A high school student helping out with an fossil dig in Utah found the most complete skeleton of a baby Parasaurolophus, also known as a tube-crested dinosaur, to date. The student, Kevin Terris, spotted a piece of the baby dino skeleton even after two professional paleontologists passed it up. ”At first I was interested in seeing what the initial piece of bone sticking out of the rock was,” Terris describes in a release. “When we exposed the skull, I was ecstatic!”
In addition to being the most complete fossil that’s been found, this one is also the youngest and smallest specimen of its kind, the researchers say. Adult parasaurolophi grow up to 25 feet long, but the baby dinosaur was just six feet long when it died. Like studying tree rings, the researchers looked at deposits in the dinosaur’s bones to estimate its age at death—about 12 months old. The researchers nicknamed the baby “Joe” and have made 3D scans of its remains publicly available.
Joe’s fossil sheds light on its species’ characteristic tube-like head formation, showing that the structure began to form within the animal’s first year of life as a small bump rather than the extended knob sported by adults. “Although its close relatives didn’t begin growing their headgear until they were at least half of their adult body size, ‘Joe’ shows that Parasaurolophus sprouted its crest at only a quarter of adult size,” the team writes.
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