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Science & Technology

NC State Student Uncovered Neck Bone Of Biggest Dinosaur Ever

Alison Moyer poses with Dreadnoughtus' neck bone, which she uncovered.
Alison Moyer
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Last week, researchers revealed one of the biggest discoveries ever in the dinosaur world. "Dreadnoughtus" is 85 feet long, two stories tall, and as big as a jumbo jet. It's estimated to weigh as much as seven T. rex dinosaurs put together, and experts believe it was not yet fully grown when it died. Alison Moyer spent several months on her knees in southern Argentina using picks, dust brushes, and tweezers to uncover parts of Dreadnoughtus' skeleton. Moyer is a Ph.D candidate at N.C. State University. This was her first dig.

What was your role?

We went down for two and a half months and our goal was to dig up these bones. In 2005, [a previous research team] had dug up several bones and we were going back to continue to dig it up. And so in 2006, a group of eight of us went down and dug this thing up for two and a half months. All day, every day, for a very long time we worked really, really hard.

Dreadnoughtus' thigh bone is taller than Moyer.
Credit Alison Moyer
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Dreadnoughtus' thigh bone is taller than Moyer.

One of the things that so great about this dinosaur is how complete it is. I spent several weeks on a single neck bone. It's called the cervical vertebrae. It's over a yard long, just one neck bone! I spent four to five weeks working on this single bone. It was quite a project to excavate it ... I was the only one flexible enough to be able to get around [the neck bone], or below it to excavate it.

What do you have to be most concerned about?

Getting it transported safely. ... There [were] actually times we were putting pieces of wood in bed frames we found in the trash to kind of support [the bones which were wrapped in plaster jackets] so they could be transported safely.

What makes the dinosaur's size real to you?

I mean, I am biased of course, but that cervical vertebrae - that neck bone -  is special to me. It's humongous. The other one .. is the thigh bone, the femur. It's six feet long. I have a picture of me standing next to it, and it's inches taller than me. It's pretty amazing to think that this is just [the dinosaur's] upper leg bone.

Alison Moyer in the field.
Credit Alison Moyer
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Alison Moyer in the field.

Artist's rendering of Dreadnoughtus, 'a dinosaur that feared nothing.'
Credit Jennifer Hall / Drexel University
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Drexel University
Artist's rendering of Dreadnoughtus, 'a dinosaur that feared nothing.'

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