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High-school student finds baby duck-billed dino fossil

The skeleton packs a lot of superlatives, as the smallest, youngest and most complete duck-billed dinosaur of its kind ever found.

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The paleontologists realized they had an amazing example of a baby Parasaurolophus on their hands. Even better, they were able to sample the baby's leg bone. As dinosaur bones grow, they develop ring patterns, much like trees.

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"It didn't have any rings at all," Farke said of "Joe." "So what that shows is that this animal was under a year old when it died."

The infant dinosaur was already 6 feet (1.8 meters) long, however, an impressive feat when you consider that duck-billed dinos hatched at about the same size as a human infant. The fact that "Joe" was already sprouting a crest bump so young suggests that Parasaurolophus started growing its crest earlier than other duck-billed dinosaurs.

"It finally lets us understand how Parasaurolophus evolved that big crest, just by shifting around events in its development," Farke said.

"Joe" will go on display at the Alf museum beginning today (Oct. 22) to coincide with a publication about the discovery in the journal PeerJ. A digital exploration of the skeleton will also be available at dinosaurjoe.com.

As for Terris, the student who found the little duck-bill, he's now in college, studying geology, Farke said.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook & Google+. Original article onLiveScience.

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