In this photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management, researchers prepare fossils to be airlifted from the Rainbows and Unicorns Quarry on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the Paria River District paleontology lab in Kanab, Utah, on Sept. 4, 2018. Ferocious tyrannosaur dinosaurs may not have been solitary predators as long envisioned, but more like social carnivores such as wolves, new research unveiled Monday, April 19, 2021, found. (Dr. Alan Titus/Bureau of Land Management via AP)

In this photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management, researchers prepare fossils to be airlifted from the Rainbows and Unicorns Quarry on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the Paria River District paleontology lab in Kanab, Utah, on Sept. 4, 2018. Ferocious tyrannosaur dinosaurs may not have been solitary predators as long envisioned, but more like social carnivores such as wolves, new research unveiled Monday, April 19, 2021, found. (Dr. Alan Titus/Bureau of Land Management via AP)

Mass fossil site may prove tyrannosaurs lived in packs

A team of researchers determined that the dinosaurs died and were buried in the same place

Ferocious tyrannosaur dinosaurs may not have been solitary predators as long envisioned, but more like social carnivores such as wolves, new research unveiled Monday found.

Paleontologists developed the theory while studying a mass tyrannosaur death site found seven years ago in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, one of two monuments that the Biden administration is considering restoring to their full size after former President Donald Trump shrunk them.

Using geochemical analysis of the bones and rock, a team of researchers with the University of Arkansas determined that the dinosaurs died and were buried in the same place and were not the result of fossils washing in from multiple areas.

The new Utah site is the third mass tyrannosaur grave site that’s been discovered in North America — bolstering a theory first developed 20 years ago that they lived in packs. However, more research needs to be done to make that argument, said Kristi Curry Rogers, a biology professor at Macalester College who wasn’t involved in the research but reviewed the finding Monday.

“It is a little tougher to be so sure that these data mean that these tyrannosaurs lived together in the good times,” Rogers said. “It’s possible that these animals may have lived in the same vicinity as one another without travelling together in a social group, and just came together around dwindling resources as times got tougher.”

In 2014, Bureau of Land Management paleontologist Alan Titus discovered the site, which was later named the Rainbows and Unicorns quarry because of the vast array of fossils contained inside. Excavation has been ongoing since the site’s discovery because of the size of the area and volume of bones.

“I consider this a once-in-a-lifetime discovery for myself,” Titus told reporters during a virtual news conference. “I probably won’t find another site this exciting and scientifically significant during my career.”

The social tyrannosaurs theory began over 20 years ago when more than a dozen tyrannosaurs were found at a site in Alberta, Canada. Another mass death site in Montana again raised the possibility of social tyrannosaurs. Many scientists questioned the theory, arguing that the dinosaurs didn’t have the brainpower to engage in sophisticated social interaction, Titus said.

“Going that next step to understand behaviour and how animals behave requires really amazing evidence,” Joseph Sertich, curator of dinosaurs at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, said at the news conference. “I think that this site, the spectacular collection of tyrannosaurs but also the other assembled pieces of evidence … pushes us to the point where we can show some evidence for behaviour.”

In addition to the tyrannosaurs, researchers have also found seven species of turtles, multiple fish and ray species, two other kinds of dinosaurs and a nearly complete skeleton of a juvenile Deinosuchus alligator. These other animals do not appear to have all died together.

Paleontology groups have been among those pushing the federal government to restore the Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante to their original sizes to protect the region’s rich paleontological and archaeological record.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited southern Utah earlier this month as she prepared to submit recommendations on whether to reverse Trump’s decision to downsize the monuments. Titus said he showed Haaland some of the fossils at his lab during her visit and said she “appreciated getting to see the material.”

“The (Bureau of Land Management) is protecting these fossils as national treasures.” Titus said. “They’re part of the story of how North America came to be and how ultimately we came to be.”

___

Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Sophia Eppolito, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Wildlife

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

John Pavelich’s 83rd birthday had an added surprise; members of Enderby City Council came by his residence to present him with a Lifetime Civic Merit award Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Contributed)
Enderby resident unwraps Lifetime Civic Merit award on 83rd birthday

John ‘JP’ Pavelich has been a pillar of volunteerism in Enderby since 1967

The Salmon Arm Pickleball Club would like to store its locker containing a defibrillator and a few other items at the pickleball courts in Klahani Park. (Photo contributed)
Talk of ‘new day’ follows pickleball club request for locker at Salmon Arm park

Council voices varying opinions about locker for defibrillator but agrees to get rec society’s view

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

The Vernon Vipers defeated the Salmon Arm Silverbacks 3-1 to secure the top spot in the BC Hockey League Vernon pod Friday, May 7, 2021. (Lisa Mazurek Photography)
VIDEO: Vipers beat Salmon Arm, clinch top spot in BCHL Vernon pod

Goaltender James Porter Jr. was a wall for the Vipers, who outscored the Silverbacks 3-1 Friday

The 2021 Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival will be a virtual event and is slated to take place Aug. 13 and 14.(Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Virtual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues returns for 2021

Participating artists will stream live during two-night event

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Most Read