Children Discovering Dinosaur Bones
Much has been discovered in the mysterious world of dinosaurs since British paleontologist William Buckland unearthed the very first fossils in 1819. The first of its kind, William took five years to officially identify his findings. With nearly 25% of children digging up their backyards to illustrate their keen interest in the world of dinosaurs, an obsession with dinosaurs is far from archaic. It has become a common interest in many childhoods.
Approximately 1,000 dinosaur species have been discovered over the years. 75% of these findings were discovered by regular people. It’s not surprising that some of the 11,000 fossil contributions were actually unearthed by children. With the everchanging landscapes, erosion of various rock layers allows for the possibility of more fossil discoveries to be made.
The Young Dinosaur Buff
Studies have shown that children with specific interests, such as dinosaurs, in earlier childhood are more likely to exhibit above-average intelligence, an extended attention span, increased levels of perseverance, and sharpened information-processing abilities. Since children learn through play, including fantasy play, the idea that children develop a fascination for the elusive dinosaur isn’t surprising. Most children possess a sense of wonder and are more inclined to believe that the bone in the soil is actually a dinosaur. Adults are much more skeptical.
Six Pint-Sized Palaeontologists
Read on to discover who unearthed some interesting dinosaur fossils across the globe.
Diego Suarez – A Forest Find
At the turn of the century, seven-year-old Diego Suarez came across two vertebrae fragments while playing in the Chilean forests of South America. Due to their location in the Chilean Patagonia Mountain range, paleontologists compared the bones to other fossilized findings in the area. The vertebrae gave rise to a new dinosaur species. With a body akin to a puma cat and a head like a guanaco, the Chilesaurus deigosuarezi has similar hands to the Tyrannosaurus rex and does not use its forearms for hunting other animals.
Wiley Brys – The Jurassic Discovery
In September 2014, a zookeeper in Mansfield, Texas, U.S.A., decided to take his five-year-old son on a fossil hunt. There was an area under construction nearby, and this seemed like the perfect spot to look for fossils. In particular, marine fossils, as the area had been underwater millions of years ago during the Jurassic period.
Wiley discovered a decent-size bone and his father immediately thought it could be an interesting find, although the discovery of dinosaur bones is a rarity in the area. Estimated to be about 100 million years old, this discovery led scientists to find other fossilized femur and phalanges in the area. The bones are thought to be from a Nodosaur – this 18-foot land-dwelling herbivore is a cousin of the Ankylosaurus.
The Watt Family – The Desert Dinosaur
Every year, the Watt family took a vacation to the San Rafael Desert in Utah to enjoy rock-hounding activities. In 2013, their trip surpassed their wildest expectations. This particular area in Utah is renowned for its variety of fossils. The Watts family stumbled across multiple vertebrae and black bones. Still joined together in its original form, it was, in fact, an articulated skeleton.
Paleontologists commended the family for not attempting to unearth the bones themselves. Additional exposure to the elements may have damaged the discovery. This long-necked partial skeleton was identified as a sauropod, a herbivorous, four-legged dinosaur known to reach heights of up to 60 feet.
Zhang Yangzhe – An ‘Eggciting’ Excavation
In 2019, on the banks of the Dong River in Heyuan, China, nine-year-old Zhang Yangzhe and his mother set off on a mission to find something that could crack walnuts. An avid dinosaur fan who was a regular visitor to the local dinosaur museum, Yangtze couldn’t believe his luck when he discovered a fossilized dinosaur egg dating back 66 million years!
Initially, Zhang thought it was a stone, but he recognized the swirl-like pattern as a possible dinosaur egg on closer inspection. Scientists were notified, conducted a more thorough inspection, and unearthed a further 10 fossilized eggs. Measuring about 3.5 inches in length, these eggs belong to the Late Cretaceous Period, just before dinosaur extinction occurred.
Nathan Hrushkin – The Hadrosaur Hike
Being a budding paleontologist, twelve-year-old Nathan Hrishkin knew there was something special about the bones he found while hiking with his dad in Horseshoe Canyon, Alberta, Canada, in July 2020. Scientists confirmed his suspicions – he had discovered a three to four-year-old duck-billed dinosaur, the Hadrosaur.
Since this was a rare find for the area, paleontologists canvassed the area and unearthed over 30 bones in the canyon wall. Belonging to the same Hadrosaur, the bones are believed to be approximately 69 million years old. The particular rock layer where this discovery was unearthed is not commonplace for dinosaur bones to be found, making this a rare find indeed.
Lily Wilder – A Fascinating Footprint
Last year, four-year-old Lily Walker took a walk on Bendrick’s Bay in Wales and discovered a mysterious footprint on a rock formation. An avid fan of the T-Rex, Lily did not realize the magnitude of her finding. With 220 million-year-old rock formations, Hendricks Bay has been the location of fossilized footprints in the past.
Measuring four inches, this well-preserved footprint was left by a Grallator – a carnivorous dinosaur that roamed on two legs. This particular Grallator was probably eight feet in length and 30 inches high. The detail of the footprint is exquisite, with intricate details of the foot joints and muscles.
If you’re interested in being the next fossil finder, read on for some tips on how to make your first dinosaur bone discovery:
Brush up on your geology
Outdoor areas blanketed in vegetation or leveled fields are not common places for fossil findings. Keep an eye on areas of erosion, e.g., a hillside, gravel pits, mountain tops, escarpment outcrops, riverbanks, and beaches. Remember to revisit previous locations as weather conditions such as rain and snow can trigger erosion patterns, allowing possible discoveries. Different fossils are found in different places. Having a thorough understanding of different rock formations will help with your search.
Although being a fossil finder can be a solitary pursuit, there are many amateur paleontologists out there. Make an effort to join a relevant club or society in your area. This will help you to share information and hone your amateur paleontology skills. You can also find out the laws and restrictions regarding unearthing fossils in your specific location.
Know the procedure
Finding a fossil is just the beginning! If you happen to discover a bone from yesteryear, you’ll need to know what steps to follow. Always take multiple photos and include an object to illustrate the fossil’s scale. Take detailed notes of the site’s geographical location with the help of Google Earth or a GPS. Report the finding to the relevant authorities immediately. And, most importantly, make every attempt not to disturb the fossil.
According to scientists, at least 9,000 dinosaur specimens are still waiting to be discovered. An average of 14 full specimens are located annually, and it’s been calculated that half of the undiscovered dinosaur bones will be discovered by 2037. So, whether you are young or old, if the thought of unearthing remnants of these ancient beasts appeals to you, it’s now time to start your fossil-finding mission.