updated 11/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/02/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST
Christopher's discovery came on Nov. 11, 1996, when he and his parents, Douglas, 39, a paleontologist at Mesa (Ariz.) Southwest Museum, and Hazel, 39, an educational consultant, went fossil hunting in the Zuni Basin near the Arizona-New Mexico border. "I just started walking and looked down at the ground and saw something," says Christopher, now 9, a third grader at Kyrene Monte Vista Elementary School in Phoenix. "I picked it up and said, 'Hey, dad, is this a bone?' and he said, 'Yeah.' "
Soon he and his father found enough other dinosaur parts to make Douglas suspect that they had something unusual: the fossilized bones of a hitherto-unknown species of ceratopsian, a horned dinosaur. "I just walked out of there with my hands on my head, going, 'This can't be true, this can't be true,' " says Christopher, an only child whose non-paleontological interests run to karate and soccer. "I told all my friends at school, but a lot of them didn't believe me at first."
They should have. Christopher's dinosaur, in fact, was of a species never before seen and 20 million years older than any horned dinosaur previously found in North America. For Christopher, though, the best part ("the coolest feeling," he says) was the dinosaur's name: Zuniceratops christopheri. "It's not often you get to name a new species," says Douglas, who researched the find for two years, "and this was my way to immortalize how I feel about my son."