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St. George • A St. George lawyer says his nine grandchildren, who love dinosaurs, compelled him to pay for a replica of a 195-million-year-old scelidosaurus to go on permanent display at the Discovery Track Site Museum in this southwestern Utah city.
"We were in the right place at the right time to get this little sucker," said Virginius Dabney, who contributed most of the $7,000 it cost to bring the replicated skeleton of the plant-munching beast to St. George. "Now the grandchildren can see grandpa's dinosaur."
The public will get an opportunity to see the skeleton Wednesday.
The model of the scelidosaurus (skel-eye-doh-SAWR-us) is based on one on display in the Charmouth Heritage Center in southern England near where the species was first discovered in 1859.
Jerry Harris, director of paleontology at Dixie State College in St. George, said that the replica will be the first one of the species on display in the Western Hemisphere.
He said the scelidosaurus roamed southwestern England during the early Jurassic period. The armor-plated dinosaur was 11 feet long and about 4 feet high, weighed three-quarters of a ton, and ate vegetation it ground with child-sized teeth.
"The replica is based on the most complete fossil [of scelidosaurus] ever found," said Harris.
The St. George museum is built on the site of a prehistoric shoreline where dinosaurs roamed during the early Jurassic period. In 2000, a St. George doctor discovered dinosaur tracks when he turned over a slab of earth. Those tracks are on display at the Discovery museum.
Harris said that, in addition to tracks, only a few bone scraps have been found at the St. George site. But that doesn't rule out skeletons.
"We just haven't found them yet," he said.
Rusty Salmon, director of the St. George museum, said the scelidosaurus replica will be the first skeleton to be displayed at the museum and she hopes there will be others in the future.
"Kids love to see dinosaurs on display, so the more the better," she said.
Dabney said he has always had a soft spot for dinosaurs. "This is like buying a piece of history."
His wife, Barbara Dabney, said she was a little surprised when she heard of her husband's investment in prehistory.
"I was a little shocked at first, but once that wore off, I'm very supportive," she said.
If you go
What • Unveiling of replica skeleton of scelidosaurus.
When • 5 p.m. Wednesday
Where • The Discovery Track Site Museum, 2180 E. Riverside Drive, St. George.
Admission • Free. Refreshments will be served.