Dr. Phil Manning with a sauropod femur at the upper sauropod quarry of The Jurassic Mile dig site

The Natural History Museum joins international partnership to excavate brand new Jurassic site

Entitled Mission Jurassic, the project is named after an area known as the ‘Jurassic Mile,’ which is rich with extraordinary Jurassic dinosaur and fish fossils, trackways and fossilized plants.

The Natural History Museum is joining forces with The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden to excavate a square mile of land in Wyoming, USA. Entitled Mission Jurassic, the project is named after an area known as the ‘Jurassic Mile,’ which is rich with extraordinary Jurassic dinosaur and fish fossils, trackways and fossilized plants. 

Initial excavations at the site, carried out by University of Manchester palaeontologists working for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, have already uncovered the bones of two giant sauropod dinosaurs - a 24-metre-long Brachiosaurus and 30-metre-long Diplodocus. Nearly 600 fossilized bones, weighing nearly 5.4 tonnes, have been collected over the past two years of fieldwork - although only a fraction of the site has so far been explored.

Natural History Museum Acting Director of Science Richard Herrington says:

The reports from the first excavations reveal it is an exceptional area for further scientific exploration -  from the fossils already exposed, the quality of the discoveries so far and the existence of rarely-associated dinosaur trackways.

“We are delighted to lend our world-leading scientific expertise to this project and its potential for brand new discoveries. This site offers a rare opportunity to build a picture of what the real Jurassic World ecosystem would have looked like 150 million years ago -  by unearthing not only dinosaurs but the diversity of life that surrounded them, from plants and invertebrates to ancient crocodiles, mammals, lizards and marine life.”

The project aims to engage an online community with the dig through the partners’ digital channels. Natural History Museum Director of Engagement Clare Matterson says:

“We are thrilled to be able to share the dinosaur dig as it happens with the public via our digital channels and excited about the possibility of acquiring new fossils to add to our perennially popular world-leading dinosaur gallery in London and future touring exhibitions.

“The ongoing public fascination with all things Jurassic has been evidenced by the record-breaking number of visitors flocking to see Dippy, our awe-inspiring iconic Diplodocus cast as he tours the length and the breadth of the UK. ‘Dippy on Tour’ has broken records at every venue so far, inspiring hundreds of thousands of children in Dorset, Birmingham, Belfast and Glasgow - and is fast approaching the millionth visitor milestone.”

International Team of Scientists

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest children’s museum, will serve as the Mission Jurassic leader. Natural History Museum palaeontologists Dr Susannah Maidment and Prof Paul M. Barrett will lead a team of experts to coordinate excavations from June this year. They will work across four main quarries that contain a large assemblage of dinosaur remains.

Dr Maidment and Prof Barrett work in the Museum’s Department of Earth Sciences, which is home to one of the world’s most diverse collections of dinosaur fossils, representing specimens from throughout the Mesozoic ‘age of reptiles’ and from a wide range of countries across the globe. The collection houses the world’s most complete Stegosaurus, which was found close to the Jurassic Mile in Wyoming, in the same suite of rocks. Both have extensive experience of hunting for dinosaur fossils around the world, including in the western USA.  

Dr Susannah Maidment is a Researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in London. Dr Maidment is a world-leading expert on the armoured dinosaurs, and has published more than 40 scientific papers. Her main areas of research are the palaeobiology of the bird-hipped dinosaurs (animals like Stegosaurus and Triceratops), dinosaur stance and locomotion, and dinosaur palaeobiology in the Western Interior of the USA. Dr Maidment was the recipient of the Hodson Award from the Palaeontological Association in 2016, and the Lyell Fund from the Geological Society of London in 2017, both recognising notable contributions by an early-career researcher.

Prof Paul M. Barrett is an Individual Merit Researcher in the Department of Earth Sciences and the Natural History Museum’s senior dinosaur specialist. He is a world-leading expert on the evolution and biology of dinosaurs and other extinct reptiles. He has published nearly 200 scientific papers and books. His main areas of interest are in the biology of plant-eating dinosaurs, describing new dinosaurs, and in large-scale evolutionary processes, such as the influence of climate on evolution. With vast experience across three continents in the field, he has received various professional awards in recognition of his work, including the President’s Medal of the Paleontological Association.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Extraordinary Scientists in Residence, Prof Phil Manning and Dr Victoria Egerton have been seconded from their base at the University of Manchester (Manchester, UK). As part of a new imaging technique being developed by the team at The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), a key partner working with the University of Manchester, the team will shed one of the brightest lights on Earth onto the fossils being excavated from Wyoming. These innovative techniques have already resulted in multiple high-impact scientific publications.

Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, President and CEO of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis says:

We are bringing together an extraordinary international team for the first time that will critically analyse portions of the Morrison Formation in new ways.  The Mission Jurassic project reflects a natural synergy between three world-renowned museums, their research scientists and highly-respected research universities, each providing unique elements to complete one of the most interesting chapters in the evolution of Earth.

The Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Gallery

The Museum’s Dinosaur Gallery offers visitors a chance to explore the different time periods dinosaurs lived, sort the facts from the fiction about why they died out and find out what our scientific research has taught us about these prehistoric giants.
Star specimens and exhibits include:

·         part of the first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, one of the largest carnivores ever to have walked the Earth

·         the first skeleton of Iguanodon known to science, one of the species used to define the original concept of dinosaurs

·         the skull of a plant-eating Triceratops

·         the gigantic armoured dinosaur Scolosaurus

·         Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird, is nearby in our Treasures Gallery

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis ‘Dinosphere’ Exhibit

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis’s current Dinosphere exhibit has captivated more than 15 million visitors since it opened and inspired new generations of explorers and scientists.

There, visitors are introduced to some of the finest examples of past life including:

·         a rare mummified dinosaur named Leonardo and Dracorex hogwartsia.

·         the first T. rex ever discovered with a wish bone (furcula)

·         a Gorgosaurus with a brain tumor

A working Paleo Prep Lab allows visitors to touch real fossils where paleontologists work on real bones and learn the stories behind them.

Specimens from the well-preserved fossil remains at the ‘Jurassic Mile’ site will form the basis for a major expansion of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis’ permanent Dinosphere exhibit to add creatures from the Jurassic Period. The project is already utilizing cutting-edge science, from particle accelerators to some of the most powerful computers on the planet, to help resurrect the Jurassic dinosaurs and to add momentum to the process of unearthing the lost world and forgotten lives.

To follow developments on the project please follow the Dinosaur Hub on the Natural History Museum’s website and #MissionJurassic on social media.

British Dinosaurs Exhibition at The Natural History Museum, Tring

5 April – 11 October 2019

A new free exhibition at the Natural History Museum at Tring will explore the dinosaurs of the British Isles, encouraging children to learn about the ancient reptiles that once roamed on their doorstep. Come face-to-face with awe-inspiring exhibits such as the cast of a Baryonyx walkeri skull and explore the Museum galleries to visit its modern-day descendants.

British Dinosaurs will feature some of the most recent research into dinosaurs whilst displaying some of the most interesting British finds. With 15 specimens representing eight species on display, including a complete Hypsilophodon, the exhibition highlights the diversity of the dinosaurs that called Britain their home. For more information please select this link: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/tring/exhibitions-at-tring.html

Ends

Notes for editors

Natural History Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5654/ (0)779 969 0151 Email: press@nhm.ac.uk

Images relating to the project can be downloaded here.

Project Partners:

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum exists to inspire a love of the natural world and unlock answers to the big issues facing humanity and the planet. It is a world-leading science research centre, and through its unique collection and unrivalled expertise it is tackling issues such as food security, eradicating diseases and managing resource scarcity.

The Natural History Museum is the most visited natural history museum in Europe and the top science attraction in the UK; we welcome around five million visitors each year and our website receives over 850,000 unique visitors a month. People come from around the world to enjoy our galleries and events and engage both in-person and online with our science and educational activities through innovative programmes and citizen science projects.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis 

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a non-profit institution committed to creating extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. For more information about The Children's Museum, visit www.childrensmuseum.org, follow us on Twitter @TCMIndy, Facebook.com/childrensmuseum and YouTube.com/IndyTCM.

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden, Netherlands)
The Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Leiden, the Netherlands) is dedicated to exploring our planet’s biodiversity through past and present. With a collection of 42 million specimens and over 200 researchers working across the globe to describe and understand biodiversity, the center plays an important role in biodiversity discovery and outreach.

Their brand new, state-of-the-art museum that will reopen this summer will host an impressive dinosaur exhibit. The museum houses one of the world's best preserved Tyrannosaurus specimens, which was excavated by their in-house team of paleontologists in 2013. Resident dinosaur expert professor Anne Shulp has visited the Jurassic site and is optimistic about what may be found there. His team will bring expertise and enthusiasm to the site and hopes to return with a fuller understanding of biodiversity in the Jurassic period.

Contact

Weekdays: +44 (0)20 7942 5654
Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0)7799 690 151
Email: press@nhm.ac.uk