Nearly complete fossilized dinosaur remains flown to museum
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The nearly complete fossilized remains of a tyrannosaur found two years ago in southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument were airlifted to the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
The 75 million-year-old Teratophoneus was covered in plaster and flown by helicopter in pieces Sunday to the Salt Lake City museum, where paleontologists will spend several years removing rock from the fossil.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Teratophoneus lived several million years earlier than its relative, the T. rex. Paleontologists believe the dinosaur was about 12 feet tall and lived several million years before the T.rex.
The remains appear to be 80 percent complete. Most dinosaur remains are only 20 to 30 percent complete, making the discovery rare, museum paleontology lab manager Tylor Birthisel told the Deseret News.
Grand Staircase paleontologist Alan Titus discovered the fossils in the monument’s Kaiparowits Formation, a thick layer of sandstone that also has vast coal reserves.
The fossils should help advance dinosaur research because they were found in the position in which the creature died, said Randy Irmis, the museum’s paleontology curator.
“It looks like we have the entire skull and most of the body,” Irmis told the Tribune. “The back part of tail is missing and a few toes. We don’t know yet if the arms are there.”
The species has only been found in Grand Staircase, which is about 250 miles south of Salt Lake City near the Arizona border.
The monument, created in 1996, is one of four national monuments in in the West that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended be reduced in size, potentially opening hundreds of thousands of acres to mining and logging. President Donald Trump has yet to make public a decision on the recommendations.