Baby dinosaur discovered by a high school student has lots to teach researchers

Oct 23, 2013

Four years after his somewhat miraculous discovery, “Joe” the dinosaur is making his public debut.

Left half of skull of Parasaurolophus.
Left half of skull of Parasaurolophus.
Credit Andrew A. Farke, Derek J. Chok, Annisa Herrero, Bradon Scolieri, Sarah Werning

Joe, a young Parasaurolophus—or duckbilled dinosaur—was discovered by a high school student visiting Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument on a school trip led by paleontologist Andy Farke.

Farke, the Curator of Paleontology at the Raymond M. Alf Museum at Webb High School in Claremont, California, said student Kevin Terris spotted what at first appeared to be only a few bones. After closer inspection, the group realized they had found a complete dinosaur skeleton.

Now, after weeks of excavation and years of research, Farke and High School Students from the Webb Schools, have published their results.

Farke explained the significance of the specimen.

“The discovery that our museum announced the other day is the youngest, smallest and most complete specimen ever found for an animal called Parasaurolophus,” Farke said.

Joe’s bones have allowed researchers to better understand how the dinosaur developed. Farke said their research has shown Parasaurolophus’ bill started growing earlier than previously thought.

“Just like humans, dinosaurs changed quite a bit as they grew up and in the case of the duckbilled dinosaur Parasaurolophus, the new fossils show that the little guys looked very different form the adults,” Farke said. “Where the adults have this giant bony tube projecting from the back of the head, the young animals, like our specimen, just had a little bump.”

Joe the dinosaur was discovered by a high school student in 2009.
Joe the dinosaur was discovered by a high school student in 2009.
Credit Scott Hartman

Terris, Joe’s discoverer, now studies geology and paleontology at Montana State University.

A link to the 3-D reconstruction of Joe's skeleton: http://dinosaurjoe.org/joes-bones/digital-joe/joes-skull-reconstruction/

A link to the published article: https://peerj.com/articles/182/#fig-3