It’s every dinosaur lover’s dream: to find a tyrannosaur. While most tyrannosaurs are discovered by trained paleontologists, every once in a while, an amateur makes a big discovery. That’s what happened with Jane. Two volunteers, a homemaker and a language professor, volunteered on a trip for the Burpee Museum of Natural History. What they discovered is still a matter of some controversy. It all started with a toe – a theropod toe – discovered on the last day of a prospecting trip. With no time left to dig out the rest of the area, they took the bone and covered their find. They would have to wait a whole year before they could return to see what lurked beneath the surface of the hill. The next summer, they discovered a tyrannosaur which the Burpee Museum named Jane. But what was Jane? Was she a young Tyrannosaurus rex or an adult Nanotyrannus lancensis?
It’s always amazing to me how a science that studies fossils over 65 million years old can still be evolving and changing so quickly. Fossils that were once thought to be new species are determined to be juvenile specimens of another species (Dracorex, Stygimoloch, and Pachycephalosaurus, for example). It happens the other way around, too, though. Specimens that had been grouped as one species are determined to belong to separate species. And sometimes, paleontologists just don’t know. That may be the most frustrating and intriguing answer of all.
Don’t miss out on our Paleontology Party this Saturday, July 13 at 2:00!
reviewed by Jessica