The work of paleontology is as much (if not more) about what happens after a discovery as the discovery itself. This is a fact known all too well by the researchers at Ghost Ranch—a site that’s been the source of major dinosaur discovery for decades.
In the mid 1940s, Edwin “Ned” Colbert and George Whitaker found a quarry of bones belonging to Coelophysis bauri—a dino that was like a small version of the Tyrannosaurus rex and was probably roughly what all early dinosaurs looked like. The deposit was a rare discovery, and since then, more have been uncovered at the site and continue to be excavated.
The latest episode of the American Museum of Natural History series Shelf Life takes a look at Ghost Ranch and its contributions. In it, Ph.D. student Daniel Barta explains the importance of the site: “Ghost Ranch reserves are the most detailed picture of late Triassic ecosystems in North America. Having all the Coelophysis specimens together in one bed like this—it’s the closest we as paleontologists can ever come to really truly finding an equivalent of a living population.”
The remains of these early carnivorous dinosaurs are plentiful but delicate, which means they have to be handled with extreme care. Despite the incredible number of fossils, scientists still don’t know many details about this species that helped give rise to birds. The Coelophysis still has much to teach, which is why those on site at Ghost Ranch continue to hit the dirt.