Three Young Boys Discover Rare Tyrannosaurus Rex Fossil While on a Hike

Juvenile T. rex discovery in the Badlands

Dr. Tyler Lyson and the fossil finders Liam Fisher, Kaiden Madsen, and Jessin Fisher sit on top of the helicopter net ahead of the Black Hawk helicopter extraction. (Photo: Rick Wicker)

When Sam Fisher took his two young sons and their 11-year-old cousin on a hike in the Badlands of North Dakota, he was probably expecting a day of sightseeing and light exercise. What he could not have forseen, however, was the group stumbling upon the remains of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex that had lived millions of years ago. Their find, which occurred in 2022, was deemed an “incredible discovery” by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and will soon be on display at the museum.

The group of amateur paleontologists, including Fisher's sons Jessin, 12, and Liam, 9, were surely excited by their discovery, but also handled the fossil with all the reverence it deserved. Fisher sent a photo of the find to his old high school classmate, Dr. Tyler Lyson, a paleontologist and curator of vertebrate paleontology with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and asked for advice. The following summer, Dr. Lyson arrived on the site with the family as well as a skilled team to excavate the fossil. Together, they were able to unearth the remains of a teenage Tyrannosaurus Rex, with all parties pitching in and contributing to the dig.

It is rare to find intact Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, and even more rare to find the remains of a juvenile, so Dr. Lyson was thrilled when he realized what they had unearthed. The fossil, which has since been dubbed “Teen Rex,” is estimated to have been between 12 and 14 years old at the time of death. Even though it was still growing, the dinosaur already weighed 3,500 pounds and was 25 feet long, though these impressive measurements still put it at about half the size of a fully developed T. rex.

“By going outside and embracing their passions and the thrill of discovery, these boys have made an incredible dinosaur discovery that advances science and deepens our understanding of the natural world,” says Dr. Lyson. “I'm excited for Museum guests to dig into the “Teen Rex Discovery” experience, which I think will inspire the imagination and wonder, not only our community, but around the world!” 

The fossil will be on display as part of the temporary Discovering Teen Rex exhibition, which opens at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on June 12, 2024. In addition to the exhibition, the museum will also be screening a new 40-minute documentary T. REX, that captures the remarkable story.

A group of teens discovered a rare juvenile T. rex fossil while on a hike in the Badlands of North Dakota.

Juvenile T. rex discovery in the Badlands

The trio of fossil finders, Kaiden Madsen, Liam Fisher, and Jessin Fisher, pose in front of their latest find. Their father, Sam Fisher, texted this photo to his high school classmate Dr. Tyler Lyson, setting the stage for this remarkable story of discovery. (Photo: Sam Fisher)

Their dad reached out to his former high school classmate, Dr. Tyler Lyson, who is now a paleontologist and asked for advice.

Juvenile T. rex discovery in the Badlands

Photo: Natalie Toth

Teens find T. Rex fossil

Photo: Dr. Kirk Johnson

The following summer, Dr. Lyson brought a group to join the family and excavate the fossil.

Juvenile T. rex discovery in the Badlands

Photo: Dr. Tyler R. Lyson

Juvenile T. rex discovery in the Badlands

Photo: Dr. Tyler R. Lyson

Over the course of 11 days, they extracted about 30% of the dinosaur's skeleton.

Photo of juvenile T. rex fossils found in South Dakota

Illustration of what bones were found (highlighted in blue) during the excavation of Teen Rex. Museum scientists are hopeful more of the skeleton is preserved. (Photo: Scott Harman)

The fossils were wrapped in a large plaster jacket and transported back to the museum.

Transporting dinosaur bone

Dr. Tyler Lyson, lead scientist, supervises the readjustment of the large 6000 lbs field jacket on the trailer. (Photo: Rick Wicker)

Paleontologists believe the juvenile was between 12 and 14 years old when it died.

Artistic drawing of a juvenile T Rex

Reconstruction of the ancient 67 million year old landscape of North Dakota with a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex (Teen Rex). (Photo: Andrey Atuchin (artist) and Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

Now the public can watch as scientists continue their study of “Teen Rex” in a special exhibit at the Denber Museum of Nature & Science.

Cutting a plaster cast off of a fossil

Denver Museum of Nature & Science preparator Salvador Bastien uses an angle grinder to cut open the field jacket containing a juvenile T. rex. (Photo: Rick Wicker)

Denver Museum of Nature & Science: Website | Instagram
h/t: [Yahoo]

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Sarah Currier

Sarah Currier is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Based in central Iowa, she is currently enrolled at Iowa State University and is working toward a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in English. She loves all things creative, and when she’s not writing, you can find her immersed in the worlds of television, film, and literature.
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