Thornton Triceratops Fossil Available For Viewing

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.

dmns dino display 10pkg transfer frame 1013 Thornton Triceratops Fossil Available For Viewing

(credit: CBS)

dmns dino display 10pkg transfer frame 116 Thornton Triceratops Fossil Available For Viewing

(credit: CBS)

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!”

thornton dinosaur Thornton Triceratops Fossil Available For Viewing

(credit: City of Thornton)

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.”

triceratops 1 Thornton Triceratops Fossil Available For Viewing

(credit: City of Thornton)

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.

Stan Bush is a general assignment reporter at CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 10. Read his bio and follow him on Twitter @StanBushTV.

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