Spinosaurus stomping into new home at Ogden's Dinosaur Park this spring

Wednesday , January 25, 2017 - 5:00 AM1 comment

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A prehistoric monster with a controversial modern pedigree is expected to smash its way to Ogden this spring.

“If you can imagine a 45-foot-long, two-legged crocodile with giant hooks for claws with a 6-foot-tall sail on its back,” you’re visualizing the Spinosaurus, said paleo-artist and sculptor Cliff Green of Price.

The beast is described as the largest meat eater of the Cretaceous period, about 97 million years ago and Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park, 1544 E. Park Boulevard, has commissioned a life-size replica of the dinosaur, with assembly to begin upon spring thaw.

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Green is moving to Centerville and will sent up shop at the Ogden park to assemble and detail the Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, which has a body larger than Tyrannosaurus rex.

“I cannot emphasize how gigantic this animal is,” said Price, noting the beast is 22 feet tall. The Spinosaurus replica is being built to scale, so park visitors will be able to appreciate the dinosaur’s true size.

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Spinosaurus was revived as a major topic of paleontology in 2014 through the work of a team of scientists that found some of the animal’s bones in Morocco. Referencing the surviving samples and notes from the dinosaur’s discovery in Egypt by a German paleontologist in 1915, the modern team published research contending the Spinosaurus could move on land and in water.

“They found enough material to make a pretty solid estimation of what it is,” Green said. 

But controversy persists about the dinosaur. The 1915 bones were found on fossil formations in Egypt and the 2014 find was from Morocco, Green said. Paleontologists disagree about the shape and size of the dinosaur’s back legs and what the main purpose of the sail might have been, and whether the dinosaur was truly aquatic.

Green said he’s following the best information available in forming Ogden’s Spinosaurus.

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“As paleo-artists, what we do is stay as scientifically accurate as possible,” he said. “Science is fluid ... new research can come along and throw a monkey wrench into our construction.”

To make way for the Spinosaurus, Ogden’s Dinosaur Park is moving some its existing replicas and updating them with the latest research, said Casey Allen, park director.

A plot for the Spinosaurus has been prepared on the eastern end of the park, said Allen, who called the dinosaur “really interesting, an aquatic carnivore with large, sharp teeth and webbed fingers.”

Allen said park visitors will be able to watch some of the assembly and finishing work as Green brings the replica to completion. They hope the exhibit will be finished by summer.

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Green has been working on sections of the replica in Price. 

“Because it’s so large, it’s nearly impossible to ship” in whole, Allen said.

The framework also includes industrial-strength Styrofoam and fiberglass, Green said. He will apply the skin and paint in Ogden. Green first built a 1/9th size model to help him bring the larger product to precise scale.

Green, 50, has been doing paleo sculptures for 22 years. He’s built some Ogden exhibits before, including a prehistoric birds display.

Allen said the Spinosaurus project totals $200,000, funded by a $50,000 Weber County RAMP grant; $50,000 from the George S. Eccles Foundation; $55,000 from a family trust; and smaller donations. He said fundraising continues as the park works to fully cover the project cost.

“I’m very appreciative of the Ogden Dinosaur Park Foundation and our sponsors,” Green said. “I’m very flattered that they chose me. In return they will have the most accurate animal possible.”

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SEmarkshenefelt. 

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