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PALEONEWS: T. Rex Skeleton Found in S.D.



Tuesday November 30 3:49 PM ET 
 T. Rex Skeleton Found in S.D.

 By MALCOLM RITTER AP Science Writer 

 NEW YORK (AP) - The first nearly complete skeleton of a juvenile
Tyrannosaurus rex has been found in South Dakota and is being prepared
for study in a Texas  laboratory, researchers said Tuesday.

 ``It really did knock my socks off,'' declared paleontologist Robert T.
Bakker, who has seen the specimen. ``You're getting a window into the
childhood of the world's  favorite dinosaur.''

 The skeleton, which Bakker estimated could be 75 percent to 90 percent
complete, was found north of Belle Fourche, S.D., in the summer of 1998,
said Ron Frithiof, an  amateur fossil-hunter and a rancher near San
Antonio.

 The dinosaur, most of it still encased in rock and other material, is
now at a lab that Frithior owns west of San Antonio. He and others have
been painstakingly exposing the  bones so it can be studied.

 Frithiof, a member of the discovery team, said the team was led by a
private Houston paleontologist, Mike Harrell, who died recently.

 The skeleton was dubbed ``Tinker,'' a nickname Frithiof picked up as a
kid.

 Previously, scientists had never found a complete skeleton ``or even a
good skeleton'' of a juvenile T. rex, although fairly complete skeletons
have been found for juveniles of  other tyrannosaurs, said tyrannosaur
expert Thomas Holtz Jr. of the University of Maryland at College Park.

 Holtz said he'd heard of the new specimen and was trying to arrange a
chance to see it. The finding ``would indeed be a big deal,'' Holtz
said.

 The finding should help scientists study such things as growth patterns
in T. rex and whether a skull found some time ago represents a new
species or just a young T. rex, he  said.

 Bakker, who works with the Wyoming Dinamation Society, based in
Boulder, Colo., said the specimen was around 66 million years old. The
animal probably weighed  about a quarter ``as much as Dad,'' he said. It
might have weighed about 1,200 pounds to 1,500 pounds and measured about
23 feet from tip of tail to the snout, he said.

 It's clearly a juvenile because of some unfused backbones, he said. The
specimen shows that juvenile T. rex was ``quite gangly, particularly
long in the shin and ankle,'' he  said. That's ``a pleasant
confirmation'' of prior work, he said.

 But ``the jaws are 100 percent adult,'' armed with ``massive
bone-crushing teeth.'' That suggests it ate an adult diet, even though
it didn't appear strong enough to wrestle  large prey to the ground, he
said. So apparently Mom or Dad hunted the meals, and Junior showed up
later to munch, he said.

 Holtz said that's a possibility, but not the only one. 
-- 
Flying Goat Graphics
http://www.flyinggoat.com
(Society of Vertebrate Paleontology member)
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