BISMARCK — A California college student who found a 65-million-year-old Triceratops skull in the North Dakota Badlands made state and national news several days ago.
"Finding good skulls is difficult," said Clint Boyd, senior paleontologist with the North Dakota Geological Survey.
He said Triceratops are rather common in the Hell Creek Formation and finding bones of the Triceratops in various places is not unusual.
The formation stretches over portions of North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Boyd said about a dozen Triceratops skulls have been found in the state. These are the result of work by the N.D. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service and others.
The North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum in Bismarck has an exhibit on the Triceratops in its Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time. Other places with Triceratops skulls displayed include the University of North Dakota and the Badlands Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson.
The Barnes County Historical Society Museum in Valley City has on display Gundy, an 18-foot replica of a fossilized Triceratops found in the Hell Creek Formation in South Dakota. Gundy replaces Bob, a 26-foot-long Triceratops, displayed at the museum for a time. Bob was found in the Hell Creek Formation in southwest North Dakota and considered the largest or one of the largest and most complete Triceratops ever found.
Sixty-five million years ago, western North Dakota was a large delta with Triceratops and other dinosaurs plus other exotic animals living in subtropical environment.
The Triceratops was one of the largest and heaviest of the plant-eating horned dinosaurs. It would be larger than the biggest African elephant today, growing to 30 feet long and weighing as much as 5 tons, according to North Dakota Geological Survey information. The Triceratops' most distinguishing feature was its huge skull with imposing horns and large bone frill.
Harrison Duran, a biology student at the University of California-Merced, made the discovery of the Triceratops skull when he was working with Michael Kjelland, a professor at Mayville State University, at a dig site on private land in the Badlands in June. The skull has been given the name "Alice," according to news reports.
The N.D. Geological Survey, with headquarters in Bismarck, conducts fossil digs usually from late June through mid-August. For more information visit the N.D. Geological Survey website at https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/digs/.