Paleontologists in Montana have unearthed what appears to be a young, elementary-school age Tyrannosaurus rex.
The scientists discovered the dinosaur remains in Montana’s famous Hell Creek formation, a rocky area that is filled with dinosaur fossils. But despite the site’s rich content of bones, there have only been fewer than five “decently complete juvenile T. rexes” over the past 100 years, Kyle Atkins-Weltman, an assistant fossil preparator at the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at Kansas University, said.
Atkins-Weltman told Live Science,
This is probably the most preserved and most complete. This is a 1-in-100-million specimen.
Kris Super, an assistant student preparator at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, found the juvenile dinosaur’s bones in June 2016. But the team only had enough time to dig up the dinosaur’s ilium, so they were not sure of what kind of creature it was until they returned the next summer and found recognizable teeth and a skull.
This T. rex, along with other fossils recovered from the same spot, are sure to keep paleontologists busy for a while, according to David Burnham, a preparator of vertebrate paleontology at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute. The scientists also excavated a rock slab with a nearly complete turtle fossil, and pieces of fish and other dinosaurs. There was also the jaw of a placental mammal present, Burnham said.
These prehistoric animals most likely died in a “quick, cataclysmic event,” Burnham said. “The storms were huge because the temperatures were warmer.”
This newfound dinosaur lived around 67 million years ago and “would have been a pretty young animal, a young juvenile,” Atkins-Weltman said. It measured about 17 feet long, and seems to be larger than a previously discovered specimen of a T. rex that was three years old, and smaller than another specimen that was 11 years old.
“We would suspect [it would have been] maybe 6 to 7 years old, possibly 8,” Atkins-Weltman said. Paleontologists are continuing to unearth dinosaur bones from the rock slab in order to obtain more information.