HARRISBURG, Pa. -- For 11 years, Kevin Dermody had volunteered his time in the State Museum of Pennsylvania, laboring over a hulking chunk of mudstone in the exhibit area, chipping away with tiny tools as visitors watched him work.
Over time, he exposed a jagged panorama of fragile bones hundreds of millions of years old, excavated from a quarry in New Mexico rich in remnants of prehistoric life. To Dermody and others who devote themselves to solving the mysteries of the ancients, the fossils were routine -- all from well-documented species of dinosaurs.
All along, it turns out, the find of a lifetime was there in the mudstone, right under Dermody's nose.
While chipping away one day in 2004, he exposed the skull and neck of a curious creature with razor-sharp protruding teeth and a stubby snout. He went to his boss, Bob Sullivan. "The teeth, the eye sockets, the snout were different than the dinosaur remains excavated from that site," said Sullivan, senior curator of paleontology at the State Museum. "We had something unique."