Top Mining Dinosaurs… and assorted fossils [list]

Paleontology and mining have a single, but significant thing in common: They both involve a lot of digging.

Although the resemblance stops there (one is an industry, the other a study) the mining industry has done a lot to uncover some of the world's most interesting fossils. 

One reason for this is that coal, which as we all know is basically super-compressed plant matter, can still contain the fossilised remains of animals that used to live among those plants (although in 1873 a live frog was found entombed in sandstone in a coal mine in New Zealand).

Australian Mining has gathered a great list that takes a look at some of the most significant dinosaurs found in mines (and a few that weren't quite).

Dinosaur eggs in India

A fossilised 'dinosaur egg' was discovered at the Kallankurichi Limestone mine in India, at Periyakuruchi village in the Ariyalur district (southern India).

The cannonball-shaped 'egg' was about 11cm in radius and height, and weighed 12.5 kilograms.

Many other 'eggs' have been found by geologists in the area, under a stream near the village, however it was never really clear what kind of dinosaur eggs these are.

As it turns out, a paleontologically concerned reader informed Australian Mining that despite numerous references to these objects being dinosaur eggs, they are actually ordinary geological concretions.

It is believed the Bay of Bengal had inundated over 350 square miles of land there about 100 million years ago, land which was previously occupied by dinosaurs but was given over to countless sea creatures like clams, oysters, molluscs and corals.

After the sea withdrew once more this resulted in eventual compression of remaining calciferous fauna and formation of some of the finest limestone deposits in India.

 

Talisman Terry

Slightly left of the dinosaur field is Talisman Terry, the dubiously-named Fracasaurus.

Terry was the brainchild of the marketing department at US-based gas company Talisman Energy, as the friendly face of the industry to show children that gas drilling wasn’t all bad.

Of course, the liberal media had a field day with old Terry, including the popular satirist Stephen Colbert, who hosed the friendly colouring book character so badly the company withdrew him from their PR program.

Terry the Fracasaurus can be considered part of a very small family of resource industry mascots, including Cheasapeake Charlie (a pro-gas cartoon dog) and our very own Hector the Lump of Coal.

Talisman Terry disappeared sometime in 2011, but you can still download his colouring in book here, to print out and teach your children about the virtues of fracking and gas production.

 

Footprints in coal mines

Dinosaur footprints have been found in a coal mine owned by the Price River Coal Company mine in Spring Canyon, Utah.

Many thousands of the natural casts in coal were found in the mine in the 80s, hanging down as protrusions from the roof.

Of course, there are so many footprints overlapping each other it often looks like the tracks of liverstock around a dam, so there aren’t too many clear examples.

But the prints are there from when dinosaurs were walking around fallen vegetation in a swampy forest floor. The peat of the forest floor eventually turned to coal, while the prints were filled up with shale material, and wound up with a coating of shiny coal on the bottom which was mined out, exposing the casts.

The casts are so common that a lot of miners in the area have souvenired them to use as outdoor sculptures on front porches or in gardens.

They can be as long as one metre, and weigh hundreds of kilograms.

 

Palmersaurus

It’s a tenuous link in this list, but the irrepressible mining magnate Clive Palmer owns one of the largest animatronic dinosaur parks in the world.

It kicked off last year with two life sized dinosaurs (including T-Rex) in the golf course at his Coolum Resort on the Sunshine Coast.

He continued to build the dinosaurs, but the park has been plagued by legal battles ever since, and recently one blogger said it “might just be the saddest place on Earth”.

A visit to Palmersaurus is $37.50 for an adult, which Clive defends by saying “It’s a lot cheaper than going to Disneyland.”

One review on Tripadvisor spoke of a four year-old child who, having completed a 20 minute walk through the park, simply said “Dad, let’s just go home” (They had already driven four hours to get there).

Another reviewer said: “We felt like we had stepped into a weird movie. It was eerily quiet and seemed abandoned. Gardens were a mess and infrastructure old and tired.”

It’s not all bad though: Some people love the privacy and quiet, and all of it situated on one of the best golf courses in Australia.

 

Europe's Shield

In December 2013 a new type of dinosaur was unearthed in a coal mine near Arino in Spain.

The monster was identified as a sub-species of the Anklyosauria family, and named Europelta carbonensis, or ‘Europe’s shield, from  the coal’.

Palaeontologists said the new Anklyosaur was the oldest type of nodosaurid discovered in Europe, which lived 110 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.

A herbivorous, heavily armoured beast that walked on four legs, the Europelta was slightly different from it’s Anklyosaur ancestors in that rather than the typical triangular head, it had a rounded, more teardrop shaped skull and a strongly arched pelvis.

The Europelta specimen would have been about 4 metres long, and 1.5 metres tall.

 

One of the world’s oldest croc's

An open-pit coal mine in Cerrejon, Columbia gave up the remains of one of the world’s largest and oldest crocodiles in 2013.

Dubbed ‘The Balrog’, after the fictitious monster from the Mines of Moria in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Anthracosuchus balrogus was pulled from the same rock sequence that contained a 58 foot snake fossil, the Titanboa.

The Balrog was about 16 feet long, and would have weighed in at slightly less than half a tonne.

Both Titanboa and the Balrog lived about 60 million years ago in the Paleocene era, but other members of crocodylamorpha go back as far as 225 million years.

The Balrog’s snout was much shorter and stouter than a modern crocodile’s or alligator’s.

 

Ancient primate in a Thai coal mine

The fossilised jaw of a tiny primate that existed around 35 million years ago was been uncovered in the Krabi coal mine in October 2013.

The species, dubbed Krabia Minuta after the mine where it was found, is part of a group called anthropoids, which includes the ancestors of all primates.

It was uncovered by Jean-Jacques Jaeger, a paeleontologist from the Université de Poitiers in France.

Jaeger's team not only discovered this new species, after unearthing part of its jaw and teeth, but also found a number of other fossils, including a 10 kilogram anthropoid known as Siamopithecus.

 

Atlas Copco-saurus

In the early 80s Atlas Copco provided equipment for a dig that unearthed a new type of dinosaur, which was dubbed the Atlascopcosaurus loadsi.

The dinosaur was discovered in 1984, but was named in honour of the company by husband and wife team Tom and Patricia Vickers-Rich, who chose to honour the company who supplied the equipment that made the discovery possible.

Alascopcosaurus is one of very few dinosaurs to be named after a company, in such company as the Panamericansaurus, gasosaurus constructus, and Fedexia.

Australian Mining would gladly like to hear of any others, whether mining-related or not.

 

Giant Marsupials

In 2012 about 20 species of Megafauna, the ancient Australian marsupials, were discovered at the South Walker Creek coal mine in the Bowen Basin.

The site contained seven metre long crocodiles, other enormous lizards up to six metres long, giant grey kangaroos that stood 2.5 metres tall, giant forest wallabies, and the largest marsupial of all.

That honour goes to the Diprotodon, a prehistoric wombat about the size of a small car.

Many of the fossils bore the teeth marks of the giant crocodiles, which would wait at the water’s edge to tear into their unwitting yet enormous prey.

The first fossils were found in the area in 2006 during a cultural heritage survey with the local Bardna Bardna people, to whom palaeontologist Scott Hucknall gave credit for the discovery.

Mine owner BMC provided at $350,000 grant for field research in the area and further education.