Underneath the sagebrush and droves of cattle near Newcastle, Wyo., paleontologists have potentially unearthed one of the most complete skeletons of a triceratops ever found.And you know what's better than finding one triceratops? Finding three!
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, said Pete Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute.
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.Wyoming is known for their triceratops:
“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.
Triceratops was a member of the plant-eating Ornithischian dinosaur group called the Marginocephalia, so named because of the architectural modifications that grace the rear of its skull. It lived 70 to 65 million years ago, and was one of the very last dinosaurs before they all became extinct 65 million years ago.In fact, as of 1994, the triceratops is the official state dinosaur of Wyoming.
The original fossil was found in Wyoming in the 1880s, during the time of the great dinosaur discoveries in the American West. Hauled out of its quarry by horse-drawn wagon and shipped on the new Transcontinental Railroad , it was brought east from Wyoming and set up in the Smithsonian.
Paleontologists working on the dig say the find is so significant, it could "rewrite the book on triceratops."