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Dinosaur Dig Checks in from Montana

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Famed paleontologist
Jack Horner is out in the dusty badlands of eastern Montana, aiming his chisel at ancient bone fragments that may once have belonged to a Triceratops. He's working in 100-degree heat at the aptly named Hell Creek Formation, a chunk of bedrock that's between 67 million and 65 million years old. And since the dinosaurs vanished in a puff of meteoric mayhem 65 million years ago, that means these are some of the last dinosaurs ever to live.*** Last year at this site, he and his team uncovered two Triceratops, one big adult and a younger, smaller one. In other years, they've found duck-billed dinosaurs ("hadrosaurs") as well as the big kahuna, Tyrannosaurus. As someone who has looked for but never found a fossil larger than my thumbnail, I can't imagine the feeling of brushing the rock chips off a giant, three-horned skull the size of an armchair. Horner, a paleontologist at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, is perhaps most widely known as the inspiration for the velociraptor-battling Dr. Alan Grant from Jurassic Park. Yesterday, Horner took a break from digging to make a video call over to the British Natural History Museum. On the other end of the line was the museum's own paleontologist, Angela Milner and a crowd of curious museum visitors. The whole event went out live on the Internet ( watch the archive here). In case the webcast doesn't quite fill up your curiosity, you can move on to the Smithsonian's own animated Triceratops website, play a fossil-digging game (warning: the paper towels are a lot harder to handle than the rock hammer), or read about a recent Wyoming dig through the eyes of a young journalism student. (Image: a Triceratops roams Michigan; Flickr image by Kim Scarborough) ***Unless you count birds as living dinosaurs, that is. Horner certainly does - see his suggestion, last year, about "discovering" the dinosaur bones in your Thanksgiving Turkeyosaurus.

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