This site of ‘the last days of the dinosaur era’ is also home to dinosaur bones that can’t be shipped back to museums

The site of a mysterious and deadly shooting in Missouri’s Jefferson City is also home to at least four rare dinosaurs, bones of which were discovered by mining firms but can’t be shipped back to museums because they’re too rare.

The South Fork Fossil Beds State Natural Area offers an invaluable glimpse into what some call the last days of the Jurassic period, when larger herbivores and carnivores roamed the region.

Initial reports by The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star and UPI that the “mass shooting” was the killing of a prehistoric dinosaur inspired museums to hold an investigation to find out what happened.

The crew had to freeze the fossils to save them during transport to a laboratory. The drilling also probably damaged another set of dinosaur bones to the point that they can’t be stored either.

That leaves at least two of the very rare fossils – a “megastropod” and “polychaete” dinosaur – as the only ones left to excavate.

“It could be a lot more,” said Jean-Pierre Kaufmann, director of the National Museum of Natural History in France, where curator Jean Philippe Bastien said in a statement the fossils are “extraordinary specimens” that “should be exported immediately and returned to science.”

In the investigation, excavators have found the “most important and impressive set of fossils of a titanosaur known to the scientific community,” which is actually a giant “dinosaur turkey” or titusaur. It was 11 feet long and nearly 2,000 pounds.

The second fossil, whose scientific name is Polychaete toadosaurus – after the tiger lizard it belonged to – was the dinosaur equivalent of the “roadkill specialist”: An animal too small to eat showed up and was killed by its predators. Because of that, the specimen is tough to handle.

The skeleton of the Megastropod Sorelosaurus, which is about 75 million years old, is broken to pieces from multiple drafts of industrial explosives, according to the scientists who discovered it.

Still, Kansas City isn’t giving up on digging up more.

Gina Spangler, the “director of education and outreach” for the Jefferson City History Museum and Heritage Center, said that while museums have the right to examine the fossils, the Defense Department has authority to decide when to ship them overseas. The museum plans to examine the bones and try to figure out what happened and what to do about it.

“It’s my understanding the artifacts may be eligible for export under international law,” she said in an email. “We’re awaiting further information about export status and will know more over the next several weeks.”

Anyone in possession of the artifacts can go to the Office of the Historician and currently has until July 1 to do so, according to the Smithsonian.

But that could be changed if Congress is moved to change the law governing the export of specimens.

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