McCurtain County's Dinosaur
One of these ferocious dinosaurs was discovered in 1983 on private land in McCurtain County. Sid Love and Cephis Hall, paleontologists by avocation, began to painstakingly excavate the creature's fossil remains from a dense, gray mud layer about twelve feet below the surface. After three years, over 50% of the skeleton had been recovered, including the skull. Until that time, only Acrocanthosaurus atokensis limb bones, vertebrae, and teeth had been found and recorded.
"ACRO": Acrocanthosaurus atokensis
In the Early to Mid-Cretaceous Period, 100 to 125 million years ago, large meat-eating dinosaurs roamed the flat muddy shoreline that is now southeastern Oklahoma. Among these dinosaurs was Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, whose name means "high spined lizard". This dinosaur lived about 45 million years before the reign of Tyrannosaurus rex, and is the largest meat eating dinosaur from that era to have been discovered in North America. Its two outstanding characteristics are the long spines on its back, and the three claws reaching out from each forelimb. The claws of Acrocanthosaurus atokensis measure up to six inches in length and are well designed for capturing and holding prey, and for tearing flesh from bone.
These important remains were taken to a university laboratory for preparation and preservation, but stabilization was determined to be too costly and to take too much time to complete. Meanwhile, the fossils continued to deteriorate. Finally, with the advice and support of Allen and Fran Graffham of Geological Enterprises in Ardmore, Oklahoma, Love and Hall sent the fragile remains to the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research in South Dakota. Over a period of five years, specialists worked on them in a dedicated laboratory space. The costs associated with this work were so high that it became necessary to sell the fossils. In 1992, the stabilized remains were purchased by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Molds were made of the "bones" as well as of "missing pieces" to provide complete cast skeletons for exhibition. The Acrocanthosaurus atokensis displayed at the Museum of the Red River, which acquired it in 2003, is one of the earliest casts made.