A team of paleontologists from the University of Kansas is resuming its work in Montana, excavating what appears to be a very rare dinosaur fossil: a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex.
KU paleontologist David Burnham said the excavation began in 2016, but the team is returning to the site this summer hoping to find more pieces of the T-rex.
Burnham said there are probably fewer than a dozen juvenile T-rex examples, and even fewer well preserved fossils that can provide good information.
“Nobody knows anything about juvenile T-rex,” Burnham said. “There just haven’t been that many found.”
After discovering the initial bones, researchers at KU theorized the fossil was likely from a juvenile T-rex. They went back to the same site a second time to look for more pieces.
“We started finding teeth, bones, claws. It was so exciting,” he said. “We think there’s more there.”
He said the area the team is excavating also contains other fossils, making it something of a time capsule.
“We want to open this up and look at this page of natural history," Burnham said. "We know all these things got buried together, so there’s a good chance they all lived together. We’ll know more about the community and life history of juvenile T-rex.”
He hopes they can uncover limbs of the animal. A leg would tell them the age of this T-rex when it died.
Burnham said the discovery is important because it can help researchers learn more about how animals grow and develop as well how the T-rex lived.
“We’ll be able to fill out the evolutionary history and the life history of these really crazy animals,” Burnham said.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.