It’s always exciting to discover new fossils, and sometimes they turn up in unusual locations. A fossil nicknamed “Tiny” was discovered in suburban Denver on August 28th when workers building a public safety building in Thornton discovered an mysterious horn. “Tiny” is anything but, and this rare discovery has dinosaur experts extremely excited.
Identifying the Fossil
In its initial condition, it was difficult to determine what sort of dinosaur the fossil had originated from. It took a month of cleaning and study, but researchers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science have arrived at the conclusion that the skull appeared to come from a Torosaurus. The Torosaurus is an incredibly rare cousin of the Triceratops, so this discovery is significant.
In a press release, the museum clarified the differences between the Torosaurus and its much more common cousin.
“The two animals are nearly indistinguishable because both had a large horn over each eye and a smaller nose horn. During excavation, it was assumed the fossils belonged to the more common triceratops. However, unlike triceratops, torosaurus had a longer, thinner, and more delicate frill, with two very large holes. These frill features were revealed as the skull was cleaned and compared to triceratops specimens already in the museum collections.”
Joe Sertich, a dinosaur curator at the museum where the research occurred, stated that there are only around 2000 Triceratops specimens in the Western United States. More importantly, there are only about seven Torosaurus fossils. Sertich added that this specimen is more complete and better preserved than any Torosaurus fossils that were located before.
The fossil includes about 95% of the skull, and an astonishing 20% of the entire skeleton. In addition to being the most complete Torosaurus fossil, it’s actually also the most complete Cretaceous Period fossil ever found in Colorado.
Uncovering and Significance
If you’d like to see the uncovering in action, the Torosaurus bones are being released from their encasements of sand and stone in the public Fossil Prep Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This opportunity to watch top dinosaur researchers at work is the perfect opportunity for any dino enthusiast interested in seeing a new discovery happen in real time. It will likely be a few more months before the fossils are completely prepared, so you have a decent amount of time to observe this interesting and educational process.
This significant discovery in an unexpected locale reinforces the idea that history is preserved all around us. There’s no telling what secrets are buried below the surface, and as time goes on it’s likely that we’ll discover more about these ancient dinosaurs. Learning more about these fascinating is both exciting and scientifically significant; we continue to desire to learn more about our planet’s history, and well-preserved fossils like the Torosaurus discovered in Thornton give us greater insight into these early inhabitants. While it’s not likely we’ll frequently stumble upon unearthed fossils of this magnitude, it’s amazing what you can find with just a little bit of digging.