By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Have you ever played in a sandbox and wondered if there were undiscovered dinosaur relics at the bottom? Well, 17-year-old Kevin Terris wasn’t playing in a sandbox, but he found one of the youngest, smallest, and most complete baby dinosaurs ever!
His high school was working with paleontologists – scientists who study the fossils of ancient life – from the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology… all the way in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The team was on the prowl for fossils when Terris noticed a bone sticking out from under a rock after the experts barely gave it a second glance. ”It’s a little embarrassing to walk by something like that,” admitted Andrew Farke, curator of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology.
It turns out the eagle-eyed boy discovered one of the youngest and most complete baby fossils ever. He called it “Joe.”
The head belongs to a species of dinosaurs known as Parasaurolophus, that walked the Earth around 75 million years ago. They’re well known for the strange tube-shaped crests that pop out from the back of their head, which researchers believe was used to increase the volume of their yells. This particular fossil was so young, the “crest” was nothing more than a cute little bump!
The researchers were able to estimate the age of the creature by examining its leg bone, which grows a ring every year just like the insides of trees. As far as the “Joe” bone, Farke says, “It didn’t have any rings at all. So, what that shows is that this animal was under a year old when it died.” In that short time, though, the dino grew from the size of a human baby to an impressive 6 feet tall.
The fact that Joe was so young, yet already had a budding crest is useful information for the researchers. “It finally lets us understand how Parasaurolophus evolved that big crest, just by shifting around events in its development,” Farke explained.
Images courtesy of Raymond Alf Museum.