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Jul 15, 2013 09:23 AM EDT

ECU Professor Discovers a Dinosaur Tooth Fossil in Oklahoma Panhandle

The summit of Black Mesa, highest point in Oklahoma
(Photo : Gilderien) The summit of Black Mesa, highest point in Oklahoma

Dr.Mark Micozzi, a professor at East Central University Department of Cartography and Geography, discovered a dinosaur tooth fossil during an excavation project at the Black Mesa Nature Preserve last month. While digging a ditch to allow water to drain out of a pit at the site, Micozzi found a flat, triangular stone, which later turned out to be a dinosaur's tooth.

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 "I was just digging a trench and being careful not to disturb the bones in the area," Micozzi said. "I wasn't expecting a tooth."

Kyle Davies, the fossil preparator at the University of Oklahoma's Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History said that the tooth belongs to 'theropod,' - which is otherwise known as 'beast-footed,' or 'large, meat-eating dinosaur.' The theropod dinosaurs are known to have strong hind legs and short front limbs.

The discovery of the tooth, near Kenton, Okla., in the far north-western corner of the panhandle, is the first confirmation of a carnivore in the area. It was the also the first paleontological find for Micozzi.

Davies, who was also part of the dig, said that it is uncommon to unearth any kind of vertebrate fossils. But researchers can expect more theropod teeth as they are known to continuously shed their teeth and grow replacements.

The excavation project was part of Explorology, a program that provides students and teachers opportunities to participate in field-based scientific research. The program also aims to expose students to the adventures of discovering something in the field.

"The thrill of discovery just overwhelmed me," Micozzi said. "It really hooked me, and now I'm really excited to go back."

On the other side of the hemisphere, researchers in Japan also unearthed two pieces of fossilized carnivorous dinosaur teeth in an 84-million-year-old layer of rock at the Mitsuze Formation on the Nagasaki Peninsula.

According to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum and the Nagasaki City Board of Education, the fossils are believed to belong to a large theropod dinosaur measuring more than 7 meters long.

One of the fossilized teeth measures 35 millimeters long and 27 millimeters wide, with nearly half of the base remaining.

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