Tyler Lyson

Tyler Lyson is the discoverer of the dinosaur fossil Dakota, a fossilized mummified hadrosaur.

Lyson received his bachelor's degree in biology from Swarthmore College[1][2] in 2006, and received a scholarship to study for his PhD in paleontology at Yale University.[3] Having completed his studies there, Lyson is, as of 2016, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

In 1999, Lyson discovered the Dakota dinosaur specimen while exploring the Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota, on his uncle's ranch. The find is unique since the fossilized remains include skin and other soft tissues in a non-collapsed state, while a very few other finds have occurred where petrified soft tissue has been preserved, but in a collapsed or crushed state.

Lyson’s general research interests are focused around his field work in the Late Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation of southwestern North Dakota. He is currently working on two sites from this area: a large population of baenid turtles from a single locality and an exceptionally well-preserved hadrosaur dinosaur. Lyson is interested in the intraspecies variation found in baenid turtles and how this influences the interrelationships of the clade. Ultimately he plans to integrate this research with a more broad scale phylogenetic analysis of the transition of all turtle groups across the K/T boundary to determine the pattern of survival and extinction around this boundary. Lyson is also interested in soft tissue preservation found in dinosaurs. He plans to work on the recently collected hadrosaur dinosaur that has most of its integument preserved to determine how the soft tissue was preserved.

Lyson's work has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Good Morning America. He is also the co-founder with Harold Hanks of the Marmarth Research Foundation, located in his hometown and which provides volunteers with hands-on field and lab work on fossils. In 2015, Lyson appeared, as a paleontologist, in the PBS documentary film, Making North America.

Lyson examined a fossil found years before by Sharon Milito, a volunteer with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and cataloged in the museum's collection. The specimen mammal palate was found above the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary at Corral Bluffs, Colorado and was embedded in a concretion. Lyson and his colleagues subsequently hunted for fossils embedded in concretions and made unprecedented finds dating to the rise of mammals. [4][5][6]


  1. ^ "Mummified Dinosaur Found by Tyler Lyson '06 Is Ready for Its Closeup". Swarthmore College.
  2. ^ Charles Q. Choi (2005-09-11). "Digging Up Dinosaur Bones in the Fossil-Rich Badlands". New York Times.
  3. ^ Marina Lima (2006-04-20). "T-Rexes and Raptors and Pterodactyls, oh my! College Corner with Tyler Lyson". The Daily Gazette (of Swarthmore College).
  4. ^ Stephen Chester, Will Clyde, Karen Cuevas, Anjali goswami, Kirk Johnson, Tyler Lyson, Gussie MacCracken, Robert Masek, Sharon Milito, Ian Miller, Neil Shubin, Aeon Way-Smith, Lindsay Zanno. "Rise of the Mammals". Nova. Season 46. Episode 17. HHMI Tangled Bank Studios for WGBH Boston. Retrieved 1 November 2019. It was absolutely a light bulb moment.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ "NOVA: Rise Of The Mammals". KPBS Public Media, San Diego. Retrieved 1 November 2019. “This story about the recovery of life reminds us of the incredible tenacity of life on Earth. It also reveals a different kind of tenacity — that of the dogged persistence of the scientists and volunteers who worked so hard to make this discovery,” said NOVA Co-Executive Producer Chris Schmidt. “Now, thanks to them,we have a vivid picture of how our scorched planet came back to life.”
  6. ^ Seth Boster. "Unprecedented fossil discovery near Colorado Springs dates back 66 million years". Colorado Springs Gazette: Cheyenne Edition. “You find one, there has to be more,” Lyson recalled thinking. And he thought back to some of his digs in South Africa. There, it wasn’t about following bits of bone — easy to do at Corral Bluffs — but instead about cracking concretions, particular egg-shaped rocks.There amid the bluffs Lyson spotted one. He took his hammer to it. “And I could see the cross section of a mammal skull staring back at me,” he said. “I was immediately yelling at Ian. ‘I just found a skull! Get over here!’ “And he and the volunteers came running over. We just had this moment where we were all just celebrating.”