In Denver, Colorado, it’s not uncommon for construction workers to unearth reptilian fossils that are tens of millions of years old.
A recent dinosaur excavation near a south Denver retirement community that began last May was reason for excitement even by Denver standards.
A team of paleontologists from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science appeared at the site in Highlands Ranch after getting a call from Brinkmann Contractors, a construction company working there. They had informed the experts about what they had stumbled upon and gave them permission to extract the bones for further study.
The scientists then unearthed a “horned” dinosaur, which they have now confirmed to be a triceratops, from the bedrock. The rock layer of the dig site dates back some 68 million years.
Our scientists love discovering new fossils, especially when they're local! The Museum's annual charity event, Museum…
As the team began to carefully expose the find, it got pretty exciting; they began pulling huge fossils from the ground. The find consisted of a partial skeleton of an adult triceratops, and a pretty big one at that—definitely an exciting prospect for the team.
The excavation took several weeks—far longer than expected, and was still underway as late as last week—as they kept finding more and more bones. Among these were several ribs, an arm and a leg bone, as well as the ancient animal’s brain case.
“It’s always exciting to get a call about possible fossils, and I can’t wait to share more details as we continue to dig,” said Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the museum, in a press release.
“Finds like this, while relatively rare, are a great reminder of how dynamic our planet is and how much more there is out there to discover.”
Construction crews made a historic discovery when they unearthed dinosaur fossils near a retirement community in Highlands Ranch. https://t.co/gMWepvXG2Z
— FOX31 Denver KDVR (@KDVR) May 21, 2019
Despite an underground aquifer and unrelenting rain, the team managed to package the very heavy bones in plaster-cast “jackets” for transportation with minimal disturbance to the specimens. The fossils are now in the capable hands of the museum staff.
Denver is a known “hot spot” for dinosaur fossils—especially the triceratops. The likelihood of stumbling on more skeletons is high, say scientists, according to CNN.
Another horned lizard was found at a construction site in 2017. The specimen was a torosaurus—very similar to the triceratops except for one bone, said Natalie Toth, one of the scientists at the recent Highlands Ranch site.
During construction of Coors’ Field in the early 90s, Denver construction workers also stumbled on a 7-foot-long, 1,000-pound (approx. 454-kilogram) triceratops skull, as well as several other dinosaur skeletons.
For this reason, “Jurassic Park” was one of the first names for the stadium to be considered. The triceratops did make its appearance as the Rockies’ mascot Dinger.