Colorado construction crew unearths 66-million-year-old triceratops fossil
Last week, a construction crew was digging. This was part of work on a new fire and police building in Thornton, Colorado. They unearthed a prehistoric treasure. I was an ancient triceratops fossil.
The discovery is especially notable because the remains include the triceratops skull. This is one of just three believed to have ever been dug up in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. That's according to Danika Worthington of the Denver Post.
“I’m over the moon right now about this dinosaur fossil," said Joe Sertich. He's paleontologist of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Thornton officials brought Sertich in earlier this week. They had him confirm the discovery and begin the work to excavate it. He hopes to see the fossil exhibited in his museum once it's dug up and preserved.
The remains are older than most other fossils found along the Front Range. Those usually originate from the end of the last ice age. That was around 10 to 12 thousand years ago. The triceratops dates back to at least 66 million years ago. That's when the creatures are thought to have gone extinct. That happened after a six-mile wide asteroid collided with Earth.
The Front Range is a densely populated and heavily paved metropolitan area. People rarely dig far enough down to reach some of these older layers that contain dinosaur fossils. And when they do, they often are just plowed right over.
Triceratops have long captured the imagination of dinosaur lovers. The first skeleton was assembled and mounted in an exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in 1905. It was named "Hatcher." This was in honor of pioneering paleontologist John Bell Hatcher. He discovered most of its bones. The beast was cobbled together from a patchwork of parts. It was hardly anatomically accurate, but it was still awe-inspiring to visitors. The Washington Post called it "the most fantastic and grotesque of all that race of giant lizards known as dinosaurs," writes Sarah Kaplan of The Washington Post. It was in an article describing a forthcoming exhibit that included "Hatcher."
Triceratops was among the last living dinosaur species. This large, herbivorous dinosaur sported two horns on its forehead and one at the tip of its snout. Its name literally means "three-horned face.” Through the years, triceratops have become famous in pop culture, making appearances in films including "Jurassic Park" and "The Land Before Time." It has even made its way onto postage stamps.
"It is incredible to have this find occur in our backyard," Sertich said in a statement. "Finds like this help us to understand dinosaur evolution and behavior.”