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Teen Makes 'Spectacular' Dino Fossil Find

Youngest, smallest, most complete Parasaurolophus skeleton
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2013 1:14 PM CDT

(Newser) – A California high school student made a find LiveScience calls "amazing": While doing paleontology fieldwork for school in Utah in 2009, Kevin Terris helped to discover an almost complete baby Parasaurolophus skeleton—in fact, the most complete one ever found. Nicknamed "Joe," it also turned out to be the smallest and youngest Parasaurolophus fossil ever found at under a year old and 6 feet long. The herbivore is known for its tube-shaped head crest, and this one was so young the crest is just a bump. "We now understand a lot more about how Parasaurolophus grew its crest," says a paleontologist.

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Specifically, the fact that the crest was already in existence on such a young dinosaur suggests that Parasaurolophus crests started growing earlier than those of other duck-billed dinosaurs. "It finally lets us understand how Parasaurolophus evolved that big crest, just by shifting around events in its development," the paleontologist says. Why so much time between the discovery and its reporting? The team couldn't even dig up the bones until 2010, because of the need for permits, and it took 1,300 hours of cleaning and chiseling to unearth the fossil—the completeness of which is "pretty spectacular," according to the paleontologist. Fun side note: Terris spotted the first bone after two professional paleontologists walked right by it, which one of them tells NBC News is "a little embarrassing." (Read more fossil stories.)

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