Forget fearing the Terps. The area around what is now the University of Maryland campus may once have been home to more formidable creatures: Dinosaurs.
The fossil of an armored dinosaur known as a nodosaur was discovered in College Park, scientists at Johns Hopkins University announced this week. The fossil belongs to a hatchling that lived an estimated 112 million years ago.
Scientists said this is the smallest nodosaur ever found. If this baby dino had lived to grow to full size, it would have been a heavy-bodied plant-eater with a combination of flat and spiky plates — perfect for spearing enemies — down its back.
The prehistoric find was unearthed in 1997 by a local dinosaur tracker, Ray Stanford, but scientists only recently made the news public, publishing their findings in the Sept. 9 issue of the Journal of Paleontology.
According to the study, there has been an uptick in the number of dinosaur footprints discovered in Maryland and Virginia creek and river beds, but the hatchling’s discovery is unique.
This is “the first direct evidence of a dinosaur hatchling and, deductively, nesting, on the entire eastern seaboard,” said researchers.
Stanford, who found the fossil in a creekbed, donated the fossil to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where it is now on public display in a small case dedicated to local dinosaur discoveries.