Two Kansas fossil hunters say they think they found something new while digging in Montana.
Jim Kirkland, a state paleontologist at the Utah Geological Survey, has examined photos of the fossil that Robert and Alan Detrich are uncovering and said it looks like a new type of ankylosaur. The low-slung, heavily armored dinosaurs lived around 65 million years ago and munched on plants.
“This thing is worthy of note. There is no doubt about it,” said Kirkland, who specializes in ankylosaurs. “In my mind it’s clearly a new one.”
The brothers have been digging since May in a fossil-rich area near the town of Jordan. They’ve uncovered the ankylosaur fossil’s skull, part of its leg, ribs, armored plates and some vertebrae.
Kirkland said it appears the creature measured about 30 feet long before its death, making it the biggest ankylosaur he had ever seen. He said typical ankylosaurs were 16 feet long, with one type, the ankylosaurus, measuring 20 feet.
“It’s huge,” said Robert Detrich, who discovered the fossil. “It’s bigger than any of the specialists have seen so far. It’s got everybody pretty excited.”
Kirkland and the Detrich brothers hope a person or institution will step forward to buy the fossil for a museum, which would allow for further study to determine if it is indeed unique. The effort would involve cleaning the fossil and comparing it against related animals to make sure it isn’t just a variation of a previously discovered dinosaur.
Public display in a museum would also allow the brothers to seek naming rights should the fossil prove to be a first. Robert Detrich said, if given the opportunity, he would like to call it “enormasaurus” in honor of his late mother Norma.
“It’s exciting,” Robert Detrich said. “It really is. When he came back and said it’s pretty clearly a new genus, and these guys write papers on ankylosaurs so they know their stuff.”
Robert Detrich, who is from Wichita, and his brother, who lives in Lawrence, plan to return to Kansas in about three weeks. Besides the ankylosaur fossil, the brothers also have been digging up a triceratops fossil.
“It’s been a remarkable summer,” he said.
Alan Detrich is the creative mind behind Detrich Intelligent Designs, billed as “spreading the word about Jesus through art.” His pieces have been displayed in Lawrence during the annual Outdoor Downtown Sculpture Exhibition and at the Lawrence Public Library.
Alan Deitrich says that many of his works, including “Resurrection,” a 6-foot-4 statue of Jesus with a dinosaur curled at his feet, are made from fossil fragments of dinosaurs, which he regards as “God’s earliest creations.”
He says that he’s been searching for such fossils for more than 20 years and that his finds that have sold for millions of dollars and have included a complete Tyrannosaurus rex, located on private land in South Dakota. Some of his finds, he says, have made their way into collections of museums in Vienna, Austria; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Seoul, South Korea; and Tokyo.