Was the Largest Dinosaur Tibia on Record Found in Illinois?

A TikTok video claimed the fossil was discovered when construction workers were building a foundation for a fuel tank on a farm.

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Dinosaur, Reptile, Animal
Image via Getty Images

Claim

A dinosaur bone described as the world’s largest tibia was discovered on an Illinois farm.

Rating

Research In Progress
Research In Progress
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Context

There is no record of dinosaur fossils having been discovered in the state. The original poster did not name the town in which the bone was reportedly discovered, nor did he state a time frame. He also did not name the institution or university that researchers were supposedly affiliated with. A look through media reports in June 2021 did not return results to the above answers. Snopes contacted officials in the state and if we hear back will update the article accordingly.

Origin

A TikTok video shared to the platform on June 19, 2021, went viral after a man who claimed to live in a small town in central Illinois “surrounded by cornfields” said that the world’s largest known dinosaur leg bone was found in his hometown. At the time of this writing, the video had been liked more than 31,000 times.

“A local farmer was getting a new hole dug for a new thousand-gallon fuel tank, because with farmers it’s easier to have the fuel brought to you… and as they were getting ready to dig the support columns for the foundation, they hit something — they didn’t know what it was, so they called authorities,” the man said.

“Authorities came out and said, ‘yep, that’s bone but it was not a human bone.’ So, they talked to a couple colleges, they sent some people out. They said, ‘not only is it not human bone, it is a dinosaur bone,” he added. “Not only is it a dinosaur bone. It is probably the largest leg bone they’ve ever found. It’s the largest tibia.”

@merfe31

#SmallTown #Farmland #CentralIllinois #ArchaeologicalDig #Bone #Dinosaur

♬ original sound – Merf Murphy

The poster concluded by adding that researchers were setting up an observation tent for locals to come and see the dig in real life. But there are several discrepancies in the video that make it difficult to track the accuracy of the claims made. Firstly, the original poster did not name the town in which the bone was reportedly discovered, nor did he state a time frame. He also did not name the institution or university that researchers were supposedly affiliated with. A look through media reports in June 2021 did not return results to the above answers.

If true, the news would certainly have been reported and commented on by the archaeology community, because according to the University of Illinois Extension, there is no record of dinosaur fossils ever having been discovered in the state. This is largely due to the historical geology and climate of the region. Near the end of the dinosaurs roughly 65 million years ago, North America looked much different than it does in the 21st century.

“A vast gulf of water separated most of eastern North America from the western mountains. North and South America were also separated by water,” wrote the university. “Because of the warmer temperatures and ocean currents at that time, ice caps at the poles were not present.”

Image courtesy of the U.S.G.S.

Fossils that may have held the secrets to the species of dinosaurs that might have once inhabited the Land of Lincoln may have been eroded away over time, noted the university.

On June 8, NPR Illinois station 91.9 WUIS reported that researchers in Australia have confirmed the “discovery of Australia’s largest dinosaur species ever found.” Publishing their findings in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ, the research team reported that the fossilized bones of Australotitan cooperensis were excavated in 2006 and 2007 and, after years of analysis, paleontologists from the Queensland Museum and Eromanga Natural History Museum were able to confirm that the animal measured about “80 to 100 feet long and 16 to 21 feet tall at its hip. It weighed somewhere between 25 and 81 tons. For comparison, the Tyrannosaurus rex was about 40 feet long and 12 feet tall.” (However, there was no mention of a fuel tank or a farm in that study.)

Snopes contacted the University of Illinois Extension and the U.S. Geological Survey for further clarification about the supposed Illinois discovery but did not hear back in time for publication. Until then, we have rated this claim as “Research in Progress.”

Recent Updates
  1. Update [June 21, 2021]: Clarified statement about no fossils having been discovered in Illinois to specify dinosaur fossils.
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