KENTON — Mark Micozzi wasn't looking for anything in particular while he was digging in the ground near the Black Mesa Nature Preserve last month.
Micozzi, a professor at East Central University in Ada, was part of an excavation project looking for dinosaur bones in the Oklahoma Panhandle. While digging a trench to allow water to drain out of the pit where the crew was working, Micozzi unearthed what looked like a flat, triangular stone.
At first, he wasn't sure what he'd found, he said.
A geographer and cartographer, Micozzi doesn't have a background in paleontology, the study of prehistoric life. So he picked up the stone and asked the other team members what it was. The stone, it turned out, was a fossilized dinosaur tooth.
Although he'd been told to look out for any bones that might turn up while he was digging, Micozzi said he was surprised with what he'd found.
“I was just digging a trench and being careful not to disturb the bones in the area,” he said. “I wasn't expecting a tooth.”
The tooth had belonged to a type of dinosaur called a theropod. That term, which means “beast-footed,” is a broad designation given to a group of large, meat-eating dinosaurs, said Kyle Davies, the fossil preparator at the University of Oklahoma's Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.
That group includes the Tyrannosaurus rex, as well as the Allosaurus and a number of lesser-known dinosaurs, Davies said. The tooth was the first evidence the team had found of a carnivore in the area.
I was just digging a trench and being careful not to disturb the bones in the area. I wasn't expecting a tooth.”