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Coweta paleontologist discovers new species

BY MICHAEL OVERALL - Tulsa World Modified: February 5, 2009 at 4:34 pm •  Published: January 26, 2009
LAWTON — The temperature hit 102 degrees that day, with the breeze refusing to blow and a relentless sun glaring off the bare limestone of an old quarry in southern Oklahoma.

Tony Morris was digging through a pile of rubble with a busload of other amateur paleontologists from the Tulsa Rock and Mineral Society.

And they were finding a lot of dinosaur bones — most no bigger than a fingernail, easily mistaken for just another rock if they didn’t know what they were looking for.

After a hundred years of blasting, tunneling and strip mining, the fossils are literally strewn across the ground at the site 6 miles north of Lawton, sometimes so easy to find that all Morris had to do was look down.

They were always common fossils of no particular scientific interest.

Until July 23, 2005.

Morris stumbled into a rock about the size of a shoebox, with a single row of teeth protruding from one edge.

"Anyone of us could’ve found it,” he said. "I just happened to be the one.”

No known matches
Back home in Coweta, after getting off work as an accountant, Morris spent every night meticulously chipping away at the rock with a dental pick.

It took a month for the whole skull to emerge. Then Morris began researching what it might be.

"I found several things that looked similar,” Morris says, "but nothing exactly like it.”

Nearly a year later, he made contact with Robert Reisz, chairman of the department of biology at the University of Toronto and senior editor for the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


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