- Associated Press - Thursday, August 26, 2010

CINCINNATI (AP) - Dinosaur fossils, including a rib more than 9 feet long from a species of the long-necked titanosaur family, are making their North American debut Friday at a Cincinnati museum.

Four of the fossils are among at least a dozen that were found from 2005 to 2007 in China’s Henan province. The rib and three vertebrae came from a titanosaur that paleontologists believe was 30 feet tall, close to 100 feet long and probably weighed 32 to 87 tons.

The fossils in the exhibit date back to 144 million to 100 million years ago, officials at the Cincinnati Museum Center said.

After the fossils were identified, researchers found that villagers in the region had been digging up dinosaur bones for centuries, believing them to be dragon bones and grinding them up for medicine.

Henan could become the largest dinosaur field in China,” said Daoping Bao, president and CEO of Dinosaurs Unearthed Corp., a dinosaur exhibition company based in Canada.

Discovery of the fossils from the titanosaur family, named after the mythological Titans from ancient Greece, was important to China and to the field of paleontology, said officials with the museum and Dinosaurs Unearthed.

“It enabled identification of a new species of titanosaur,” said Glenn Storrs, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the museum.

The exhibit also includes a fossilized nest of eggs laid by an unknown species of the feathered, beaked oviraptorosaur. The eye-catching attraction that first greets exhibition visitors measures more than 5 feet in diameter and contains 26 eggs averaging a foot or more in length and laid in pairs around the edge of the round nest.

This nest is important because it shows the eggs were laid in a manner similar to bird eggs today, said Storrs.

“It is another addition to the broad amount of evidence linking living birds with extinct dinosaurs,” he said.

The entire collection of fossils from Henan has only been displayed in a museum in Henan, although two of the fossils were displayed briefly in Japan, officials with Dinosaurs Unearthed said.

The Cincinnati exhibit will continue through mid-October, when the collection will be included in a larger Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibition of the Chinese fossils set to begin touring the United States and Canada. Sites have yet to be announced.

The fossils are on loan from the Henan Geological Museum in China and were obtained through a partnership between the Cincinnati and Henan museums and Dinosaurs Unearthed.