It was 1955 when Warren Condray stumbled upon the remains of a creature that was clearly no cow. Condray would lend his name to Silvisaurus condrayi (‘lizard of the forest’), the only known dinosaur that roamed the land what we now call Kansas. During Silvisaurus’ time 100 million years ago, Kansas was divided in half with the eastern portion of the state verdant and lush while the western half was part of a great inland sea stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic.
The surprisingly complete skeleton (skull, lower jaw, teeth, neck bones, ribs, shoulder spikes, backbones, tailbone, leg, and partial pelvis) of the only known dinosaur to have inhabited what is now Kansas has never been displayed until now.
Silvisaurus’ return to public viewing came this spring at the University of Kansas alongside an interactive display with vivid illustrations from Oscar Sanisidro. The 10 foot long, 3-foot high Silvisaurus, an “armadillo on steroids” according to David Burnham at University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum, was a herbivore with a fierce appearance. Visitors can get a tactic sense of this with the new exhibit feeling the texture of the Silvisaurus’ armor. Burnham characterized Silvisaurus as “a tank covered with bony plates” with “horns and spikes all over their bodies and a huge shoulder spike” as well as “some armor along its tail.” Most likely used to stave off predators, Silvisaurus must have been an intense looking creature wandering along the coast of the Late Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway.