High School Student Discovers Baby Dinosaur Skeleton in National Monument

A nature walk through southern Utah produced a rare find that provides paleontologists with more information about one species’ development.

A man in a mechanised dinosaur suit (L) performs during the opening ceremony of a dinosaur exhibition at the Marunouchi building in Tokyo on August 1, 2013.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Oct. 22, 2013, 3:05 a.m.

Here’s an­oth­er reas­on to avoid clos­ing down na­tion­al parks and monu­ments: They’re teem­ing with di­no­saur fossils, and some of them are right on the sur­face, ready to be found.

In 2009, high school stu­dent Kev­in Ter­ris was trekking through Grand Stair­case-Es­cal­ante Na­tion­al Monu­ment in south­ern Utah when something at his feet caught his eye. “At first I was in­ter­ested in see­ing what the ini­tial piece of bone stick­ing out of the rock was,” Ter­ris told sci­ent­ists. “When we ex­posed the skull, I was ec­stat­ic!”

Ter­ris had stumbled upon a nearly com­plete skel­et­on of a baby Para­saur­o­lo­phus, a plant-eat­ing di­no­saur that roamed west­ern North Amer­ica around 75 mil­lion years ago. The dis­cov­ery, an­nounced Tues­day by Ray­mond M. Alf Mu­seum of Pa­le­on­to­logy in Cali­for­nia, is the young­est and most com­plete fossil skel­et­on on re­cord for this spe­cies of di­no­saur. See 3D di­git­al scans of the en­tire skel­et­on here.

The skel­et­on of the baby Para­saur­o­lo­phus, nick­named “Joe.” (Ray­mond M. Alf Mu­seum of Pa­le­on­to­logy)

Us­ing a sample of bone tis­sue, sci­ent­ists de­term­ined that the duck-billed di­no­saur, nick­named “Joe,” was less than a year old when it died, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in the open ac­cess sci­entif­ic journ­al Peer. “Di­no­saurs have yearly growth rings in their bone tis­sue, like trees. But we didn’t see even one ring,” said study coau­thor Sarah Wern­ing of Stony Brook Uni­versity. “That means it grew to a quarter of adult size in less than a year.” Joe, who meas­ured six feet in length, would have grown to 25 feet in adult­hood.

The dis­cov­ery provides sci­ent­ists with more in­form­a­tion about Para­saur­o­lo­phus’s de­vel­op­ment. The di­no­saur, which you may re­mem­ber from a brief cameo in Jur­as­sic Park, is most known for a long, curved bony tube on top of its skull. Sci­ent­ists spec­u­late the hol­low tube was used to emit calls, like a trum­pet blast­ing sound, for com­mu­nic­a­tion. Joe’s skull has a small bump, the be­gin­nings of its spe­cies sig­na­ture headgear. Its smal­ler shape means that the baby di­no­saur likely soun­ded like, well, a baby — its call prob­ably was high in pitch, per­haps even squeaky, com­pared with its par­ents.

A com­par­is­on of the size of the baby Para­saur­o­lo­phus (green) to adult Para­saur­o­lo­phus, as well as an adult and baby hu­man. (Scott Hart­man, Matt Martyni­uk, and Ray­mond M. Alf Mu­seum of Pa­le­on­to­logy)

The skel­et­on of the young di­no­saur had gone un­noticed by two pa­le­on­to­lo­gists, who had walked with­in sev­er­al feet of the bones a few days be­fore Ter­ris found them. Grand Stair­case-Es­cal­ante Na­tion­al Monu­ment, op­er­ated by the Bur­eau of Land Man­age­ment, spans nearly 1.9 mil­lion acres of pub­lic land.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4522) }}

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×