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Mines Students Help Build Plesiosaur Display for Deadwood Museum
South Dakota Ag Connection - 12/03/2018

A team of graduate students from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have installed a new 360-degree plesiosaur display in Deadwood's Adams Museum. The fossil was first discovered near the town of Whitewood, more than 80 years ago by Charles Haas and his son, Arthur, who donated it to the Adams Museum in 1934. The new display showcases the plesiosaur in the rock in which it was originally discovered.

SD Mines paleontology graduate students Julie Driebergen, Shannon Harrel and Megan Norr collaborated on the project as part of their Museum Exhibits class taught by Sally Shelton, associate director of the Museum of Geology at SD Mines. The plesiosaur is one part of the new exhibit at the Adams Museum called Riches and Responsibilities: A Natural History of the Black Hills, with an entire room devoted to the geology of the area including rocks, minerals and fossils. "The plesiosaur is the center of attention in this new room," says Norr.

The students first mapped, catalogued and labeled the 168 plesiosaur fossilized bones in its previous display. They then moved the fossil to its new location and placed in anatomically correct order. "We really wanted to make this look like it was part of a dig site," says Harrel. "We placed it in the death position," adds Driebergen. This allows the public to view the fossil in the same way it was preserved for millions of years after it died. The team also searched the Adams Museum's collection of fossils and selected age-appropriate specimens to go along with the plesiosaur.

The Adams Museum Plesiosaur is a unique species; the only one of its kind ever found. Paleontologist and Mines alumnus Bruce Schumacher identified, prepared and named the fossil Pahasapasaurus haasi in reference to both the Lakota name for the Black Hills and the Haas family.

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