New Mexico gets a look at first-of-its kind fossil Tom Suazo, right, a fossil predator with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, tells a group of children about the museum's latest find as discover Amanda Cantrell, left, listens during a public unveiling in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
New Mexico gets a look at first-of-its kind fossil
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Paleontologists in New Mexico have unveiled the first baby Pentaceratops skull ever discovered as hundreds of people lined up to get a look.
 
Scientists cut open the giant plaster jacket that protected the skull of the rhinoceros-like, plant-eating dinosaur as it was airlifted out of the desert badlands of northwestern New Mexico and trucked to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
 
They revealed the shield-like part of the dinosaur's skull, some teeth, an arm bone, a rib and what looked like a vertebrae, but museum curator Spencer Lucas said there's still much work to be done.
 
Now, technicians will begin the painstaking work of digging out the fossils from the rock in which they have been encased for some 70 million years.
 
The process will take months, but the public will be able to watch from windows that offer a view into the museum's preparation room.
 
Hundreds of people, including parents with their children, lined up along the windows during a free public viewing Nov. 5. Some children got an up-close look as museum staff showed off the find, while other visitors held up their smartphones on the other side of the glass.
 
Lucas said the fossils are significant and sure to provide new insight into the dinosaurs that roamed North America tens of millions of years ago. Less than 10 adult Pentaceratops skulls have been unearthed over the past century and this marks the first baby skull to ever be recovered, Lucas said.
 
"So here now we have the first glimpse at growth and the early stages of life of this dinosaur," he said.
 
Experts say Pentaceratops was one of the largest, if not the largest, horned dinosaur that ever lived. It could be up to 27 feet long and weigh 5 tons or more.
 
Paleontologists suspect Pentaceratops may have used its five horns for defense. Evidence also suggests the horns and the shield-like part of the skull could have been used to attract mates.
 
The remains of the young Pentaceratops appear to have been washed through a streambed because some of the skeleton has fallen apart. But how the animal met its demise is being investigated, scientists said.
 
Muddy conditions prevented the team from transporting the plaster jacket that contains the remainder of the baby's skeleton. That will happen later.
 
The discovery was made in 2011 in the Bisti Wilderness by Amanda Cantrell, the museum's geoscience collections manager. A few years of planning, permitting and excavation followed with the help of New Mexico National Guard Blackhawk helicopters.
 
Pilot Kevin Doo attended the unveiling with his wife and child. He said it was amazing to see the precious cargo unwrapped.
 
"What a terrific find," he said, noting that a lot of hard work went into pulling off the unique recovery mission.
 
A crew of museum staff and volunteers also had to pack in tons of tools, water, plaster and other materials to prepare the fossils for removal because the find was made within a federally protected wilderness area.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why will digging out the fossils take months?
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COMMENTS (30)
  • cjo-mcd
    11/16/2015 - 04:21 p.m.

    hi bob!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • jaredp-lam
    11/18/2015 - 09:30 a.m.

    Hopefully the scientists in New Mexico will be able to find many more bones of this species of dinosaur and learn new information about this rare species. Also, it is important to take a long time to dig out these bones because they are so old and fragile.

  • abbyf-lam
    11/18/2015 - 09:40 a.m.

    I think that maybe the Pentaceratops could have been a rare dinosaur before the dinosaurs went extinct, and that is why they are so hard to find. That, or they were only able to live in certain conditions, and only stayed in one place, never roaming.

  • nickp1-lam
    11/18/2015 - 10:35 a.m.

    Hopefully the scientists in New Mexico will be able to find many more bones of this species of dinosaur and learn new information.I think that maybe the Pentaceratops could have been a rare dinosaur before the dinosaurs went extinct.

  • breet-lam
    11/18/2015 - 11:51 a.m.

    I hope that they find something very old but new to scientists. If they do then they would get to name it and that would be awesome.

  • waimarphyo-eri
    11/19/2015 - 03:19 a.m.

    d

  • ShawnaWeiser-Ste
    11/19/2015 - 04:10 p.m.

    Hopefully the scientists will be able to learn more about this species of dinosaur. I think that finding something from literally millions of years ago is amazing, to say the least. I never knew it took so long for dinosaurs to be unearthed.

  • mimir-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:21 p.m.

    Digging out the fossil, or any fossil for that matter, will take an exceptional amount of time as relates to size and delicacy of the artifact.

  • mattv-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:22 p.m.

    You have to be extra careful with digging out fossils, or you might damage a crucial part of the fossil. But, when it's something you've never seen, and aren't sure if there are more out there, then you have to be EVEN MORE careful in extracting it. If you were to fracture even the tiniest bit of the bone, it could end up costing the entire program.

  • kyleighp-fel
    11/30/2015 - 02:23 p.m.

    Digging out the fossil will take months because they are very old and very fragile. To dig haphazardly would most certainly damage the remains of the dinosaur,thus making them invaluable to study because of damage to them.

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