Two University of Washington students discovered a bone fragment believed to be from an ancient relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
The 16.7-inch bone fragment is believed to be 80 million years old and part of a 3-foot femur, slightly smaller then that of its younger cousin the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
This discovery makes Washington the 37th state to uncover dinosaur remains and one of the first states in the western U.S. to find any remains.
“The fossil record of the west coast is very spotty when compared to the rich record of the interior of North America,” said UW grad student Brandon Peecook, who helped identify the fossil.
It is believed that the west coast is mostly devoid of fossils due to the region being largely underwater in that time period leaving very little exposed rock for bones to be found in. Dinosaurs are largely land creatures, so discoveries like this are quite rare.
Prehistoric clams were found within the hollow of the bone, which would suggest it was found in early marine rock. The clams hidden inside the bone were well preserved enough to be identified, giving scientists more clues to the story of the creature.
The team claims that it is likely the dinosaur died near the sea and was eventually taken by the sea, and rested among the clams.
Though it is just a small fragment of a much larger bone, Dr. Christian Sidor, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Burke Museum and his team were able to confidently identify the fossil based on what they had.
“This fossil won’t win a beauty contest,” said Sidor, “but fortunately it preserves enough anatomy that we were able to compare it to other dinosaurs and be confident of its identification.”
The fragment had a hollow middle cavity, which was unique to two theropods at the time as well as a surface feature of the bone that is only known to exist among certain theropods.
This discovery comes just one year after a Seattle construction crew uncovered a 16,000-year-old tusk while digging downtown.
The fossil was originally discovered in 2012 by members of the Burke Museum research team on the shorelines of Sucia Island State Park in the San Juans. The group took this long to identify the fossil due to challenges removing the rock as well as identifying it among similar bones from a similar age. Only after these steps could the team submit a description for peer review where it could be confirmed as Washington’s first dinosaur fossil.
The fossil is currently on display at the Burke Museum for public viewing and offers more information on the discovery and history of bone fragment.
“We are definitely excited with the buzz the dino has received,” said Peecook when asked about the public reaction to the announcement. “Dinos are a great gateway into science.”