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06-12-2024

Three boys find rare "Teen Rex" dinosaur fossil in North Dakota

The discovery of a T. rex fossil could only be described as monumental. On a family outing in the Hell Creek badlands of North Dakota, three young fossil hunters – brothers Liam and Jessin Fisher, aged 7 and 10, and their cousin, 9-year-old Kaiden Madsen – stumbled upon what they initially thought was a common dinosaur relic.

However, this casual find on July 31, 2022, turned out to be anything but ordinary. The large fossilized leg bone belonged to a teenage Tyrannosaurus rex – a find rare enough to potentially rewrite the chapters of prehistoric life.

Teen Rex unearthed after 67 million years

A photo of the fossil, innocently sent to a family friend, turned out to be the first step in a thrilling scientific adventure.

Dr. Tyler Lyson, Associate Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and a native of Marmarth, quickly organized an excavation.

The dig included the young discoverers and their older sister, Emalynn Fisher, along with a team of paleontology volunteers and experts.

Within a mere 11 days, they unearthed the T. rex, affectionately named “Teen Rex,” after its 67 million years underground.

Spectacular journey from Earth to exhibit

Transporting the Teen Rex fossil to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science was no small feat. It required a Black Hawk helicopter to airlift the giant plaster jackets housing the remains.

The museum now invites the public to the “Discovering Teen Rex Prep Lab” to witness the ongoing preparation of the fossil, adding a real-time educational layer to this extraordinary find.

Documenting the discovery of Teen Rex

The intrigue of this discovery attracted more than just paleontologists. An award-winning documentary crew was embedded with the expedition, capturing every significant moment in stunning 8K.

The resulting film, “T. REX,” narrated by actor Sir Sam Neill from the Jurassic Park series, offers an immersive view into the thrill of the discovery and the meticulous process of excavation.

Significance of the juvenile T. rex fossil

“Juvenile rex specimens are extremely rare,” explained Dr. Lyson, who found his first dinosaur in the same region at just 6 years old. Teen Rex’s tibia measured 82 centimeters, suggesting it died when it was about 13 to 15 years old, roughly two-thirds the size of a fully grown adult T. rex.

This specimen could provide invaluable insights into the growth and behavior of one of history’s most formidable predators.

Dr. Thomas Holtz, a vertebrate paleontologist and renowned T. rex authority from the University of Maryland, highlighted the broader implications of the find.

“This discovery is crucial for understanding the T. rex’s life stages, especially its dramatic growth spurts,” noted Dr. Holtz.

“Scientists can really only speculate on how ‘Teen Rex’ might have lived and behaved, so discoveries like this one have the potential to provide important new information about those earlier life stages, when fastest growth likely occurred.” 

Inspiration from T. rex fossil

“Helping these kids experience the thrill of their discovery and inspiring them with science is incredibly rewarding,” said Dr. Lyson, reflecting on his role in mentoring the next generation of scientists.

The story extends beyond the dig site. The T. REX film and an accompanying graphic novel created by Rextooth Studios are set to bring this thrilling discovery to a broader audience.

The film will premiere in select theaters worldwide starting June 21, and promises to bring the prehistoric world to life on the giant screen.

Scientific and cinematic innovation

Behind the scenes, a consortium of paleontologists, several of the world’s leading natural history museums, and top visual effects artists have collaborated to ensure the documentary offers not just a spectacle but an accurate portrayal of T. rex and its ecosystem.

This cinematic venture stands as a testament to the fusion of science, education, and media. As Teen Rex begins its new journey in the public eye, it continues to inspire wonder and curiosity.

For those involved, from the youngest fossil hunters to the seasoned paleontologists, this adventure has been more than a discovery – it’s been a doorway to the past, opened wide for all to explore.

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