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.  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.  This was done as it was airlifted out of the desert badlands of northwestern New Mexico. Then it was trucked to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
 
They revealed the shield-like part of the dinosaur's skull.  It also revealed 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 rock. The fossils 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.  The 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 noteworthy. He said they were 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.  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.  Some of the skeleton has fallen apart. But how the animal met its end is being investigated, scientists said.
 
Muddy conditions stopped 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.  She is 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.  Doo noted 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.  That's 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?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (41)
  • samuelc-mcd
    11/16/2015 - 04:26 p.m.

    It will take months because dinosaurs are so big and the diggers have to be careful.

  • victoriaa-bru
    11/16/2015 - 07:40 p.m.

    Digging out the fossils will take months because there is rocks and materials in the mud where the baby Pentaceratops skull and bones were found and the truck that was holding the bones took a while because the ground was muddy.

  • melissaj-Ste
    11/16/2015 - 09:00 p.m.

    Wow. I always forget that dinosaurs once roamed the Earth before us until there is a new discovery or investigation. Even though we think that dinosaur bones are amazing - which they are -- it's scary to think of animals that large. The idea of some vicious, carnivorous dinosaurs scares me. Also, Pilot Kevin Doo has a funny last name.

  • william1108-yyca
    11/16/2015 - 09:36 p.m.

    WOW! I have never seen a dinosaurs fossils before. I wish I can see one in real life. I have also never heard of a dinosaur called that. Maybe someday when I go to a museum I might see one or maybe more than one or even maybe new ones that I have never heard of.

  • annabel1226-yyca
    11/17/2015 - 01:01 a.m.

    New Mexico people must been exciting to see those fossils. Are they big to be impressed? I hope one day I could see those fossils. It must be hard for those people who dug out that fossil. Good luck to the people in New Mexico to dig out more fossils. I think they will dig out more big fossils. I think they are going to dig out more fossils because right now one was discovered so there will be the same species in that area. Is that fossil in the article the first fossil that was to be dig in New Mexico. I wish that one day I would go and help them dig out another big fossil. Good luck New Mexico...!!!

  • jeffyboy246-
    11/17/2015 - 11:24 a.m.

    Digging out the fossils will take months because there are huge dinosaur bones bigger than 12 people (grown men). Also there are so many fossils on earth so if we try and get them all it will take months or maybe even years.

  • coltens-ver
    11/17/2015 - 12:37 p.m.

    Just when I thought Science had practically seen everything, something like this happens where they find new dinosaur bones. Its kind of interesting to know that there is still stuff being discovered everyday.

  • owenh-ver
    11/17/2015 - 12:53 p.m.

    this is really cool and i think that if we just found a new dinosour then bigfoot is real

  • k'lap-
    11/17/2015 - 01:00 p.m.

    It will take months because they have to dig out fossils that have been in rock for 70 million years.

  • nevaehm-
    11/17/2015 - 01:00 p.m.

    how do they get they weight of the fossil just by looking at it

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