Albuquerque, NM, July 12, 2012 –there once lived a little dinosaur who was a bird-like hunter. Though little, its teeth would have torn right through …well, just about anything! It was as vicious as any other meat-eating dinosaur and ran down small game on the river floodplains that covered New Mexico during the Late Triassic – about 205 million years ago.

The first little guy was discovered near Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico in 1881 and was named Coelophysis years later. Further discoveries of this small creature continued throughout the last century, and the discoveries were so significant to the state of New Mexico that in 1981 it was dubbed “the official state fossil”.

Coelophysis opens on July 21, 2012 as part of Dinosaur Century: 100 Years of Discovery in New Mexico at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

The Discoveries

In 1881, while on the hunt for dinosaur fossils, David Baldwin discovered a handful of fossil bones in the red dirt and rocks of Abiquiu, New Mexico. The bones were studied for years in Philadelphia and, in 1889, were named Coelophysis by paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope.

In 1947, paleontologist Edwin H. Colbert led a New York team from the American Museum of Natural History to Baldwin’s site. 66 years after Baldwin’s original discovery, a bonebed packed with thousands of dinosaur skeletons was discovered by one of the New York team members, George Whitaker. Over the next few years, hundreds of skeletons were collected. This discovery made Coelophysis one of the best known of any early dinosaur.

Because the discovery of Coelophysis was so significant, the New Mexico State Legislature declared Coelophysis the official state fossil of New Mexico in 1981. That same year, a team from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, led by David S Berman, reopened the Ghost Ranch bonebed and collected even more Coelophysis skeletons. One of the fossil blocks they collected was given to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

And the Discoveries Continue

In 1998, a California Fire Fighter decided to vacation near Ghost Ranch. While on a hike, he noticed fossil bone sticking out of an arroyo wall. Intrigued by his discovery, he brought the discovery to Andrew Heckert, a scientist working at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Heckert traveled to the locality with Snyder and determined that an extensive bonebed lay buried in the Triassic bedrock. Over the next decade, the Museum excavated the site, recovering thousands of Late Triassic fossils. The locality came to be known as the Snyder Quarry and is still an active field site today.

Come see it all at Dinosaur Century: 100 Years of Discovery in New Mexico, only at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science.