UC Merced student helps unearth 65 million-year-old triceratops skull

A triceratops skull, named Alice, is now comfortably residing in a North Dakota lab. But a visit to UC Merced could be in its future.

A UC Merced undergraduate student helped unearth a 65 million year old triceratops skull in North Dakota, the university announced Wednesday.

Harrison Duran, a fifth-year biology student at UC Merced, joined forces with Michael Kjelland – a biology professor at Mayville State University in North Dakota – on a two-week dig at the Hell Creek Formation.


The Hell Creek Formation is a well-known geological site home to many fossils.

During their dig, Duran and Kjelland discovered the partial skull of a 65 million-year-old triceratops. The pair dubbed the triceratops skull Alice after the owner of the property where they discovered it.

“I can’t quite express my excitement in that moment when we uncovered the skull,” Duran told UC Merced officials. “I’ve been obsessed with dinosaurs since I was a kid, so it was a pretty big deal.”

Full excavation of the skull took a week at Hell Creek. Ultimately, Alice was transported to Kjelland’s lab at Mayville State.

The ultimate goal of the skull is to rotate its display at a variety of locations to ensure the public is exposed to the find.

While Alice’s future is still to-be-determined, Duran and Kjelland plan to create a cast of the skull that can be displayed at UC Merced.

The larger hope is to bring the real deal to the campus.

“It would be amazing for UC Merced to be able to display Alice on campus,” Duran told the university. “It’s such a rare opportunity to showcase something like this, and I’d like to share it with the campus community.”

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