Undergrad Discovers Skull Of a 65-Million-Year-Old Triceratops

For Harrison Duran it was a dream come true.

The undergraduate at the University of California, Merced, who has been obssessed with dinosaurs since he was a kid had his interest in the subject reignited after taking the “History of Dinosaurs” course he took his first year with Professor Justin Yeakel.

Triceratops skeleton mount, Dinosaur with three horns. Shutterstock

While in Dr. Yeakel’s lab he met Ph.D. student Taran Rallings, who advised Duran on his studies. “While Duran had on-campus academic support, he decided to take his interests outside the classroom on a paleontology dig in a remote area of North Dakota,” said the News of UC Merced.

Duran accompanied Michael Kjelland on the two-week dig. Kjelland is an experienced excavator and biology professor at Mayville State University in North Dakota. The two originally met at a biotechnology conference and after discovering their common passion for dinosaurs, together they founded the nonprofit Fossil Excavators.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Kjelland said.
To their surprise, Kjelland and Duran uncovered Alice — the partial skull of a 65-million-year-old partial Triceratops.
“I can’t quite express my excitement in that moment when we uncovered the skull,” Duran said. “I’ve been obsessed with dinosaurs since I was a kid, so it was a pretty big deal.”

A young Duran.

CNN reported: North Dakota is part of the Hell Creek Formation, and this area is a treasure trove for finding fossils. The rock bed formation spans four states — Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Fossils date to the late Cretaceous period, 65 million to 70 million years ago, and were discovered in 1902 by paleontologist Barnum Brown.

Duran and  Kjelland named the fossil after the property owner.

Michael Kjelland poses with Alice after she has been treated with foil and plaster for protection.

For now Alice will stay protected in Kjelland’s lab until she finds a good home.


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