The Real Jurassic Park

A trio of Toyota vehicles, including an iconic Land Cruiser, help paleontologists extract dinosaur bones from one of the richest fossil deposits in North America.

May 08, 2019
Life Imitates Art -- In a light-hearted moment, members of the paleontology team read Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park alongside the Land Cruiser that Toyota donated to the effort.

When Michael Crichton wrote his best-selling novel Jurassic Park in 1990, he specifically called out the Toyota Land Cruiser as the primary vehicle used to navigate the theme park of ancient dinosaurs brought back to life in modern times.

That book, and the blockbuster movies it spawned, was fiction.

But now, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis — with an assist from Toyota — is making it real.  The museum’s 16-person paleontology team has been excavating a fossil-rich plot of land in northern Wyoming – dubbed the “Jurassic Mile” –  that has the potential to be one of the richest Jurassic dinosaur deposits ever in North America. And they’ve been using a Land Cruiser, plus a pair of Tundra pickup trucks, to help them do their work.
 
Ready to Roll -- One of the team's two Tundras stands watch over a section of the dig site in northern Wyoming.
 

The trio of vehicles, donated by Toyota, have been pivotal in hauling scientific gear, camp equipment and fossilized/fragile dinosaur bones across several miles of some of the most rugged, craggy and unforgiving terrain in the West. The museum’s scientists-in-residence, world-renowned paleontologists Dr. Phil Manning and Dr. Victoria Egerton, say they wouldn’t have been able to do their work without them.

 
“It’s an off-road adventure through a rough and tumble world that existed millions of years ago, at a time when there was a saltwater sea covering the area we’ve been exploring,” says Dr. Manning. “What the sea left behind was rugged terrain and steep slopes that are extremely hard and sometimes dangerous to traverse. Some of the bones we’ve discovered weigh hundreds of pounds and are brittle and very fragile. So, it’s imperative we excavate and transport them safely in vehicles that can smoothly handle the rough landscape. We are very grateful Toyota helped us preserve a very important slice of history.”
 
The Real Bigfoot -- World renowned paleontologist Dr. Phil Manning is dwarfed by these dinosaur footprints.

Hauling More than Six Tons of Bones
 
This so-called “Jurassic Mile” consists of four main quarries within a multilevel, 640-acre site. The expedition has proven extremely fruitful so far. Over the past two years of fieldwork, nearly 600 specimens weighing more than six tons combined have been collected from this undisclosed location. Some of the bones belong to species such as the enormous “long neck” Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus, as well as the carnivorous Allosaurus. Besides dinosaurs, the site also includes an array of fossilized marine life, plants and rare dinosaur tracks, still preserved in the ground after nearly 150 million years.
 
Once prepped for travel, the finds are transported some 2,500 miles to the museum in Indianapolis. The 500,000-square-foot facility, which attracts around 1.2 million visitors annually, is home to the Dinosphere — one of the finest immersive dinosaur exhibits in the U.S.
 
In appreciation of Toyota’s involvement in the dinosaur dig, the museum posted Toyota signage in the Dinosphere and purchased a new Highlander Hybrid for personnel use. That SUV was manufactured at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, in nearby Princeton.
 
By Curt McAllister

 

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