Finding complete dinosaur skeletons is very rare.
Dinosaurs roamed the Earth between 65 and 225 million years ago before going extinct. Many dinosaur bones were preserved in rock layers that formed over great periods of time. Scientists, known as paleontologists, spend numerous hours unearthing the dinosaur remains, known as fossils. The fossils are often pieced back together to form the skeletal system of the dinosaurs from which they came. However, you don’t have to be a scientist to find dinosaur fossils. With some preparation and know-how you can make a major discovery with the family; or maybe just a few small ones.
1. Learn as much as you can about fossils so you are ready to identify them when you find one. Resources such as the Internet and local libraries contain ample information. Universities such as Valdosta State University (valdosta.edu) provide free information on their websites for amateur paleontologists.
2. Locate areas with plenty of old rock formations like old, dried out riverbeds. Seek out spots with heavy erosion and few plants such as the southwestern deserts of North America. Find these areas with the help of geological maps.
3. Gain permission from the landowner to search if the land is private. Check with local state park authorities if the land is a state park. Some parks allow fossil hunting, while others may not.
4. Study the area with the help of U.S. Geological Survey (usgs.gov) maps to familiarize yourself with the land structures you encounter.
5. Walk the area as much as possible, looking for signs of fossils protruding from the rocks. After a heavy rainfall, fossils are often uncovered in plain sight.
6. Record data about your searches and locations of your finds in a notebook or on a laptop. Take pictures to document the discovery as well.
7. Collect the fossils you find in cardboard boxes. Wear gloves to avoid getting skin oils on the specimens.