Rare juvenile T. rex discovered by school kids

A rare fossil of a young Tyrannosaurus rex has been found by three small humans in the Hell Creek Badlands of North Dakota, US.

Regardless of who found it, scientists say the T. rex fossil could rewrite our understanding of how these dinosaurs lived.

The discovery has been highlighted in a new documentary called T. REX which is narrated by New Zealand actor Sam Neill – the actor who played  Dr Alan Grant in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 classic Jurassic Park.

Brothers Liam and Jessin Fisher, 7 and 10 years old at the time, and their 9-year-old cousin Kaiden Madsen found the fossil leg bone in 2022.

Three kids with pickaxes in north dakota badlands
Liam Fisher, Kaiden Madsen and Jessin Fisher. Credit: Giant Screen Films.

Initially, they thought it belonged to a common duck-billed dinosaur.

Luckily, the boys’ family friend is Associate Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science Tyler Lyson. They sent a picture to Lyson and 11 months later, the boys and 14-year-old Fisher sister Emalynn joined in the excavation of the specimen.

What they found was a 67-million-year-old teen T. rex.

Juvenile rex specimens are extremely rare,” says Lyson, who found his first dinosaur in the same area at age 6. “This find is significant to researchers because the ‘Teen Rex’ specimen may help answer questions about how the ‘king of dinosaurs’ grew.”

The animal’s shin bone is 82cm, compared to that of a fully grown adult of the species which is about 112cm. “Teen Rex,” as it has been dubbed, would have been about 7.6m in length, 3m tall and 1,600kg.

It is estimated that the T. rex was 13–15 years old when it died.

University of Maryland palaeontologist Thomas Holtz says it’s “remarkable” to think that T. rex grew from kitten-sized hatchlings to 13m-long animals weighing upwards of 3 tonnes.

“Scientists can really only speculate on how ‘Teen Rex’ might have lived and behaved, so discoveries like this one have the potential to provide important new information about those earlier life stages, when fastest growth likely occurred,” Holtz adds.

“We never could have planned the inspiring story that unfolded in front of the cameras,” says the documentary’s producer and writer Andy Wood. “Kids finding any large dinosaur is remarkable, but as the shoot progressed, the team realized that we were witnessing something even more rare – a truly historic T. rex discovery. It’s been a real thrill.” 

“This is more than just a documentary – it’s a chance for families to experience the thrill of discovery through the eyes of these young explorers in a format that makes you feel like you’re right there with them,” says co-director and writer David Clark.

The film will be premiere beginning June 21 at theatres in more than 100 cities around the world, including at Melbourne Museum’s IMAX theatre.

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