The National Guard recently airlifted a rare baby dinosaur fossil, estimated to be 70 million years old, out of "desert wilderness" in northwestern New Mexico, according to museum officials at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
The baby fossil, which is nearly as big a rhinoceros, is of a Pentaceratops, "a five-horned terrestrial dino similar to a Triceratops," according to Spencer Lucas, the museum's chief scientist. Lucas added that in the plaster, the fossil weighed over a ton.
"Baby dinos are so rare to find as fossils, and even more incredible is that this is the first baby fossil of a Pentaceratops ever discovered," Lucas told ABC News today. "When I saw the helicopter carrying it, I was just thinking how this plant-eating dino that used to walk in a New Mexico jungle 70 million years ago is now in the air flying!"
The baby Pentaceratops was first discovered during an excavation in 2011 by Amanda Cantrell, who is the museum's geoscience collections manager and the only female professional paleontologist in the state, Lucas said.
"Basically, we spent a month out in the field, just hiking the outcrop, and one day, I went really far, and I stumbled upon some bones," Cantrell told ABC affiliate KOAT. "You become familiar with what the bones look like, and I saw them from pretty far away and went up to investigate, and sure enough, I saw the skull first."
She added that she's "really anxious to see it back in the lab and find out "how these animals grow."
The fossil will be publicly unveiled next Thursday when museum visitors can watch researchers and scientists take the fossil out of the plaster and rock.