An object that sat as a curio for more than 27 years in a woman's garden has been determined to be the oldest ceratopsian dinosaur fossil ever found in the Western Hemisphere, officials said Friday.
The 18-inch fossil of the so-called horned dinosaur was discovered some 30 years ago by Laverne Sauers of Idaho Falls during a family outing in the Grays Lake area of eastern Idaho."We were out for a drive, and our girls wanted to go fishing, so we stopped near a river," Sauers said. "I went for a walk and just found it." Sauers thought it might be a fossil but never bothered to have it checked.
Scientists at Idaho State University at Pocatello and Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore have determined the fossil is approximately 100-105 million years old.
"It is always nice to push forward the time range of animals. This find provides further data on the evolution of the ceratopsians," said David Weishampel, assistant professor of cell biology and anatomy at Johns Hopkins.
The fossil includes part of the hip region and the first few vertebrae of the tail of a rather small dinosaur.
The specimen is being displayed in an exhibit that opened Thursday in the Current Research Gallery at the Idaho Museum of Natural History on the ISU campus.
Sue Miller, an ISU graduate student and longtime family friend of the Sauers, brought the fossil to scientists' attention.
"When she learned that it could be scientifically important, Laverne donated it to the museum," Miller said. "Laverne is now what you would call a `rockhound.' I use that term affectionately."