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Three Triceratops remains discovered on Wyoming ranch

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A Wyoming rancher found something remarkable on his property, and invited scientists to investigate. It turns out that the find was the skeletons of three Triceratops, which was the three-horned plant-eating dinosaur that was among the last of the great thunder lizards. What makes the discovery exciting is the fact that these skeletons are fairly complete - scientists to date have only been able to construct partial reconstructions.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "There's only three other skeletons that will match the completeness of one of the specimens we're excavating right now," paleontologist Peter Larson says. Larson is the president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. The dig is ongoing near Newcastle, Wyoming, more than 200 miles north of Cheyenne.

The majority of the remains found before now have included fewer than half of the prehistoric creatures' bones, Larson adds. The most complete to date, on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Texas, has about 76 percent of its skeleton.
   
Scientists say that of the three dinosaurs, one of them was probably a child, and at least one met a bad end at the hands of a predator.

The bones that have turned up point indicating a violent end, probably at the hands of the feared Tyrannosaurus Rex. On the largest of the three specimens, at least two of the major limb bones were "bitten through," Larson said.

"If you can imagine, this is a bone that is nearly four feet long," he said. But a Tyrannosaurus Rex "would kind of chop the carcass up with their giant, shearing jaws," ripping through flesh and bone alike.

"The largest, more mature individual appears to be the most complete," Larson said. "One is just a bit smaller, and there's another one that by live weight is probably only half the size."

"The fact that there are three of them together is really cool," Larson said. Among the possibilities, the three could be male and female and their young or they could be two females looking after a juvenile dinosaur. Another revelation brought on by the discovery was there was no previous indication that Triceratops moved in groups.

The Black Hills Institute is working with the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, from the Netherlands, on the dig. Larson called the discovery of a young Triceratops a "very significant" as it gives scientists an insight into how the great lizards grew up.

The Triceratops lived towards the end of the Cretaceous Period, about a half a million years before the dinosaurs' extinction. Much of what is now the Great Plains and southern Canada was once part of a vast inland sea, and the region is rich in fossils.

"Like most of the specimens that were found, it was brought to our attention by a rancher," Larson said.

The rancher sent photos to the Black Hills Institute, located in neighboring South Dakota, in late 2012. Excavation began in May and is expected to take about a month.



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