Nature & science

DMNS-funded research sheds light on rare dinosaur discovery

Volunteer-driven dig makes rare find

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Researchers have discovered the first new partial skull of a Parasaurolophus dinosaur in 97 years. This happened during a recent dig funded by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in northwestern New Mexico. Fossils from the region are part of the natural heritage of the Diné, or Navajo Nation, and Puebloan peoples.

The Parasaurolophus is a duck-billed dinosaur, recognized by the large hollow tube that grows on its head, according to information provided by the museum. Three species of Parasaurolophus are currently recognized — ranging from the Canadian province of Alberta to New Mexico — in rocks dating between 77 and 73.5 million years old.

“This find is helping us add important elements to the story of the species and the time,” said Dr. Joe Sertich, museum curator of dinosaurs and leader of the team who discovered the skull. “There’s still a lot to be learned, but this time period (the Cretaceous) is a big focal point for our research.”

Sertich and the team of volunteers he was leading were integral in the process of freeing the specimen from the rock where it was discovered by Smithsonian Ecology Fellow Erin Spear, Ph.D., in 2017. Not only does the discovery highlight the importance of protecting public lands for scientific discovery, Sertich said, but emphasizes the variety of opportunities for volunteers organized by the museum.

“We’re really interested in new discoveries, particularly about dinosaur ecosystems, which we don’t know a lot about,” he said. “We post a lot of opportunities for volunteers on the museum’s portal, which provides the community a lot of ways to get involved.”

For more information on current volunteer opportunities, visit dmns.org/support/volunteer-at-the-museum.

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