By Stan Bush
DENVER (CBS4) – Visitors to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science got their first chance to see the triceratops discovered in Thornton on Saturday.
On Friday, paleontologists removed three casts from the dig site including the neck vertebrate, a rib, and other bones that have not been identified, and took them to the Museum’s paleo lab.
Fossil Preparers are now sweeping away sediment from the bones for future research.
“Based on what we’ve uncovered up to this point, this find is likely the most complete Cretaceous-period skeleton ever found in this region,” said Joe Sertich, Denver Museum of Nature & Science curator of dinosaurs in a release. “This is what we as curators dream about – getting a call about a possible fossil and confirming it’s not just a dinosaur fossil, but a record-breaking one!”
The first triceratops was discovered in the Denver-area in 1887, but was not nearly as complete at the fossil DMNS is currently uncovering.
So far, paleontologists have found bone from the nose to tail of the prehistoric herbivore.
“After leaving today we have exposed more pieces of the skull, some of the frill, there was a big beautiful rib going right into the main area were a lot of the bones are coming out,” says Natalie Toth, a fossil preparer at DMNS. “It’s a great site in that the sediment is really soft sand where usually in the field we’re in solid sands.”
The dig team hopes to complete the excavation in the next few days, allowing the city of Thornton to continue work in the area on a new police and fire substation. Construction is still on-going at the site, however and the construction crews are being heralded as heroes for not plowing through the fossils. But, if more fossils are discovered the dig could take longer.
“It’s not like Jurassic Park where we’re finding these big beautiful fossils that are all articulated and laid out in the ground in the position that they died,” says Toth. “So we’re fortunate that up in Thornton we’re finding not just one of two fossils we have multiple elements from this one individual.”
Visitors to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science can see the newly discovered fossils by entering the Prehistoric Journey exhibit.