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What big teeth you found: Winona State showcases new dinosaur fossils

October 21, 2016:

by Kyle Farris

Winona State University has added two fossilized dinosaur teeth — from a Dakotaraptor and a Tyrannosaurus — to its collection of prehistoric remains.

The discoveries were made in North Dakota this summer during an excavation by Winona State students and Hell Creek Fossils, a paleontology company owned and operated by school alums.

The fossils were put on display Wednesday, National Fossil Day, inside the school’s Science Laboratory Center, where students gathered to study the fossils for course assignments.

“It’s always exciting when you uncover a new fossil,” said Lee Beatty, a professor in Winona State’s geoscience department. “You realize these teeth have been buried for 66 million years. We were the first people to see them.”

The Dakotaraptor tooth is particularly rare, given the dinosaur was officially identified last year, and that paleontologists have constructed only a small fraction of its skeleton.

The tooth itself is maybe an inch long and knife-like, intended to rip through flesh.

The Tyrannosaurus tooth is maybe two inches long and banana-like, intended to chomp through bone.

Teeth tend to be more common than bones in the dinosaur fossil record, Beatty said, because dinosaurs were constantly losing teeth and growing them back.

“They were like sharks,” he said. “If a tooth happened to break, another would grow in its place.”

These fossils are among the school’s most significant paleontological discoveries.

Experts have only recently begun to visually construct the Dakotaraptor — a bird-like creature that could grow nearly 20 feet tall. Roaming what is now the Dakotas, it was a fierce predator similar to the fictionalized raptors that appeared in “Jurassic Park.”

The Tyrannosaurus tooth is notable in part because it was found among the bones of a triceratops.

Beatty said it is not clear whether the Tyrannosaurus killed or feasted on the Triceratops, but that Hell Creek Fossils was looking into the possibility, checking the Triceratops bones for bite marks consistent with Tyrannosaurus teeth.

It is also possible, Beatty said, that these dinosaurs lived in different places at different times, their remains brought together by the natural forces of the Earth.



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