Acrocanthosaurus atokensis ("High-spined lizard (from) Atoka") was a Tyrannosaurus-sized carnivorous dinosaur that lived 110 - 115 million years ago in present-day, south-central United States. Acrocanthosaurus (or Acro) was the largest known predator during its time. Paleontologists believe it stalked its prey in open, arid environments or low-lying riverbeds. However, there's no consensus on what it ate. Many believe it hunted small, plant-eating dinosaurs like Tenontosaurus or larger sauropods like Sauroposeidon (Carpenter, 2016).
J. Willis Stovall and Wann Langston, Jr. discovered Acrocanthosaurus near Atoka, Oklahoma in 1940. Scientists uncovered other specimens in southeast Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. However, avocational paleontologists Cephis Hall and Sid Love found the most complete skeleton about twenty miles from the Museum's front door. The pair excavated fifty percent of the skeleton—including the entire skull—over a three-year period (1983-86).
Sadly, attempts to repair and preserve the fossil remains proved unsuccessful. As a result, Allen and Fran Graffham of Geological Enterprises in Ardmore, OK assumed responsibility. They contracted with the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research in Hill, South Dakota to prepare the specimen. Nonetheless, the fossil wouldn't be available for viewing until 1996. The skeleton is currently housed at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History.
Third and fourth graders in McCurtain County led a two-year, county-wide effort to obtain a cast of the fossil. Their efforts were successful. The 40-foot cast—currently off display due to ongoing renovations—is a faithful copy of the original bones, with scientifically-determined replacements for undiscovered bones. Acro was later named Oklahoma's State Dinosaur.
Carpenter, Kenneth. Acrocanthosaurus inside and out. Norman: U of Oklahoma, 2016.
Ferrell, Russell, The Bone War of McCurtain County: A true tale of two men's quest for treasure, truth and justice. Texas: Rabelais Publishing. 2015.
Sid Love and Cethis Hall excavating part of Acrocanthosaurus's skull.
Acrocanthosaurus on display at the Museum of the Red River
Sid Love and Cethis Hall lifting Acrocanthosaurus out of a riverbed.