By studying baby Joe, scientists were able to determine that the species likely got its crest by starting the growth much earlier on in life than other types of dinosaurs. Upon closer inspection, they found that Joe was under a year old when he died, and still had the beginnings of a crest.
Just as trees reveal their age through rings that accumulate within their trunks, the age of dinosaurs can be tracked by rings that develop within their bones.
When the scientists sliced open the skeleton, they were surprised to find that Joe did not have any growth rings, Farke says.
"It grew from something smaller than a human infant to something six feet long in under 12 months," Farke says. "That's just an incredibly rapid growth rate."
Since the excavation in 2009, Terris has also made another significant discovery with the Alf Museum team, he says. Just last summer, Terris joined the group in southwest Montana and came across the first articulated skeleton of a small squirrel-like mammal.
Don Lofgren, director of the Alf Museum, wrote in a blog post that no one has made such a discovery in more than 100 years of collecting at the famous site of Pipestone Springs, about 20 miles southeast of Butte, Mont.
When looking for fossils, Terris says patience, persistence, and an interest in paleontology are helpful, as many early discoveries can be incomplete.
"I've just always found prehistorical life to be interesting," Terris says. "And the simple reason that dinosaurs are kind of awesome."