dinosaurs

Rare, nearly complete triceratops skeleton unearthed in Wyoming

2013-06-03T06:00:00Z 2013-06-03T16:02:10Z Rare, nearly complete triceratops skeleton unearthed in WyomingBy JACKSON BOLSTAD Rapid City Journal Casper Star-Tribune Online

Underneath the sagebrush and droves of cattle near Newcastle, paleontologists have potentially unearthed one of the most complete skeletons of a triceratops ever found.

The scientists from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research and Naturalis Biodiversity Center began work on the dig in early May.

Despite the three-horned triceratops being one of the most well-known dinosaurs, a complete skeleton is a rare treasure, Pete Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute, said Thursday.

The dig also unearthed two younger triceratops, which Larson said is also a rare occurrence. He said the three skeletons were most likely a family unit.

“The dig indicates that there was some sort of parental pair and nowhere in the literature has that ever been noted before, and that’s unprecedented,” he said.

The triceratops is an herbivore that lived in massive herds throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It lived during the late Cretaceous period, which ended approximately 65 million years ago. In the past few years only a few partially complete triceratops skeletons have been found in the world.

“This triceratops could easily be one of the most complete in the world,” Larson said. “It only has to be 50 percent complete to be one of the top four most complete in the world.”

Larson said the find should greatly advance the study of triceratops.

“We have the opportunity to really rewrite the book on triceratops,” he said.

The area where the dinosaurs were found was most likely a subtropical flatland during the Cretaceous period, a perfect environment for the triceratops, Larson said. Over time, erosion has exposed the bones to where they could be discovered.

“This site, like many of the ones we dig, was found by the rancher who owned the land,” Larson said. “He alerted us to the find this fall.”

The institute, which is a paleontological and earth science supply house in Hill City, S.D., began the dig May 9 alongside Netherlands-based company Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Larson said the site was most likely a tyrannosaurus rex feeding ground, with which the institute is very familiar. The institute has participated in eight digs for T. rex skeletons.

Naturalis — an education, research, collection and exhibit company — partnered with the Black Hills Institute in hopes of finding a nearly complete T. rex for display in its Dinosaur Gallery in the Netherlands, set to open in 2017. The dig only produced part of a left foot and leg of a T. rex, Anne Schulp, a paleontologist with Naturalis, said in a statement.

“In paleontology, you never know exactly what you are going to find under the ground,” Schulp said. “We are now in possession of a fabulous T. rex foot and several pieces of leg. These are normally the parts that would first disappear, become lost or gnawed away.”

The center will continue to extract T. rex bones for its exhibit from another excavation site, where it has already secured part of the skull, a lower jaw, several teeth, vertebrae and ribs.

After killing a triceratops, a T. rex would normally eat the skin and bones, carrying it off, devouring it and leaving only the skull behind, Larson said. Most of the skeleton remains at the site, despite it being a T. rex feeding ground, he said.

“Apparently, the triceratops was quite tasty and one of the favorite meals of the T. rex,” he said.

The excavation of the older triceratops skeleton alongside the two younger skeletons could tell scientists a lot about the development and behavior of triceratops, Larson said.

“We should get a glimpse into these animals, especially since there was parental guidance,” Larson said. “Really there are very few triceratops skeletons that have been discovered, only three really good skeletons and many skeleton heads.”

The recent rain has hampered the excavation teams’ efforts to secure the bones from the dig site. Larson said that because it is such a unique find, the team is keeping a tight lid on the dig’s whereabouts for security purposes.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at editors@trib.com, or call Editor Jason Adrians at 266-0545 or Content Director David Mayberry at 266-0633. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Featured Businesses

Latest Offers