After the dinosaurs were wiped out millions of years ago, paleontologists have been on the hunt for their fossils in an almost never-ending quest. In 2017, a significant specimen in Utah was found of a near-complete skeleton of a tyrannosaur, and it’s said to be “the most complete” of its kind ever found in the southwest.
In October, a remarkable fossil belonging to “one of Utah’s ferocious tyrannosaurs” was discovered in the Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) in southern Utah, and was later airlifted by helicopter to the Natural History Museum of Utah for further study.
The fossil, estimated to be about 76 million years old, most likely belonged to the species Teratophoneus curriei, which “walked western North America between 66 and 90 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period,” according to a statement from The University of Utah.
Researchers at the university were excited with this discovery.
“With at least 75 percent of its bones preserved, this is the most complete skeleton of a tyrannosaur ever discovered in the southwestern U.S.,” said Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the museum, and associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Utah.
“We are eager to get a closer look at this fossil to learn more about the southern tyrannosaur’s anatomy, biology and evolution.”
The fossil, which has a near complete skull, was first discovered in July 2015 by GSENM Paleontologist Dr. Alan Titus. It was believed that the dinosaur was about 12–15 years old when it died, and scientists suspected that it had died in a river channel or by a flooding event on the floodplain.
“The monument is a complex mix of topography—from high desert to badlands—and most of the surface area is exposed rock, making it rich grounds for new discoveries,” Dr. Titus said.
“And we’re not just finding dinosaurs, but also crocodiles, turtles, mammals, amphibians, fish, invertebrates and plant fossils—remains of a unique ecosystem not found anywhere else in the world.”
The discovery took 2,000 to 3,000 people hours to excavate the site, and an estimate of at least 10,000 hours to prepare the specimen for research.
“Without our volunteer team members, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish this work. We absolutely rely on them throughout the entire process,” Irmis said.
He added that the discovery was “extremely significant” as the new research will provide insight into how the dinosaur once lived.
“We’ll look at the size of this new fossil, it’s [sic] growth pattern, biology, reconstruct muscles to see how the animal moved, how fast could it run and how it fed with its jaws,” Irmis said. “The possibilities are endless and exciting.”
Hopefully, the researchers will make a breakthrough with this discovery!