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4-Year-Old Texas Boy Finds 100-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Bones

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Laurie Holloway/Dallas Zoo
Scientists will study rare dinosaur bones found by now 5-year-old Wylie Brys and his dad, Tim.

A Dallas Zookeeper went on a fossil hunt with his little boy at a construction site in Mansfield. And the 4-year-old picked up what turned out to be a dinosaur bone – likely 100 million years old. On Wednesday, scientists found another key bone.

Wylie Brys and his dad Tim were digging through the dirt, just looking for some shark teeth last August when it happened.

"My son walked ahead of me and walked back with a chunk of bone that looked like rib bone," Brys says. 

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Credit Laurie Holloway/Dallas Zoo
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Wylie Brys, now 5-years-old, discovered a bone in a construction site behind a Mansfield shopping center.

A few inches long, it was a bit moist and a purplish gray. The bone, experts say, is likely 100 million years old.

For a kid who still counts half-birthdays, that many years is hard to imagine.

“I don’t think he completely understands what’s going on," said Brys, a zookeeper who works with reptiles at the Dallas Zoo. "He’s just as interested in as playing in the dirt as the fossils, I think.”

What Brys and his kid uncovered behind a Mansfield shopping center is thought to be part of a group of dinosaurs called Nodosaurs. They're plant-eating animals that are built a little like tanks.

“They’re these little armored, squatty-looking animals, relatively broad body with armor in their skin,” says Mike Polcyn, director of SMU's Digital Earth Sciences Lab.

Polcyn has been working at the dig site, preparing the bones to be moved. Just when the team thought they'd uncovered it all, Polcyn says, they unearthed the Nodosaur’s upper leg bone. 

Polcyn says finding a dinosaur in Texas is rare – and even rarer in the type of rock the two were sifting through. The tan earth is actually shallow marine sediment, from a time when this part of Texas was underwater.  

“So this is a dinosaur carcass [that's] happened to float out to sea and sank in the ocean," Polcyn says. "So you’d expect to find marine animals of course, but finding a dinosaur here was quite rare.”

What’s left of the dinosaur, including that first-found rib, the femur and toe bones is being moved to SMU's laboratory where it will be analyzed by paleontologists, who are a bit older than little Wylie Brys.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.