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20 September 2007
Dr. Roger Sauterer to Lecture on Dinosaurs

By Andy Johns
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Fossilized Skeletons Provide Clues

A T. rex Named Sue

For Sue, becoming a fossil wasn't easy.

"To get fossilized is kind of like winning the lottery," said Jacksonville State University's Dr. Roger Sauterer, who will give a lecture on dinosaurs at the Anniston Museum of Natural History Sept. 27. "It takes a special set of circumstances."

For an animal like Sue to be fossilized, he said, it must die and then be quickly covered with sediment to keep scavengers from scattering the bones.

Dinosaur fossils are found most often at the sites of ancient lakes, where the currents covered the carcass with silt. Over millions of years the bones can be "mineralized," which means mineral particles creep into the bones and replace the organic material.

A nearly complete fossilized skeleton like Sue can give scientists plenty of clues about how ancient animals lived.

Paleontologists, scientists who study fossils, can reconstruct the animal's skeleton to determine how big an animal was and how it moved. Based on dinosaurs' bone structures, most scientists believe rexes were more closely related to modern birds than modern reptiles.

From fossilized footprints, paleontologists can tell how heavy animals were and how fast they could move. The problem is, scientists have only found one footprint form an adult rex.

But don't expect to find a Tyrannosaurus fossil the next time you go to a creek bed. There has never been a T. rex skeleton found in Alabama. Most of the skeletons have been found in Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Alberta, Canada.

Alabama does have its share of fossils though.

In fact, there have been more fossils found in Alabama than any other state east of the Mississippi River, according to Dr. James Lamb, curator of paleontology at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham.

He said paleontologist on Alabama digs have found fossils of duckbilled Lophorhothon, boney armored nodosaurs, bird-like ornithomimids, and a meat-eating Rex-cousin called Appalachiosaurus montgomeriensis.

About Andy Johns

Andy Johns is the mobile reporter for The Star. He is a graduate of Berry College in Rome, Ga.

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