7.6" Fossil Sauropod Vertebra Centrum - Morrison Formation

This is a large, 7.6" tall, partial fossil sauropod vertebra from the Morrison Formation of Utah. It is the body (centrum) of the vertebra. The base of one of the pedicles is still intact, giving insight into the orientation of the vertebra within the sauropod. One side of the vertebra has weathered away, exposing the bone cells.

There are a number of sauropods known from the Morrison Formation. The most common were Camarasaurs, Diplodocids, and Apatosaurs, but there are at least a dozen other genera.

Located in the midwestern United States, the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation is an incredibly large and fossiliferous formation that dates back to about 156 to 147 million years ago. Named after the small town of Morrison, Colorado, the formation was discovered in 1877, and quickly became the center of one of the biggest rivalries in historical paleontology.

19th century paleontologists Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope spent 15 years making outstanding strides in the discovery of fossils all throughout the American Midwest, but also resorted to unsavory methods in attempts to discredit or ruin the other's work and reputation, including destruction of specimens.

The total area of the formation is roughly 600000 square miles, however much of that is inaccessible; deeply buried under prairie land and eroded during the formation of the Rocky Mountains. Even so, many outcroppings across the midwest allow paleontologists access to a wealth of information from Late Jurassic North America.

Dinosaurs from the region include large allosaurid dinosaurs, such as the eponymous Allosaurus and its larger relative, Saurophaganax, both exceeding 30 feet in length, making them some of the largest carnivores of their time. They competed with the similarly large megalosaurid Torvosaurus, and the somewhat smaller horned ceratosaurid Ceratosaurus. On the smaller end of the theropod family tree was the raptor-like Ornitholestes.

For herbivores, Stegosaurus guarded their herds with huge, intimidating backplates and formidable tail spikes. Small, early ankylosaurs like gargoyleosaurus would have fed on the forested understory, smaller in size than the 30+ foot giant Stegosaurids.

The main attraction of the Morrison however, were the giant Sauropod dinosaurs. Some of the most colossal of dinosaurs and largest land animals of all time were the massive sauropods. Diplodocus, Camarasaurus, Apatosaurus, Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Barosaurus, and Supersaurus all count themselves among these long-necked titans. None of these herbivores would have been less than 50 feet in length at adult size, and the largest of their number would have exceeded 100-115 feet in length, and over 40 tons. For this many sauropods to have lived in roughly the same place and time, it is presumed that they all developed different feeding and living strategies, to minimize competition. Their massive size and herds would have made them well defended from any of the numerous predators of the Morrison.

Unidentified Sauropod
Morrison Formation
7.6 x 7.4 x 6.5"
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