From the vault: Apatosaurus tail vertebrae discovered near Fruita |

From the vault: Apatosaurus tail vertebrae discovered near Fruita

The tail vertebrae of an Apatosaurus was found in Rabbit Valley’s Twin Junipers Quarry. It was excavated between 2004-2006.
Dinosaur Journey Museum |


WHAT: Dinosaur Journey Museum

WHEN: Daily, check website for hours

WHERE: 550 Jurassic Court, Fruita

COST: $8.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors, $5.25 for children and $24.50 for immediate family groups


Editor’s note: “From the vault” features fossils and other dinosaur-related historical artifacts currently stored at Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita, Colo.

The tail vertebrae of an Apatosaurus was discovered and excavated from Rabbit Valley’s Twin Junipers Quarry, which is located west of Grand Junction. The project happened between 2004 and 2006. The bones are currently housed in Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita.

According to Julia McHugh, Dinosaur Journey Museum’s curator of paleontology: “Unlike the Apatosaurus bones found at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry north of I-70, which are dark gray to black in color, these bones are stained red from the iron-rich mudstones in which they were buried. These vertebrae make up the base of the tail, near the body. The front half of the body was never found, and it likely eroded away centuries ago by natural processes.”

Fun fact: The fossilized, 6-foot-7-inch long, 2,800-pound Apatosaurus femur found at Mygatt-Moore Quarry is currently the largest of its kind on record. It was excavated in 2014 by Dinosaur Journey staff and volunteers.

A single tooth of a Ceratosaurus was additionally found along with the partial Apatosaurus skeleton in the Twin Junipers Quarry, McHugh confirmed.

“Ceratosaurus is a predatory dinosaur, slightly smaller and less common than its relative Allosaurus, with larger teeth and a stout, pyramid-shaped horn on its snout,” she said. “A new species of the genus Ceratosaurus was discovered by Lance Eriksen in 1975 in the Fruita Paleontological Area — Ceratosaurus magnicornis — which is the official dinosaur of Fruita and the first cataloged paleo specimen of the Museum of Western Colorado.”

It’s also likely that finding the tooth and the vertebrae together was simply by chance; not because the Ceratosaurus was eating the Apatosaurus.

“As far as I know there are no confirmed feeding traces on these bones,” McHugh explained.

Dinosaur Journey in Fruita currently houses more than 10,000 specimens, many of them discovered locally. Its summer dig season will start in May.

“The Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey facility is more than just a location that shows, collects and stores,” said Peter Booth, executive director of Museum of Western Colorado. “This museum is a research institution. We are making discoveries every dig season — be it the largest Apatosaurus ever found or the smallest dinosaur known to exist and everything in between. Our dino-dig program makes this possible. People come from all over the world to assist on active digs, locating and learning more about western Colorado’s prehistoric heritage.”

For more information about Dinosaur Journey Museum, visit

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