SALT LAKE CITY – A scorpion lived for 15 months without food or water inside the plaster mold of a dinosaur fossil, breaking free only when a scientist broke open the mold.
DeBlieux is still chipping away at the 1,000-pound rock to expose the horned skull of an 80-million-year-old plant eater — a species of dinosaur he says is new to science.
The scorpion "must have been hanging out in a crack the day we plastered him," DeBlieux said Thursday.
He discovered the two-inch critter on Jan. 5 after spending two months carefully removing the plaster mold. DeBlieux said he'll spend more than 500 hours cutting the fossilized skull out of sandstone using tiny pneumatic jackhammers.
It took three and a half years to cut the sandstone block in the field, where researchers encased it with plaster. They moved it by helicopter from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to a laboratory in Salt Lake City.
Under other circumstances, the scorpion might have met an untimely end, but DeBlieux said he wanted to respect the creature's will to survive. He set the scorpion free in a field on the west side of Salt Lake City.