A dinosaur fossil field discovered this year in eastern China appears to be the largest in the world, a paleontologist said yesterday.
More than 7,600 fossils have been discovered so far in Zhucheng City in eastern Shandong Province and the number is climbing, said Zhao Xijin, the paleontologist in charge of the project.
Zhao is from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"The discoveries are expected to contribute to research on the mystery of dinosaur extinction," Zhao said.
He added that the fossils dated mainly from the Late Cretaceous of the Mesozoic Period, when dinosaurs became extinct.
The city has a major field of large hadrosaurus fossils, discovered in the 1960s by a Chinese oil expedition. More than 50 tons of fossils have been discovered since then.
The world's largest hadrosaurus fossil was found here in the 1980s and exhibited in the local museum.
New fossil sites were found during another mining expedition in March. One field is 300 meters long by 10m wide and 5m deep. More than 3,000 fossils have been found at the site, among which new species might be found, Zhao said.
A 2m skull of a large ceratopsian was found here, the first such discovery outside of North America, said Xu Xing, researcher of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.
In the 15 sub-fields, other new genera of ankylosaurus, tyrannosaurus and ceolurus were also found, Xu said.
Zhao said the fossils had only the slimmest chance to have survived all these years. According to current research, the region might have been a watery area with abundant grass. That would have made it an ideal habitat for duck-billed dinosaurs, Zhao said.
Mining had been suspended because of weather but would resume in the spring, Zhao said.
Research on the findings would be published at the end of next year, he said. A fossil park will be built in the region, local authorities said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 30, 2008)