"Fossil of Macrocranion" by Momotarou2012 / CC BY-SA 3.0
By Ben Guarino
Seared into the brain of paleontologist Tyler Lyson is the date he cracked open the skull: Sept. 10, 2016.
Before that discovery, Lyson and his colleagues had struck out at Corral Bluffs, Colo., a site worked by fossil hunters since the 1930s. As the hours passed at the end of the field season, with little to show, Lyson recalled a trick he learned from South African paleontologists — look not for bones but for strange rocks. A whitish lump, a blob like a squashed bread loaf, caught his eye.
“I picked it up and cracked it with my rock hammer and broke it in two. And I could see the cross-section of a mammal skull staring back at me,” Lyson, a curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, said at a news conference Tuesday. That mammal, a pig-size herbivore named carsioptychus, lived not long after an asteroid carved a 90-mile-wide crater into Earth and ended the age of the dinosaurs.
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