Kay Fredette has demonstrated that paleontology is one of the exceptions to the adage that the days of big contributions from scientific volunteers are over. Fredette found the largest known apatosaurus femur while helping out on a dig in Colorado. At 2m long it is 12% larger than the previous record holder.
Apatosaurus is probably better known as brontosaurus, one of the largest of the dinosaurs. However, even apatosaurus' normally quoted 23m and 16 tonnes may need a rewrite, with Field Coordinator Robert Gay of the Dinosaur Journey Museum in Colorado estimating the giant this came from at 24-27m long.
Fredette has been participating in Dinosaur Digs since 1986. She also assists back at the Museum of Western Colorado where volunteers help clean and reassemble bones, as well as teaching education programs. Most of her previous discoveries have been teeth. “We find lots of teeth because dinosaurs used to shed them like snakes shed their skins. They would fall out and new ones would grow back in their place,” she told the museum's newsletter in 2009.
“Dorothy and I were working on some bones...and came across this lump,” Fredette says. “And thought 'oh, my goodness, we found another vertebra.' Well, then we got to back side of it, and it swooped back up again.”
“With this new femur, it gives us an indication of how large these animals can grow. It’s always been a question of how did these animals get so large, and maybe this extra-large femur bone, if we can do some sampling and testing out on it, we can help determine how these massive animals were able to support their huge size,” says Gay.