College student unearths 65-million-year-old dinosaur skull07/25/2019
Beats the hell out of beer pong.
A California college kid spending part of his summer on a paleontology dig in the Badlands of North Dakota struck pay dirt, unearthing a portion of a 65-million-year-old Triceratops skull.
Lifelong dinosaur buff Harrison Duran made the stunning find at the Hell Creek Formation, known worldwide as a fossil hotspot, according to a release from his school, the University of California – Merced.
Duran’s dig partner, seasoned excavator and Mayville State University professor Michael Kjelland, had low expectations for the dig, hoping to find plant fossils — despite his finding another Triceratops skull in the area last year.
But “You never know what’s going to happen,” said Kjelland.
Sure enough, the team discovered part of another Triceratops skull just four days into a two-week dig that began on June 1, according to CNN.
“I can’t quite express my excitement in the moment when we uncovered the skull,” Duran, a fifth-year biology student, said in his school’s release. “I’ve been obsessed with dinosaurs since I was a kid, so it was a pretty big deal.”
Duran and Kjelland dubbed the Triceratops skull Alice, after the owner of the land on which they were digging.
In another blast from the past, the duo also found plant fossils dating to the Cretaceous period, helping paint a picture of the world through which Alice rumbled 65 million years ago.
“It is wonderful that we found fossilized wood and tree leaves right around, and even under the skull,” said Duran. “It gives us a more complete picture of the environment at the time.”
Duran and Kjelland meticulously excavated the massive skull over the course of about a week, wrapping it in several layers of insulation for the eventual trip to Kjelland’s lab — including a memory foam mattress.
Kjelland plans to have the prehistoric remains rotate among locations for scientific research — and Duran hopes that his school will be on the list.
“It would be amazing for UC Merced to be able to display Alice on campus,” said Duran, who will return to North Dakota in the fall to help Kjelland conduct more research and prep the fossil for its tour. “It’s such a rare opportunity to showcase something like this, and I’d like to share it with the campus community.”
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