FROM THE EDUCATION DESK
This remarkable fossilized skeleton was discovered in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. It was airlifted by helicopter on
October 15, 2017, and delivered to the Natural History Museum of Utah where it will be prepared and studied. It is approximately 76 million years old and is likely of the species Teratophoneus curriei from the Late Cretaceous period. Dr. Randall Irmis, curator of paleontology at the Museum said, “With at least 75% of its bones preserved, this is the most complete skeleton of a tyrannosaur ever discovered in the southwestern United States.” It is thought to be a sub-adult individual, 12-15 years old, 17-20 feet long with a relatively short head, unlike the longer snouted look of northern tyrannosaurs. Irmis says that this find is extremely significant. Whether it is a new species or an individual of Teratophoneus, the new research will provide important information as to how this animal lived.
GSENM Paleontologist Dr. Alan Titus discovered the fossil, which includes a nearly complete skull, in July 2015. Scientists hypothesize that it was buried either in a river channel or by a flooding event on the floodplain which kept the skeleton intact. Because of the challenging terrain crews back-packed in, carrying all of their supplies such as plaster, water and tools that were needed to work the site for many weeks. It took 2,000-3,000 people hours to excavate the site and they estimate at least 10,000 hours of work remain to prepare the specimen for research.
During the past 20 years, more than a dozen new species of dinosaurs have been found in GSENM and all of the dinosaur species found appear to be unique to the area, along with the remains of an ecosystem of crocodiles, turtles, mammals, fish and plant fossils not found anywhere else on Earth.