Dinosaur bones near Laurel

There are dinosaur bones near Laurel, Maryland.

An amateur paleontologist spotted a two to three pound bone protruding from the ground after Tropical Storm Lee in September, 2011. [1, 2]

A seven year old boy found a 1.5 inch jawbone from a meat-eating dinosaur in autumn, 2010. [3, 4]

A nine year old girl found a tail or back bone at Dinosaur Park in Laurel in November, 2009. [5, 6]

A chemist, Philip Tyson, found two teeth in an open pit iron mine near Muirkirk in November, 1858. His dentist friend, Christopher Johnston, wrote about the teeth a year later and named them Astrodon ("star tooth"). In 1865, paleontologist Joseph Leidy gave the name, Astrodon johnstoni, to the teeth's former owner, a sauropod dinosaur. A little over 20 years later, geologist John Bell Hatcher gathered many dinosaur bones, including Astrodon bones, after bad weather conditions in the Beltsville to Muirkirk area. Another Astrodon tooth turned up in Muirkirk in 1894, and an Astrodon femur turned up near Muirkirk in 1991. [7] The site of the 1991 discovery became Dinosaur Park in 2009. [8, 9, 10]

Astrodon was a vegetarian brachiosaurid (similar to but not the same as a brachiosaurus) that grew to about 60 feet long. For now, the names Astrodon and Pleurocoelus are applied to the same dinosaur. Astrodon johnstoni became the official Maryland State Dinosaur in 1998. [7]

An Astrodon as if seen at night for a general size comparison in Annapolis, Maryland. Illustration by Sonora McMillen.

At least a dozen species of dinosaurs inhabited the tropical lowlands and shallow sea of Maryland during a 150 million year period. Their bones petrified and have been found in central Maryland rock formations from the Mesozoic Era. [11]

In yet another nearby finding, a fossil hunter discovered a hatchling baby nodosaur in a College Park creek bed after flooding in 1997, and a 2011 Journal of Paleontology research paper described it as a new genus and species, Propanoplosaurus marylandicus. Nodosaurs are part of the ankylosauria group. [12, 13]


1. "Heavy rains yield big dinosaur fossil find in US", Associated Press report on 2011-09-22 from Laurel, Maryland, [ www.nbcnews.com/id/44619410/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/heavy-rains-yield-big-dinosaur-fossil-find-us/ ], accessed 2013-07-31.

2. "Dinosaur fossil, found in Laurel, made plain by rain", by Meredith Somers, The Washington Times, 2011-09-21, [ www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/sep/21/dinosaur-fossil-found-in-laurel-made-plain-by-rain/ ], accessed 2013-07-31.

3. "7-year-old finds fossil at Laurel Dinosaur Park", Associated Press report on 2010-10-05 from Laurel, Maryland, [ www.wusa9.com/news/local/story.aspx ], accessed 2013-07-31.

4. "Dinosaur jawbone found in Laurel", by Washington Post editors, 2010-10-04, [ voices.washingtonpost.com/local-breaking-news/maryland/-a-7-year-old-boy-from.html ], accessed 2013-07-31.

5. "Va. girl finds dinosaur bone at park in Maryland", by Megan Greenwell, The Washington Post, 2009-11-15, [ www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/24/AR2009112401606.html ], accessed 2013-07-31.

6. "Girl finds dinosaur bone at Md. park", MyFox Washington DC, Archaeology Daily News, 2009-11-29, [ www.archaeologydaily.com/news/200911292744/Girl-Finds-Dinosaur-Bone-at-Md.-Park.html ], accessed 2013-07-31.

7. "Astrodon johnstoni: the Maryland State Dinosaur", Maryland Geological Survey, [ www.mgs.md.gov/esic/fs/fs12.html ], accessed 2013-07-05.

8. "Dinosaur hunters have a home in South Laurel", by Caitlin Moran, The Gazette, 2009-10-20, [ ww2.gazette.net/stories/10202009/prinnew164154_32564.shtml ], accessed 2013-07-31.

9. "Dinosaur Park", Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation, [ history.pgparks.com/sites_and_museums/Dinosaur_Park/About_the_Park.htm ], accessed 2013-07-31.

10. "Dinosaur Park (Prince George's County, Maryland)", Wikipedia, [ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinosaur_Park_%28Prince_George%27s_County%2C_Maryland%29 ], accessed 2013-07-31.

11. "Maryland's Dinosaurs", Maryland Geological Survey, [ www.mgs.md.gov/esic/features/mddino.html ], accessed 2013-07-05.

12. "Newborn dinosaur fossil discovered in Maryland", by EarthSky, 2011-09-15, [ earthsky.org/earth/newborn-dinosaur-fossil-discovered-in-maryland ], accessed 2013-07-31.

13. Ray Stanford, David Weishampel, Valerie Deleon, "The First Hatchling Dinosaur Reported from the Eastern United States: Propanoplosaurus marylandicus (Dinosauria: Ankylosauria) from the Early Cretaceous of Maryland, U.S.A.", Journal of Paleontology 85(5):916-924. 2011, doi: dx.doi.org/10.1666/10-113.1, [ www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1666/10-113.1 ], accessed 2013-07-31.