Excavating California's State Dinosaur

A paleontological technician excavates articulated vertebrae of California's State Dinosaur during the 1939-40 field season at a locality situated near the western edge of California's Great Central Valley. The bones belong to a hadrosaur duckbilled herbivore called Augustynolophus morrisi. In life, it would have weighed some three tons, with a 26-foot length. This specific variety of hadrosaur occurs only in the upper Cretaceous portions of the upper Cretaceous to Paleocene Moreno Formation. An illuminating side-story here is that sophisticated high resolution stratigraphic sampling of Moreno Formation foraminfera (tiny shells secreted by a microscopic single-celled organism)--exquisitely sensitive time indicators that lived and died during specific, restricted moments in geologic time--proves that during deposition of the Moreno Formation, the hadrosaur dinosaurs went extinct a full 1.23 million years before the infamous meteorite impact 66 million years ago--a devastating bolide collision many investigators identify as the kill-shot that ended the dinosaurian dynasty on Earth. Photograph courtesy a specific technical publication.

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