Chinese scientists claim discovery of earth's largest dinosaur fossil site

A dinosaur fossil field discovered this year in eastern China is being touted as the largest of its kind on earth, according to a Chinese paleontologist.

A dinosaur fossil field discovered this year in eastern China is being touted as the largest of its kind on earth, according to a Chinese paleontologist.

Scientists have found more than 7,600 fossils in a field at Zhucheng city in eastern Shandong province, said Zhao Xijin, a paleontologist with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In an interview with China's Xinhua News Agency, Zhao said the number of fossils being excavated continues to grow.

"The discoveries are expected to contribute to research on the mystery of dinosaur extinction," Zhao was quoted as saying.

With a population of just over a million, Zhucheng gained fame in the 1960s when a major field of large hadrosaurus fossils was uncovered during a Chinese oil expedition, according to Xinhua. About 45 tonnes of preserved rock has been discovered there since then.

The world's largest hadrosaurus fossil was found in Zhucheng in the 1980s and put on display in the local museum.

The latest site was discovered in March in Longdu, Shunwang, Jiayue and Zhigou towns. One field on the site, measuring 300 metres long by 10 metres wide and running about five metres deep, has yielded more than 3,000 fossils that could reveal new genera or species, Zhao told Xinhua.

Included among the finds was a two-metre long skull of a dinosaur from the ceratopsian family, which includes the horned triceratops. The discovery is believed to be the first of its kind outside of North America, said Xu Xing, a researcher at the institute.

Scientists believe a volcanic eruption may have killed the dinosaurs, but that it was actually a subsequent flood that carried the fossils to Zhucheng, which may have been a wetland covered in grass.

Zhao said the chances were very low that the fossils would have survived this long.