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'Armadillo on steroids': Kansas dinosaur returns to haunt KU

Dinosaur native to Kansas goes on display at KU

The KU Natural History Museum has put the only known dinosaur native to Kansas back on display, with a more complete fossil and lush illustrations. Silvisaurus condrayi was discovered by an Ottawa County rancher in 1955.
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The KU Natural History Museum has put the only known dinosaur native to Kansas back on display, with a more complete fossil and lush illustrations. Silvisaurus condrayi was discovered by an Ottawa County rancher in 1955.

The only known dinosaur that lived in Kansas has returned — to KU.

A fossil of a 100-million-year-old armored plant eater is back on display at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum. And it's better than ever.

Many more of the beast's bones are included than when it was last displayed several years ago. And it is presented against the backdrop of a detailed painting by KU scientific illustrator Oscar Sanisidro.

The creature is described as an "armadillo on steroids" by David Burnham, a paleontologist with KU's Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. It was 3 feet tall and 10 feet long and was covered in protective plating and spikes. That indicates there also were predator dinosaurs in what is now Kansas. They just have not been found.

The western half of the state was under water, and the eastern half was densely forested. The climate was warmer then.

This species was dubbed Silvisaurus condrayi because it was discovered in 1955 by Ottawa County rancher Warren Condray in a pasture on his land. It was recognized as a new species in 1960.

Scientists from KU collected the skull, a lower jaw, teeth, neck bones, ribs, shoulder spikes, back bones, a tail bone, a leg and part of the pelvis. Most of the pieces were not displayed before.

"It had been previously thought that the fossil was in rock too hard to clean, so it sort of languished in the collection," Burnham told The Star by email. "Only a cast of the skull was on exhibit, plus a few real bones. Our lab was able to pretty it up."

The mounted fossils are real bone, he said, and visitors will be able to touch a piece of the armor and a cast of the skull.

The KU Natural History Museum is at 1345 Jayhawk Blvd. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday.

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