Prehistoric Animals


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Zigong Dinosaur Park

The Zigong Dinosaur Park in Sichuan Province near Dashanpu opened in 1987. It is built on top of a site extremely rich in fossils of dinosaurs and other vertebrates. These fossils were discovered in the sandstone and clay of the Shaximiao Formation, dating from the middle of the Jurassic and which formed the bed of an ancient river. All the animals of that time must have been swallowed up by floods, their bodies running aground on the banks of the rivers where the current was less strong. Thus, the site of Dashanpu can be considered as the Chinese equivalent of the Dinosaur National Monument of Utah. The Zigong Dinosaur Park was the first Asian museum dedicated entirely to dinosaurs. Today, they house the largest collection of Chinese dinosaurs and you can also see scientists working in a dig to exhume fossilized bones in the rock. It was in 1972 that researchers from the Sichuan Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources discovered fossils for the first time near Dashanpu. It was a dinosaur bone protruding from a cliff along a road. The first research on the site took place in 1977 and led to the discovery of the skeleton of a large sauropod. Professor Dong Zhiming and his colleagues baptized him Shunosaurus. On December 17, 1979, Professor Dong and Zhou Shiwu discovered numerous remains of in situ dinosaurs in the Dashanpu area. Excavations carried out from 1979 to 1981 resulted in the discovery of several skeletons of Shunosaurus, a theropod, the Gasosaurus, a particularly well preserved Stegosaurus, the Huayangosaurus, and a hitherto unknown sauropod, the Dataousaurus. Other excavations carried out the following year by He Xinlu brought to light skeletons of small ornithopods as well as a large unknown sauropod, the Omeisaurus. In 1984, a rocky area of ​​500 m2 was cleared for the construction of the museum.

A large number of discoveries were made, such as the skull of a labyrinthodont amphibian still extant today, the Sinobrachyops, and the skull of a mammalian reptile, the Bienotheroides. There are also fossils of freshwater fish, turtles, crocodiles, a plesiosaur and a pterosaur, the Angustinaripterus, parent of the German Rhamphorhynchus. Since its discovery, this site has provided 23 species of vertebrates including eight dinosaurs. The two floors of the museum's basement are used to store fossils and prepare exhibitions. Ten almost complete dinosaur skeletons are exhibited in the Great Hall, including the sauropods Omeisaurus and Shunosaurus, the Stegosaurus Huayangosaurus, the theropod Gasosaurus and the small ornithopod Xioasaurus. The most spectacular part of the museum remains the basement located in the center of the great hall, where one can observe a large number of dinosaur bones or vertebrates as they were discovered. Geological research at the Dashanpu site indicates that it is very promising when new discoveries are made. Today, the excavations cover an area of ​​2,800 m2, but it is estimated that the bones are scattered over 20,000 m2. At present, 8,000 dinosaur or vertebrate bones have been found. Excavations continue and bring every year a lot of new discoveries.

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