A biology student made history recently when he discovered a 65-million-year-old partial Triceratops skull.
Harrison Duran, who is currently in his fifth year of studying at the University of California, made the incredible discovery in the badlands of North Dakota.
Duran was accompanied on the dig by Michael Kjelland, a biology professor at Mayville State University in North Dakota who just a year ago, had also found a triceratops skull in the area. Duran and Kjelland founded the nonprofit organization Fossil Excavators after bonding over their love for the prehistoric creatures.
The skull was found inverted with the base of its left horn partially exposed above the ground, among plant fossils from the Cretaceous period. Duran and Kjelland named the skull “Alice,” after the land owner.
According to the University of California, Merced, it took a full week to excavate Alice, whose fragile skull was meticulously stabilized with a specialized glue to solidify the fractured, mineralized bones, before an accelerant was applied to bond the structures.
In a press release handed out by the school Harrison said:
I can’t quite express my excitement in that moment when we uncovered the skull.
I’ve been obsessed with dinosaurs since I was a kid, so it was a pretty big deal.
North Dakota is considered to be a treasure trove when it comes to discovering fossils and is part of the Hell Creek Foundation. The fossils in this particular area date back to the late Cretaceous period, which was between 65 million and 60 million years ago, having originally been discovered by paleontologist Barnum Brown.
The rock formation in which these fossils are found, spans across four different states including Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Harrison headed out on a two-week dig accompanied by Michael Kjelland, who is an experienced excavator and professor at Mayville State University in North Dakota, already knowing the history of the area.
Harrison and Michael previously became friends when they bonded over a passion for dinosaurs at a conference.
Michael told CNN:
I have been going out to the badlands for years off and on, but to this particular site it was the first time.
Last year, he discovered Triceratops skull around the same area that is currently being excavated.
Their dig kicked off on June 1, as they began chiselling the rocks in a bid to make some incredible discoveries. It was on the fourth day Harrison struck gold.
It is wonderful that we found fossilized wood and tree leaves right around, and even under, the skull.
It gives us a more complete picture of the environment at the time.
Meanwhile, the exact location of the dig sites will remain secret. “There have been people in the past who have stolen dinosaur bones,” Kjelland said in the news release.
Kjelland said he anticipates more bones will be uncovered at the site where Alice was discovered, as well as the site where he found a Triceratops skull last year.
Several weeks ago, construction workers digging near a Denver, Colorado, retirement home found an adult triceratops buried in the bedrock — and the fossils were 68 million years old.
Duran and Kjelland will be conducting future research in the coming months and preparing the fossil for public display.
“My vision is to have Alice rotate locations,” Kjelland said. “The goal is to use this find as an educational opportunity, not just reserve Alice in a private collection somewhere so only a handful of people can see her.”