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Rare juvenile T. rex fossil found by children in North Dakota for display

A rare juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex fossil found by three children during a family hike in the North Dakota Badlands will soon be on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the museum said Tuesday.

The unlikely discovery was made in July 2022 by brothers Jessin and Liam Fisher, their father Sam Fisher and their cousin Kaiden Madsen. Unsure of what his family had just stumbled upon, Sam sought help from an old high school friend, paleontologist Tyler Lyson.

After obtaining a digging permit from the Bureau of Land Management – ​​​​which manages the land where the discovery was made – Lyson, the museum’s curator of paleontology, went to North Dakota with a crew and the children in 2023 to dig up the fossil. to dig.

Rare juvenile T. rex fossil found by children in North Dakota and on display at Denver museum
A family found a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex fossil in the Badlands of North Dakota in 2022. (clockwise from top left) Sam Fisher, Emalynn Fisher, Danielle Fisher, Liam Fisher, Kaiden Madsen and Jessin Fisher, pose with the field jacket after it was rolled into the field in a helicopter net. Undated photo.

Tyler Lyson

When he started the project, Lyson thought the dinosaur might be something more ordinary, he said in a video interview from the museum. However, when he discovered the most diagnostic part of the fossil, the teeth, he said he knew the “trio of young fossil hunters” had found something very special.

“When we told everyone, the euphoria was amazing; just a remarkable, remarkable moment,” Lyson said. “I mean, it’s not every day you come across such an amazing dinosaur.”

Young T. rex fossils are not an everyday find. This one, dubbed the “Teen Rex” by the museum, is one of only four juvenile T. rex fossils found on Earth, Lyson said.

Rare juvenile T. rex fossil found by children in North Dakota and on display at Denver museum
Head fossil preparer Natalie Toth moves an Edmontosaurus skull to its final place in the “Discovering Teen Rex” experience at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. May 2024.

Rik Wicker

“When you’re in a national park, you see deer, elk and moose, but you don’t see the mountain lions or wolves,” Lyson said. “You don’t see those top predators because there just aren’t that many of them. So to find a T. rex at all, and to find one so complete, is really special.”

Although they haven’t completed histology yet, Lyson said the dinosaur was estimated to be between 12 and 14 years old. Lyson said it would have weighed about half as much as some of the most famous T. rex specimens.

Jessin, an aspiring paleontologist, told the museum he’s quite pleased with his find – hoping it will lead him down a path like Lyson’s – something that encourages the veteran vertebrate paleontologist.

Rare juvenile T. rex fossil found by children in North Dakota and on display at Denver museum
The area in North Dakota’s Badlands where three young children found a juvenile T-Rex skeleton in 2022. The skeleton was taken to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Undated photo.

Rik Wicker

“This is a big deal because of the discovery story. It’s just an amazing, heartwarming story where you take three kids looking for fossils in the Badlands of North Dakota and discover the king of them all, Tyrannosaurus rex,” Lyson said in his museum video.

The fossil will be on display from June 21 in a temporary museum exhibition called ‘Discovering Teen Rex’. A documentary about the boys’ discovery will also be shown in the museum’s Infinity Theater.

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