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Bob Strauss

How Many Dinosaurs Could Live in Central Park?

By August 16, 2010

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As a longtime New York resident, I'm always tickled when paleontologists reference the Big Apple. The latest to do so is Indiana University's James Farlow, who (along with colleagues) conducted a detailed census of the Morrison Formation, which includes bits of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. With sediments dating to the late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago, the Morrison Formation has been a rich source of sauropods, stegosaurs and large theropods like Allosaurus.

So where does New York come in? Well, based on the results of his team's survey, Farlow estimates that a Central Park-sized slice of the Morrison Formation (about three and a half square kilometers) could have sustained two or three full-grown Apatosaurus, the dinosaur formerly known as Brontosaurus--or as many as a hundred smaller sauropods, assuming they possessed cold-blooded metabolisms and didn't eat too much. Of course, that chunk would also have contained its share of ornithopods and theropods; the point of the exercise is that the "biomass" of giant sauropods dominates any given ecosystem, with smaller dinosaurs amounting to mere rounding errors!

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