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Pentaceratops Ops: Dinosaurs Will Fly!

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On Thursday, October 29, 2015, the Bureau of Land Management, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS), the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New Mexico National Guard partnered to airlift the full skeletal remains of the first baby Pentaceratops ever discovered and the skull of an adult Pentaceratops out of the Bisti Wilderness and Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study Area

Pentaceratops, Photo courtesy of New Mexico Museum of Natural History and ScienceThe skeleton of the baby Pentaceratops was discovered in 2011 in the Bisti Wilderness south of Farmington by Amanda Cantrell, NMMNHS Geoscience Collections Manager.  Two years later, NMMNHS Research Associate Dr. Robert Sullivan found an adult skull of Pentaceratops in the Ah-shi-sle-pah Wilderness Study area, about 10 miles from Cantrell's discovery.

A NMMNHS crew worked to excavate the dinosaurs over the past two years. Recently, the bones were encased in three large plaster blocks, each weighing three-quarters to one ton each. National Guard crews worked with staff from NMMNHS and the BLM in rigging cargo netting for the Black Hawk to airlift the fossils to the transport vehicle. The fossils were then transported to the NMMNHS in Albuquerque.

Pentaceratops takes its name, which means "five-horned face," from its five horns, one above the nostril, two above the eyes and one on each cheek.  One of the largest horned dinosaurs, Pentaceratops was discovered in New Mexico in the 1920s. Pentaceratops was one of the largest, if not the largest horned dinosaur that ever lived. They could be up to 27 feet long, weighing an estimated 5 tons or more.  One of the most diverse groups of dinosaurs of the Cretaceous, ceratopsians were the horned dinosaurs.  New Mexico's best known ceratopsian is Pentaceratops, from the Fruitland and Kirtland formations near Farmington.

Baby Pentaceratops being airlifted
Baby Pentaceratops being airlifted


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Photo of helicoptor lifting pentaceratops

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