COLORADO NEWS

New rare fossil on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Jun 24, 2024, 4:33 PM

“Juvenile” and “60 million years old” are not often descriptors that pertain to the same thing, but, luckily for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, they do.

In the badlands of North Dakota in the Hell Creek formation, brothers Jessin and Liam Fisher and cousin Kaiden Madsen stumbled upon a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil in July of 2022 on a hike. The discovery was unveiled to the public on Friday, June 21, at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

It wasn’t just an ordinary T. rex fossil, though. It belonged to a rare juvenile T. rex, estimated to have been between 13 and 15 years old when it died. Only four adolescent T. rexes have been discovered worldwide. According to National Geographic, the average lifespan of a T. rex is thought to be around 28 years.

The discovery was made once the leg bone was spotted. The family took pictures and sent them to Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist at the DMNS, who then planned an expedition to excavate the fossil in 2023. Fortunately for Lyson, the brothers’ dad is an old high school friend of his and thought to contact him about the discovery. On the first day, the crew was able to identify the fossil as a T. rex due to the examination of the lower jawbone and teeth.

The archaeologists were clued in on the age of the dinosaur when it died in part due to the length of its shin bone, which was measured at 82 centimeters, since fully-grown T. rex adults’ shin bones typically reach somewhere around 112 centimeters.

According to the DMNS, the T. rex is estimated to have measured about 25 feet long, 10 feet high and have weighed about 3,500 pounds.

Its remains were kept in rock and taken to the museum, where the debris was removed. Those visiting the museum can observe the fossils being readied in the “Teen Rex Prep Lab.” Also being prepped in the lab are other dinosaur fossils, which include those of a Triceratops and Edmontosaurus. Natalie Toth, the chief fossil preparer at the museum, estimates that the uncovering and cleaning process will take around a year to complete.

The fossil will help researchers to “study the growth and development of T. rex during this crucial phase of their life,” as mentioned on the museum’s website.

The initial discovery and the excavation that ensued were covered by a film and research crew and made into a 40-minute documentary, “T.Rex,” which will be featured at over 100 museums worldwide, including in the Infinity Theater in 3-D at DMNS, narrated by “Jurassic Park” star Sir Sam Neill. The trailer can be viewed here.

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