Sep 17, 2015 | By Tess

Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

A new species of dinosaur has been discovered in the Judith River Formation in Montana by paleontologists from The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park.

The dinosaur, unofficially nicknamed "Ava" is an herbivore that would have existed during the Late Cretaceous Period around 75 million years ago and lived in the Western Interior. The new species has yet to be officially named, but the excitement around its discovery is palpable, as finding new dinosaur species is a rare occurrence for paleontologists. For the Triebold Paleontology firm responsible for uncovering Ava, and who have been digging up fossils for 24 years, this is only the third or fourth new species they have ever found.

The nickname "Ava" was given initially because the paleontologists believed they had found the bones of an Avaceratops, but upon uncovering more, discovered distinct differences from the latter species, notably that there was no horned nose. As the curator at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center Anthony Maltese observes, "It doesn't have a horn on its nose and the shape of the head and body are different. The shape of the horns and the way they face also make it unique"

What is especially remarkable about the find is that nearly 85% of the dinosaur's bones were excavated, meaning that the paleontologists were able to get an almost full skeleton of the newly discovered species. Over the course of four months, a team of paleontologists worked to dig up the bones and in the end, over 200 individual bones were uncovered. After the excavation, the bones were carefully transported to the Triebold Paleontology Laboratory at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, where they were restored, molded and cast. In order to complete the skeleton, the scientists employed digital mirror-imaging and 3D printing methods.

(Photo: Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center)

Anthony Maltese explains of the process, "It takes a mirror image and puts it in the computer and we can print it out and use it to make molds without any human error."

Triebold Paleontology, Inc., founded in 1989, has been molding and casting dinosaur fossils for over two decades and over 150 museums worldwide feature their impeccable skeleton casts in their exhibits. They were the first to begin the molding and casting process for fossils and their method is trusted and gives results of the highest quality. Using 3D laser scanning technology, Triebold Paleontology has been able to replicate dinosaur fossils and bones without physically handling the delicate materials. In Ava's case, they were able to digitally mirror some of the bones that had been dug up in order to make models for the missing pieces of the skeleton.

Triebold Paleontology Lab Molding and Casting process

The still unofficially named "Ava" is a small dinosaur, likely only four years old, measuring 3.5m (11.5 feet) lengthwise and 1.3m (4.25 feet) heightwise, and bears an unmistakable Triceratops-shaped skull. Its long tail takes up almost 30% of its body and has a body shape similar to that of a two or three year old rhinoceros. Ava most likely comes from the Ceratopsian family of dinosaurs.

Owner of Triebold Paleontology, Inc. Mike Triebold, who has been working on uncovering the skeleton since 2012, has said that the original fossilized bones will be given to a museum or similar institution, and that the first model cast from the bones will join The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center's touring exhibition "Darwin and the Dinosaurs". For now, Ava's skeleton will remain on display at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center until October 9th.

It is not the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to help scientists and paleontologists further their understanding and research of dinosaur fossils. In 2012, for instance, fossils of dinosaur skeletons were 3D scanned and printed in miniature in order to create robotic dinosaur models. And in 2013, German scientists used CT scans and 3D printing in order to unobtrusively recreate a fossil that had been stored in protective plaster for years.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Matt Christopher wrote at 9/18/2015 11:30:45 PM:

I see you can buy the original fossil here for just over half-a-million dollars:

Gabriel wrote at 9/17/2015 7:48:44 PM:

Very Interesting

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