Paleontologists Uncover Complete Tyrannosaur in Montana

Monday, August 13, 2018

The first D. horneri skull ever found, next to an illustration of what the dinosaur may have looked like in real life. The skull is about 32 inches (89.5 cm) long. Credit: Copyright Dino Pulerà

Dickinson Paleontologist Denver Fowler and his team are continuing summer field work at Montana's Judith River Formation, where a complete, articulated tyrannosaur skeleton is being uncovered.

Fowler has called the Montana site "the most exciting I've ever found."
Last year, Fowler found three tyrannosaur sites there. One find had its feet sticking out of a cliff, with all of the bones attached. The feet were placed anatomically correct, both pointing toward each other and fully articulated.

That specimen has been further excavated, with bones from its feet and rib cage uncovered and being brought back to Dickinson Dinosaur Museum.

"They'll probably be able to give more information on the species once they get down to the skull," Robert Fuhrman, museum director, said. "It is in a heavily concreted mixture, which means it's difficult to extract, but it also means it's really well protected. (Dr. Fowler)'s very excited about the quality of what he's seen."

Four to five people work at the site at any time, including some University of North Dakota geology students. More of the specimen is expected to be uncovered in 2019.

"It will probably be toward the end of next summer that the major components of this piece can be recovered from this site," Fuhrman said. "It's a difficult extraction, just because it's located some distance off of any navigable road and it's going to be coming out in heavy chunks."

Destiny Wolf, museum fossil preparator working with Dr. Fowler, said excavation at the site, where temperatures can reach 108 degrees, is exciting.

"It's a long process, but it will be so worth it," she said.