A rare triceratops fossil was unearthed while digging up a site for a new police and fire station in Thornton, Colorado. The amazing discovery was made by construction workers at the East 132nd Avenue and Quebec Street site on Friday.
The find included the skull and several bones of a triceratops that roamed the Thornton area –located north of Denver—millions of years ago.
The discovery marks the third time a triceratops skull has been found along the Front Range. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science said in a statement the Triceratops likely lived about 66 million years ago.
Rare triceratops fossil found in Thornton lived at least 66 million years ago
On Friday, construction crews were working on Thornton’s new Public Safety Facility when they came across the skull of the Triceratops. Denver Museum of Nature and Science curator of dinosaurs Joe Sertich told the Denver Post a team from the museum arrived on the site on Monday and confirmed the rare find was a dinosaur fossil.
“My heart was racing,” Sertich told the Denver Post. “As soon as (we) uncovered it and realized this was a horn of a triceratops and not just another leg bone or part of a hip, it made the site really exciting.”
Colorado is no stranger to animal fossils but usually, the specimens found lived in the Ice Age, about 10,000 and 12,000 years ago. Ice Age animals such as mammoths, camels, and giant sloths are often found in the state.
The museum also confirmed the crew had also unearthed a horn and shoulder blade as of Monday. Sertich noted that the fossil is particularly rare because is much older than other fossils found in the Front Range area.
“The dinosaur has been laying here for at least 66 million years,” Sertich said in a statement from the city. “I’m over the moon right now about this dinosaur fossil.”
Museum says they were lucky to identify this fossil
Triceratops were large dinosaurs with two big horns and a smaller nose horn. They are one of the most iconic dinosaurs, and they have been displayed in multiple TV shows and movies, including Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Sertich said the Triceratops is often depicted as fighting a Tyrannosaurus Rex in horror movies. That notion could have been fueled because of a partial triceratops fossil found in 1997, which had a horn that was apparently bitten off by a T-rex.
Construction workers broke the ground on the Fire and Police Substation at East 132nd Avenue in Quebec Street on July 31. According to Sertich, as most of Denver is covered by parking lots, shopping malls and houses, it is quite unusual to get deep into the original rock layers.
On Friday, crews were moving ground with a skid-steer loader and they were stopped by a hard object. The museum said one of the workers realized the hard object could be a fossil.
“A lot of times these will be plowed up and they won’t be recognized,” said Sertich, according to the Denver Post. “And we’re really lucky in this case that it was recognized as fossils and we got the call and were out here and able to salvage the site, and actually collect these fossils.”
Triceratops will eventually be displayed at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
While only the shoulder and horn have been identified so far, the scientists will continue working to properly identify every triceratops bone unearthed from the site at Thornton. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s scientists will stabilize the area, carefully expose the fossil, search for any other bones that remain hidden, and safely extract them.
Triceratops were herbivorous dinosaurs which mostly lived in herds. The Natural Museum of History in London says its horns could have been used to fight off Tyrannosaurus. The animals lived in herds to warn each other of any possible danger and to reduce their chances of being targeted by other predators.
Other scientists suggest the male Triceratops’ horns could have been used to fight other males in order to attract females. Meanwhile, the triceratops’ frills –which could reach nearly 3 feet across—could have been used to attract mates, as a mechanism for members of the same species to recognize one another, or to regulate its body temperature.
The scientists said they hope the fossil will eventually be on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The city of Thornton also said in its statement that the fossil site is not visible from the street. At the moment, only museum personnel, city of Thornton crews and construction crews are permitted on the site for safety reasons.
Source: Denver Post