Did you know there is a Presbyterian dinosaur?
Well, some would say that all Presbyterians are dinosaurs, but that’s another story.
I’m talking about Coelophysis (pronounced SEE-lo-PHY-sis). It lived about 230 – 201 million years ago (the late Triassic period). It was a “theropod” and looked a lot like the velociraptor from “Jurassic Park” movie fame. Coelophysis was about nine feet long from snout to tail tip, about 60% of the size of the menacing movie raptor, but in truth twice the size of the actual Cretaceous velociraptor (about 75 million years ago).
Coelophysis was a prolific breeder and there are thousands of fossil remains, particularly in northern New Mexico, where it was first discovered (in 1881) – which is the Presbyterian connection. One of the largest finds of Coelophysis bauri, the most common species, is on the grounds of Ghost Ranch, one of three national retreat centers belonging to the PCUSA (that’s us!). The other two centers, by the way, are at Montreat, North Carolina (Black Mountains) and Stony Point, New York (Hudson River)
The Coelophysis quarry at Ghost Ranch contains large fields of bones in a bed of mudstone. A number of other species of dinosaurs co-existing with C. bauri are also in the stone – some preserved in mid-battle with each other. Because of the nature of the mud, most of the bones are still articulated in complete skeletons. There are so many that paleontologists decided not to try to separate them in the field. Instead large blocks of the bones were removed intact. One block weighing 12 tons was lifted by crane through the unfinished roof of the museum at Ghost Ranch where the decades-long process of preparing the skeletons goes on every day (in air-conditioned comfort). The results are fascinating.
The American Museum of Natural History has produced a brief video about Coelophysis and
Ghost Ranch. You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=567bv6xmuss
So, if you find yourself in the vicinity of Abiquiu, New Mexico (turn north at Santa Fe), go to Ghost
Ranch and say “Hi” to your very own Presbyterian dinosaur.