Wylie Brys was 4 when he discovered a 100 million-year-old dinosaur fossil. The artifact was found hidden beneath the ground, near a Dallas/Fort Worth shopping center.
Tim Brys and his son, who has since had a birthday and is now 5, were out behind a grocery store in Mansfield, searching for marine life remnants from the Jurassic period in September 2014 when they came across the find. Recognizing it could be a significant find, the zookeeper moved his child on in order to properly exhume the fossil. It took more than seven months to obtain the necessary permits to excavate the ancient remains.
"My dad told me it was a turtle. But now he's telling me it's a dinosaur," Wylie Brys said of his unexpected find.
Southern Methodist University researchers carried out a dig on the rare find to recover the fossil in the best possible condition.
Researchers believe the fossil may be a nodosaur, a pony-sized dinosaur dating from around 100 million years before our own time. The fossil was first spotted by the boy as he ran ahead of his father.
Around 100 million years ago, the Dallas/Fort Worth area was underwater, providing a wealth of marine fossils today. This knowledge led the zookeeper to believe his son had found an ancient turtle. However, after an initial attempt at recovering the fossil, Tim realized the find was significantly larger than he believed.
The fossilized bones were carefully encased in burlap and plaster, providing a protective shell for the delicate artifacts. The pieces will be shipped to Southern Methodist University in Dallas for cleaning, examination and assembly. This process is likely to take several months to complete.
The Dallas Zoo, where the elder Brys works, assisted researchers in the preparation of paperwork for the excavation. The zookeeper has no formal training in paleontology but tells the press he has learned a few tips from a friend.
Nodosaurs lived in North America, Europe, Asia and Antarctica between the Late Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous Periods. They were Ankylosaurs, herbivore dinosaurs that were first discovered in 1923.
Dale Winkler, a paleontologist at SMU, compared the ancient animals to "armored beach balls that floated out to sea."
"It would have been buried and never been discovered in our lifetime," if the child had not found the fossil, Michael Polcyn of Southern Methodist University said.
Dinosaur fossils are rare in the area, but scientists will search nearby for additional finds before construction crews begin to once again excavate the area for commercial construction.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr