The story of Pawpawsaurus campbelli begins in the Early Cretaceous Period, around 97 to 100 million years ago, when the North American continent was divided down its centre by an interior seaway.  Along the shores of this seaway, in the area which is now North Central Texas, lived one of the most primitive known species of nodosaurid dinosaurs - Pawpawsaurus.  This and other members of the nodosaurid group are characterized by their tough, flexible armor, which served to help protect them from the powerful predators of their Mesozoic world.  The nodosaurs are a part of the dinosaur superfamily Ankylosauria, which consists of nodosaurid, ankylosaurid and polacanthid branches.  Members of all three of these groups were well armored, but as an additional form of defense, the ankylosaurids evolved large clubs on the ends of their tails, which could be swung with great force.  The nodosaurids and polacanthids were the more primitive of the ankylosaurians, and lacked tail clubs.

The skull of one of the Pawpawsauri was preserved by the process of fossilization after being washed out into the marine sediments of its coastal habitat.  Many millions of years passed by.  The ocean gradually receded by hundreds of miles as the continent underwent significant geological changes, and the interior seaway eventually disappeared.  Through the rest of the Cretaceous and then all of the Cenozoic epochs, the skull of Pawpawsaurus lay encased in stone beneath the Earth's surface.  Eventually, the forces of erosion began weathering away its rocky tomb, and the first rays of sunlight in some 970,000 centuries shone on the skull.

One day in May of 1992, I noticed a small bit of fossil bone emerging from the surface of a shale/clay exposure known as the Paw Paw Formation.  I began carefully clearing away bits of the crumbling rock, and soon found that I had discovered something very unusual indeed - a fragmented but virtually complete dinosaur cranium!  I soon took the skull to the Shuler Museum of Paleontology at Southern Methodist University (Dallas), where a detailed and lengthy study of the specimen was undertaken.  Months of careful cleaning were needed to remove a thin layer of shale matrix, as well as an encrusting group of oyster shells which had used the skull as a support structure as it lay on the seabed prior to its burial in sediment.

Below is an array of buttons which will take you to each of the various sections of the Pawpawsaurus web site.


The first section discusses the skull which gave the species its name and scientific description.  Section two provides some examples of artists' conceptions of what Pawpawsaurus may have looked like in life.  The third section is about the realistic cast replica that I personally produce of the skull for sale to museums, universities and private collectors.  Section four presents various publications in which Pawpawsaurus has been featured, as well as a downloadable version of Yuong-Nam Lee's research paper on the species.  The remaining two sections are dinosaur/palaeontology links, and natural history museums with significant dinosaur exhibits.
go to: The fossils
The fossils
go to: Life reconstructions
Life reconstructions
go to: The cast replica
The cast replica
go to: Literature
Literature
go to: Texas Palaeontology links
Palaeontology links
go to: Dinosaur exhibits
Dinosaur exhibits

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