Florida boy discovers a rare dino skull in Grand Junction, wants to dig again

The skull of an apatosaurus. (Rob Hurson/Flickr)
The skull of an apatosaurus. (Rob Hurson/Flickr)
The skull of an apatosaurus. (Rob Hurson/Flickr)

One Florida boy got exactly what he asked for during an archaeological dig vacation in Grand Junction. Lachlan Barret, 8, and his grandmother, Linda Barrett, were on the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey in July when the boy dug up a small tooth belonging to what is thought to be the rare skull of an apatosaurus louisae, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported.

“I was digging and I found this thing, it had white rings around it, so I pulled it out and set it aside,” Lachlan told the Grand Junction Sentinel in an interview.

The tooth and its roots attracted the attention of the curator of paleontology, Julia McHugh, who swiftly identified what is now thought to be one of only four apatosaurus skulls in existence.

“I wasn’t really that surprised. I kept yelling that I found an apatosaurus skull,” Barrett said in an interview.

He had a reason to be excited. Skulls from late Jurassic sauropods — the subgroup to which the long-necked, herbivorous apatosaurus louisae belongs — are incredibly rare. The creature’s skull would have been light in life, usually shattering into pieces at death, according to former chief paleontologist at the Museum of Western Colorado, Brooks Britt.

There is still a lot of work to do before a full identification can be made. Throughout the next year, scientists will work to remove the skull from its rock encasement. At the moment, only the palate and some identifying teeth roots are visible. If the skull proves to be that of the apatosaurus louisae, it will be unique from the other three in that its top vertebra is still attached.

“We call them the headless wonders” because finding skulls is very difficult, Britt told the Sentinel. “Sauropod skulls are always rare. To find an articulated skull, that’s just fantastic.”

As for eight-year-old Barrett, he’s pretty pleased.

“I really like dinosaurs,” he told the Sentinel. “I love dinosaurs”

“I might ask my grandma if I can do it again.”

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at caiello@denverite.com or twitter.com/chlobo_ilo.

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