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A Recap of the 2020 Mission Jurassic Dig Season

The 2020 dig season at the Jurassic Mile™ dig site is now under wraps. Our crew of paleontologists along with a team from Research Casting International (RCI) spent five-and-a-half weeks in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. They were on a highly-focused mission to get as much out of the ground as possible. Their primary focus was on a Diplodocus—a giant four-legged long-neck sauropod that will ultimately be added to the new Dinosphere® expansion.

This extraordinary Mission Jurassic team delivered in a big way!

Pallets of Mission Jurassic fossils at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Our team of paleontologists brought back 13 pallets of fossils from Wyoming. This includes three jackets that weigh 1–3 tons each. Most of these massive bones—including hips, a good portion of its back and chest, some limb bones, and a scapula—are from the Diplodocus that will be on display at the museum.

They also found a lot of theropod teeth while they were digging. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Theropods were meat-eaters. Like sharks do today, most theropods regularly lost and grew new teeth. One of these curved teeth was found relatively intact. It is about the size of an adult’s thumb. That’s one big tooth!

Theropd tooth found during the 2020 Mission Jurassic dig in Wyoming

The RCI team took 34 pallets and a crate that contained molds of dinosaur footprints and rock faces. These molds will help us recreate the Jurassic environment as we expand Dinosphere®into the Jurassic period. The 34 pallets include an Ophthalmosaurus (“op-thal-mo-sore-us”) fossil, fossilized footprints, and bones from another giant sauropod that will become part of the expansion of Dinosphere®, too.

That’s a lot of fossils! What’s next?

These fossils need to be cleaned and prepped. In the R.B. Annis Jurassic Paleo Lab, our scientists will slowly remove the field jacket and the matrix surrounding the fossil. It’s a painstaking process because once a tiny part of the fossil is safely exposed, the cracks in the fossil need to be sealed so the specimen can be preserved. You can read more about the cleaning process here. You can also watch our scientists at work in the Paleo Lab when you visit Dinosphere®. Be sure to ask questions. They love answering your questions about these giant specimens that will be showing up in the lab!

Visiting a paleontologist in the R.B. Annis Jurassic Paleo Lab inside Dinosphere at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Our friends at RCI will be cleaning and preparing the bones they took to their facility, too. Once the fossils are cleaned and prepped, they will begin mounting the bones in preparation for becoming part of Dinosphere®. The Ophtalmosaurus, among other fossils, will find itself in a new Mesozoic Sea display. And once the sauropods are installed, they’ll greet you in a new entrance to Dinosphere®!

We can’t wait for it all to come together. But we’re also just as excited to share the steps of the journey with you! Something BIG is coming.

Mission Jurassic is a $27.5-million project that will be brought to life through the generosity of donors. Donate now on our website. For extraordinary naming opportunities check out our Mission Jurassic Field Guide or contact Amy Kwas at 317-334-4608 or AKwas@childrensmuseum.org.