Three Young Boys Discover Rare Tyrannosaurus Rex Fossil While on a Hike

When Sam Fisher took his two young sons and their 11-year-old cousin on a hike in the Badlands of North Dakota, he was probably expecting a day of sightseeing and light exercise. What he could not have foreseen, however, was the group stumbling upon the remains of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex that had lived millions of years ago. Their find, which occurred in 2022, was deemed an “incredible discovery” by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and will soon be on display at the museum. The group of amateur paleontologists, including Fisher’s sons Jessin, 12, and Liam, 9, were surely excited by their discovery but also handled the fossil with all the reverence it deserved. Fisher sent a photo of the find to his old high school classmate, Dr. Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist and curator of vertebrate paleontology with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and asked for advice. The following summer, Dr. Lyson arrived on the site with the family as well as a skilled team to excavate the fossil. Together, they were able to unearth the remains of a teenage Tyrannosaurus rex, with all parties pitching in and contributing to the dig.

It is rare to find intact Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, and even more rare to find the remains of a juvenile, so Dr. Lyson was thrilled when he realized what they had unearthed. The fossil, which has since been dubbed “Teen Rex,” is estimated to have been between 12 and 14 years old at the time of death. Even though it was still growing, the dinosaur already weighed 3,500 pounds and was 25 feet long, though these impressive measurements still put it at about half the size of a fully developed T. rex. “By going outside and embracing their passions and the thrill of discovery, these boys have made an incredible dinosaur discovery that advances science and deepens our understanding of the natural world,” says Dr. Lyson. “I’m excited for Museum guests to dig into the ‘Teen Rex Discovery’ experience, which I think will inspire the imagination and wonder, not only in our community but around the world!” The fossil will be on display as part of the temporary Discovering Teen Rex exhibition, which opens at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on June 12, 2024. In addition to the exhibition, the museum will also be screening a new 40-minute documentary, T. REX, that captures the remarkable story.

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