkland said is not ideal.
“Doing it out here wouldn't probably be the best way for scientists working with needles and under microscopes to work. So, now we're looking. Where is the place this is going to be for several years while we work on it?” Kirkland said.
As for what Kirkland thinks happened to the dinosaurs, he's leaving that up to science.
“We’ll see what the rocks say," he said. "They’ll tell the story, not me."
Contributing: Geoff Liesik