The hike was led by Susan Barlow, Manchester Historical Society; Christine Witkowski, geologist; and Ed Richardson, notable tree expert. We will learn about the village of Buckland, its interesting trees, and the unique geology of the area, which contrasts dramatically with that of Highland Park, site of our last geology-history walk.
For more information about dinosaurs...
• www.dinosaurstatepark.org is the web site of Connecticut's Dinosaur State Park. Photo (at right) from a Triassic-Jurassic diorama described at the web site. Footprints of dinosaurs were discovered in Rocky Hill in the 1960s, and are now preserved in the Park.
The Park's web site also has information on the Anchisauraus (AN kee SORE us, meaning "near reptile"), a plant-eating reptile, that we'll discuss today. It was a common dinosaur in the area now known as New England, and was a medium-sized prosauropod, growing to lengths of six feet from head to tail, and was usually bipedal (walked on two legs).
Anchisaurus fossils were discovered in Manchester's Buckland quarry, also known as Wolcott quarry, which was the most productive dinosaur locale in New England (and on the east coast). According to the Peabody Museum, workers in the quarry discovered the bones, which Wolcott later sold to O.C. Marsh (1832-1899), an "armchair paleontologist." Marsh said a specimen discovered in 1892 had the "skull and greater portion of the skeleton found in place, and in fine preservation." This remains the most complete and best-preserved skeleton of a prosauropod dinosaur ever found in North America. The quarry closed, and today the land is the entrance to the Buckland Hills Mall. Read more about the controversial Othniel C. Marsh on this web site.
Marsh's collection is at the Peabody Museum and the Smithsonian Institution, whose Web sites you can check for more information. See a picture of the Anchisauraus hind foot at the Peabody Museum, at this link:
• www.cttrips.com/pages/ctdinos51905.html is the web site of Brendan Hanrahan, where you can find information on his book
The "Bridge" story: The first prosauropod skeleton was discovered at the Buckland quarry on October 20, 1884,
when workmen excavating sandstone discovered fossil bones of hind limbs and pelvis embedded in a large
stone block. Unfortunately, the blocks likely to contain the skull and forelimbs had already been removed and
built into the abutments of a bridge in South Manchester, four miles south.
85 years later, Yale paleontologist John Ostrom wrote, "Ever since 1884, curators of vertebrate paleontology at the Peabody Museum have kept a hopeful eye on the brownstone bridge in Manchester, waiting for its demolition." In August 1969, the 40-foot-long bridge over Hop Brook at Bridge Street was demolished to make way for a new span. Ostrom and his team from the Peabody Museum were on the scene to search for the missing blocks. They examined 400 sandstone blocks over a two-day period, and found two blocks that contained fossil bone. One of the 500-pound blocks held the missing half of the right femur of Ammosaurus major, which has since been reunited with the original skeleton at the Peabody Museum. – Adapted from the book Dinosaurs of the East Coast written by Johns Hopkins University's David B. Weishampel and Luther O. Young.
For more information about local history, check out www.manchesterhistory.org, the web site of the Manchester Historical Society and books on local history available at Manchester's public libraries, and at the Historical Society.