Guide Dinosaur Bones

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It started on Wednesday, May 15, when a construction worker noticed that the dirt looked…different. They got on their hands and knees to investigate.

David Rahm, a Brinkmann Constructors employee and project manager for the Wind Crest build, was in his office in Aurora when his phone rang. He quickly made his way to Highlands Ranch.

When he arrived at the site, he found a hill cross-sectioned by construction equipment with rock, sand, and clay layered a bit like an unappetizing birthday cake. Sticking out of the earthy materials, he saw several bone-like protrusions.

Dinosaur Fossils in Maryland

Despite about 20 years working in construction, this was new. But this is my first dinosaur. It was a good guess; a team of DMNS scientists asked for photographs, examined the images, and decided to check out the site in person. When the DMNS team arrived the next morning, it was pretty clear that the Brinkmann crew had made a legitimate find. They found that the Centrosaurus fossils didn't seem to contain the collagen proteins present in fresh bones or the much younger shark teeth.

The bones were found last week at a Highlands Ranch construction site

But they did find something else: "We see lots of evidence of recent microbes," explains Saitta. He thinks, as others have previously suggested, that the modern microbes and their secretions, called biofilm, are likely what other researchers have seen in fossils and reported as dinosaur soft tissues.

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Surprisingly, the modern microbes present in the dinosaur bones aren't quite the same run-of-the-mill bacteria living in the surrounding rock. Saitta and his colleagues aren't sure why these particular microbes are living in the dinosaur bones, but he's not shocked that bacteria are drawn to the fossils.

And the bones are porous -- they wick up moisture.

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If you were a bacterium living in the ground, you'd probably want to live in a dinosaur bone," he says. The discovery could help further the emerging field of molecular paleontology, says Saitta.

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We are beginning to undertake a very different kind of fossil hunting. We're not just looking for bones and teeth, hoping to find new species, we're doing molecular fossil hunting -- it opens up an entirely new line of evidence by which to study life in the past. Molecular fossils can tell us things we never thought we'd be able to investigate.

Distinguishing what is modern from what is ancient is important.

Dinosaur bones are home to microscopic life

Materials provided by Field Museum. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Science News. Story Source: Materials provided by Field Museum. Cretaceous dinosaur bone contains recent organic material and provides an environment conducive to microbial communities. ScienceDaily, 18 June Field Museum. Dinosaur bones are home to microscopic life: Scientists didn't find ancient DNA or proteins in fossils, but they did find lots of strange microbes. Retrieved October 7, from www.