WIKIMEDIA, STEVEOC 86High-school student Kevin Terris and his paleontologist-teacher Andrew Farke, of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont, California, thought little of the sliver of bone the teenager spotted poking from a boulder on a field trip to Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 2009. After all, the area had been combed by paleontologists before Terris and his classmates from The Webb Schools, a private secondary school located outside of Los Angeles, had arrived there on a field trip. But then, Farke turned over a nearby cobblestone to discover the fossilized skull of 75-million-year-old Parasaurolophus, a duck-billed dinosaur that subsisted on plant foods in the Cretaceous era.
Between what turned out to be the string of toe bones that Terris first spotted and that skull lay the most-complete, smallest, and youngest Parasaurolophus skeleton ever found. "We have the skull on one side of this boulder and the toes on the other side. That means the whole dinosaur skeleton has to be in between," Farke told The Christian Science Monitor. "So we got pretty excited."
After returning to the site in 2010 to fully excavate the fossilized skeleton, a team of paleontologists led by Farke discovered that the Parasaurolophus was less than a year old when it died and that the species grew an impressive crest on the top of its head earlier than other duck-billed dinos. Farke and his team published their findings yesterday (October 22) in the open-access journal PeerJ. The publication coincides with the specimen going on display at the Alf museum.