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
Lexile

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 after 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, 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.  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.  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.  He 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 is 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 (6)
  • zeusr-3-bar
    11/17/2015 - 10:38 p.m.

    Digging out the fossils will take months because it is a slow process and will take a lot of concentration to take /or dig the fossil out.

    In this article it clearly states that "The remains of the young Pentaceratops appear to have been washed through a streambed because some of the skeleton has fallen apart."

    I think this is a big find but why waste any more time telling us if it was found in 2011 in the Bisti Wilderness

  • matthewp-6-bar
    11/20/2015 - 12:46 a.m.

    Digging out the fossils take months because the fossil is very delicate and the scientists do not want to break or ruin the fossil. Also the fossil is millions of years old and currently one of kind so they can not ruin it because there is no other fossil to replace it. This is shown in the article by,"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."Also it is shown by,"First baby Pentaceratops skull ever discovered." My opinion about this article is it is very cool that people are able to find fossils from millions of years ago.

  • taylorh.-tay
    11/30/2015 - 09:42 a.m.

    This is a great historical event in society and these fossil were hundreds of years old . It was a great find for these scientists ,who were proud to have this discovery in their science museum.

  • maiacariadus-sch
    12/13/2015 - 01:40 a.m.

    The digging out of the fossils take months because it is encased in rock for 70 million years.This why I agree with matthewp-6-bar.

  • alexir-3-bar
    1/22/2016 - 07:46 p.m.

    Digging out the fossil will take months because the fossil has been deeply embedded into rock. Not only have they been embedded in to the rock, they've been there for over 70 million years. Another reason is is that scientists have to carefully and gently take the bones out of the rock making sure that they are not going to damage or hurt the bones. I find this article quite interesting and am shocked I'm only learning about this now, because they found the bones in 2011. Also, I would love to here more about this find.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    3/15/2016 - 09:17 p.m.

    I think that it is great that the paleontologists in New Mexico showed the first baby Pentaceratops skull ever discovered. This was the first of its kind and it will probably lead to many more discoveries. The scientists are still researching and discussing about what the dinosaur did or how it lived. One fact that they are still investigating is the death of the dinosaur. I think that digging out the fossils will take months because the people who were searching for the fossils brought in a lot of tools and the fossil that they found was in a federally protected wilderness area.

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