Warnock Helps Unravel Mysterious Death of Jurassic Dinosaurs

Posted on 8/14/2015 9:25:44 AM

What’s even more fun than watching a summer movie about Jurassic dinosaurs? Going out into the field to actually excavate them! IUP’s newest Geoscience faculty member, Jonathan Warnock, did just that and came up with some fascinating new information about how they died.

Warnock recently returned to IUP from a field season of unearthing and imaging dinosaur bones from Utah’s Jurassic “Death Pit,” where a remarkable and puzzling deposit of dinosaur fossils have been found. The vast majority of the species preserved here are Allosaurs—30-foot-long carnivores with a mouthful of serrated teeth and three dangerous claws on each hand. Like tigers today, these capstone predators would not have lived together in large groups, which makes their shared graveyard somewhat mysterious.

For decades, paleontologists have speculated on how so many dinosaurs ended up in the same place. Early explanations revolved around a “predator trap” where carnivores got mired in muddy lake beds while hunting for food. Or “bloat and float” theories where dead dinosaur bodies would float and collect in a particular region of the lake bed.

Warnock and his colleagues are mapping 3-D beds of these dinosaur bones in hopes that this will give new clues to why so many carnivores ended up in the “Death Pit” of Utah nearly 150 million years ago. You can find the full story, including pictures of the site, at the Smithsonian.com website.