By Tim Leeds
A renowned dinosaur expert from Malta is the next guest at the Heritage Center Celebrity Luncheon series.
Nate Murphy, a second-generation paleontologist and curator of paleontology at the Phillips County Museum, will appear at noon Wednesday in the third-floor courtroom in the Heritage Center.
Murphy discovered his first tyrannosaurus rex in 1966 and has helped excavate seven tyrannosaurus rex finds during his career. He began his position at the museum in 1992.
Murphy discovered Elvis, a 95 percent complete brachylophosaurus, on Oct. 14, 1994. The 32-foot-long fossil, on display in the Phillips County Museum courtesy of a loan agreement with the federal Bureau of Land Management, was found about 15 miles north of Malta. It is considered the most complete dinosaur ever found in Montana.
The tradition of the Judith River Dinosaur Institute, which Murphy founded in 1994, is that the person who discovers a dinosaur gets to name the find.
The 77 million-year-old Elvis is even more unusual because it is the first three-dimensional hadrosaur, the family of duck-billed dinosaurs brachylophosaurus belonged to, ever discovered. Most dinosaur skeletons have been crushed by tons of earth, distorting their bones. Elvis' skeleton was quickly covered by and filled with sand, and it is so well-preserved that tendons and ligaments are visible.
The fossil was moved to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman for study and preparation. Scientists used a three-dimensional laser scanner to create a computer model and determine details of the animal's movements.
Murphy formed the Judith River Dinosaur Institute with the goal to preserve paleontological resources. The institute works with museums, universities and private and public land management agencies to identify, research and preserve paleontological sites. It offers the opportunity for people to participate in excavations at sites every year.
Murphy was part of an international team, assembled by the National Geographic society in 1996, to excavate giganotasourus in Argentina. Giganotasaurus is the largest meat-eating dinosaur found to date, even larger than tyrannosaurus rex.
People interested in attending the luncheon, which costs $15, are asked to call 265-7258 to make reservations.