Finding Your Own Dinosaur

Nearly everyone would like to make an amazing discovery of a dinosaur or a dinosaur bone. How do you go about trying to find a dinosaur?

The rules are pretty simple:

Dinosaur bones are found in rock layers geologists call Triassic, Jurassic or Cretaceous. These layers are indicated on geologic maps by various shades of green. You can obtain a geologic map for your area by contacting your local public library or the state geological survey (see for example the small scale geological mapsĀ here. Use your back arrow to return to this page). If there are no rocks near you belonging to these layers, there will probably not be dinosaur bones where you live. You might want to check the areas where your grandparents live or other relatives, as well.

  1. If the rocks from these layers are nearby, you will want to look for rocks that are sandstones (made up of sand-sized particles) or mudstones (made up of finer particles, like mud). Only rarely are dinosaur bones found in limestones (rocks that fizz when you put vinegar on them) or volcanic rocks.
  2. If you just happen to live near Jurassic or Cretaceous rocks of the right type, you can begin asking nearby landowners if they have seen any fossil bones on their property. You must be careful to secure permission of landowners before entering their property. If the land is public land, you may look for dinosaur fossils, but they may not be excavated or removed from the propeThis image of a fossil bone will give you an idea about how bone  might look.rty without approval from the government. You will recognize fossils as bone if they show the spongy structure of cancellous bone as shown in the thin section of bone on the left or the color and symmetry displayed in the photo on the right..
  3. If you are fortunate enough to locate fossil bones, you must next contact an experienced and qualified scientist from a nearby university or college to determine what kind of bones you have found before you proceed. Such scientists are called vertebrate paleontologists, because they study the fossil remains of animals with backbones (vertebrae). If you try to move or excavate the bones on your own, chances are that valuable data will be lost and the opportunity for a great discovery may be destroyed.
  4. If the paleontologist authenticates your find, and chooses to pursue the discovery, you are fortunate indeed. Quite likely, he or she will allow you to continue to be involved in the project, and you can be very proud to have had a role in furthering our understanding of the history of dinosaurs.

In some parts of the country, it is possible to participate in excavation at a commercial quarry where excavation is carried out for profit. These experiences can be quite expensive, and can be disappointing if no discovery is made. You must also be accompanied by an adult if you are under age.

The Dinosaur Museum Project represented by this website is one of the few scientific research projects in the world that permit young explorers to participate. You can learn more on our dinosaur dig website at