A large bone from a two-legged, meat-eating dinosaur has been discovered in the San Juan Islands – the first dinosaur fossil ever found in Washington state.
Researchers found the fossil by accident. In 2012, they were in Sucia Island State Park collecting sea creature fossils when they stumbled on a bone that looked unusual for that area.
A month later they returned to the site with paleontologists. Initially, Professor Christian Sidor of the Burke Museum didn’t believe it belonged to a dinosaur.
But one feature of the bone convinced Sidor, a professor of biology at the University of Washington and vertebrate curator at the Burke Museum: “The muscles that actually attach to the back of the leg and retract the femur attach here. So this structure, the shape of it, and how close it is to the head of the femur tell us that this is a carnivorous dinosaur. All dinosaurs have this feature.”
The scientists don’t know what kind of dinosaur the bone comes from, however, because there’s only a third of the bone. Sidor said it’s likely a therapod, which includes Tyrannosaurus rex, birds and Velociraptors. And they are pretty sure it is from the Late Cretaceous period and is about 80 million years old.