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High school student beat out the experts to discover a baby dinosaur


This is the skeleton of the baby Parasaurolophus nicknamed "Joe."


Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology

The youngest fossil of a baby boneheaded dinosaur ever discovered was spotted by an eagle-eyed teenager in a national park after two professional paleontologists walked right past it.

"It's a little embarrassing to walk by something like that," Andrew Farke, curator of the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology at The Webb Schools told NBC "but he was just in the right place at the right time, looking in the right direction."

The baby Parasaurolophus, a Cretaceous-era herbivore, was discovered by 17-year-old Kevin Terris in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah while on a school field trip in 2009. 

"At first, I was interested in seeing what the initial piece of bone sticking out of the rock was," Terris said in a news release.

Together, Farke and Terris picked at the rock to see what was underneath. 

"When we exposed the skull, I was ecstatic!" Terris told scientists.

Want to hear what a Parasaurolophus sounds like? Listen here.

The young fossil, dubbed "Joe" was uncovered after 1,300 hours of cleaning, chiseling and picking away at the surrounding rock.

The team discovered that "Joe" was under a year old when he died and was already 6 feet long.

The baby had already started to grow a crest bump on its head, suggesting that Parasaurolophus start growing their crests earlier in development than other crested dinosaurs.

"It finally lets us understand how Parasaurolophus evolved that big crest, just by shifting around events in its development," Farke said.

The discovery was announced Tuesday in conjunction with "Joe" going on display at the Alf Museum in Claremont, Calif.

See a 3-D video of what baby "Joe" looked like here.