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Researchers believe Alamosaurus sanjuanensis roamed the Earth during the Late Cretaceous period. The massive sauropod stomped across what is now the southwestern United States around 70 million years ago, swooshing its giant tail and stretching its long neck to feast on high plants.
New Mexico has a strong connection to the huge herbivore, for it was in 1921 when coal geologist John B. Reeside Jr. discovered the fossil of a new dinosaur south of Farmington. Named after the Ojo Alamo and San Juan Basin, Alamosaurus became a vital part of New Mexico’s rich paleontology history.
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science now invites everyone to come view its new display featuring fossils of the state’s famed dinosaur.
Executive director Anthony Fiorillo said the fossils were in the museum’s collection, which has a database of over 110,000 records documenting fossils and biological specimens. Fiorillo explained the museum is trying to put more of its collection out on display.
“This was an opportunity to put a real New Mexico story in the forefront,” he said. “Anybody from New Mexico who loves dinosaurs should feel proud of the role that Alamosaurus has played in our understanding of this group of dinosaurs we call sauropods.”
Alamosaurus, along with New Mexico’s state fossil Coelophysis, are iconic to the Land of Enchantment.
“New Mexico has an incredible natural history legacy and dinosaurs are a part of that, and rather than just borrow dinosaurs from other parts of the country, and have them show up in New Mexico, there are unique contributions that New Mexico paleontology has made for global studies, and Alamosaurus is one of them,” Fiorillo said.
The exhibit, aptly titled “Alamosaurus: A New Mexico Icon,” is located near the front of the Cretaceous Hall. The fossils displayed include a partial thigh bone, a series of vertebrae from the tail, and some teeth, Fiorillo said.
He noted that a “full-sized version of this thigh bone would be pretty much the height of an adult male.”
Alamosaurus, classified as a titanosaur, was estimated to have been about 30 meters long and as heavy as 80 tons, and part of its body was covered in bony armor. The plant-eater had a small head and tiny rounded teeth, and it spent most of the day munching on conifers and cyads to support its massive figure. It was primarily found in South America, but its discovery in New Mexico led to breakthroughs in the scientific understanding of the animal.
Fiorillo said the museum plans on doing more exhibit renovations in the upcoming months to showcase the state’s distinctive offerings to paleontology, as well as the institute’s collection, which the museum says is the largest repository of fossils in the Southwest.
“The philosophy moving forward is to put more of these discoveries in the public’s eye so they can see what really is a unique contribution of this museum. We’re more than just anybody’s dinosaurs, we are New Mexico dinosaurs,” Fiorillo said.
He added about the museum, “We’re trying to improve regional awareness of what a gem this organization is.”