Undergraduate researchers unearth 1.5-ton triceratops skull during annual dig in South Dakota

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(Photo Credit: Westminster College)

FULTON, Mo. (WJW) — Undergraduate researchers from a Missouri college have unearthed a seven-foot-long triceratops skull in South Dakota.

According to a release from Westminster College, three current students and four alumni joined Dr. David Schmidt, associate professor of geology and environmental science, in June and July for a fossil expedition at Grand River National Grassland.

During the annual dig, groups usually expect to find fragments of dinosaur bone and an occasional complete bone. This time, they dug up a 3,000-pound triceratops skull. Students named the skull “Shady” after the nearby town of Shadehill.

“It was so exciting … we just didn’t believe it,” said Schmidt. “Now we’re just living the dream out.”

The discovery came after a rancher alerted the National Forrest Service to a find last summer that Schmidt later concluded was the tip of a triceratops horn.

The Forest Service didn’t give clearance for excavation until this summer.

After the excavation, Shady was taken to the Westminster campus, where it will be secured until funds can be raised for restoration.

“The entire goal of this, at Westminster, is for students to use the fossil specimens for undergraduate research,” Schmidt said. “So they have practical experiences and use learned skills in graduate school or in their career endeavors.”

* Watch the video below for a story on a previously discovered triceratops fossil.

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