Digging up my little dino!

Guest Post by Leaellyn Rich, the daughter of Professor Patricia Vickers-Rich, who delivered two intriguing talks entitled ‘Dinos in Mukluks’ on 21 and 22 October at Science Centre Singapore. The following is an adapation of Leaellyn’s “My Little Dino” article.

Leaellyn Rich holding the skull of a dinosaur her parents found

I always wanted my very own dinosaur. Then my parents found one for me—deep in an Australian mine!

We live in Australia, where my parents work as palaeontologists (Pay-lee-un-TOL-uh-jists). That means they’re scientists who study life from long ago. I’ve gone on heaps of fossil digs with them, starting when I was 10 months old. In fact, I’d been working with them on a dinosaur dig that summer before I started fifth grade. But then school began and I had to leave.

While I was at school, my dad called to say his volunteers had found a dinosaur skull. He wasn’t sure what kind of dinosaur it was. But he thought it might be one that had never been found before. To prove it, he’d have to see more parts of the skeleton. But those parts were probably scattered around and would be hard to find.

Luckily, my parents and the volunteers kept finding more bits of the dinosaur skeleton. Finally they had enough pieces to be sure. It was a new kind of dinosaur. And they named it after me! The new dinosaur was called Leaellynasaura (Lee-EL-in-uh-SOR-uh). It was little—about the size of a chicken. It had enormous eyes. And it used a bigger part of its brain for seeing than was normal.

Dinosaur Cove
My dinosaur wasn’t easy to find. It was buried deep inside a cliff along the coast near Melbourne. The cliff is beside a bay-like area called a cove. We called the area “Dinosaur Cove”.

There, my parents found a layer of rock that they thought might have dinosaur fossils in it. So our family and some volunteers started digging near the bottom of the cliff. At first, my parents and the volunteers dug into the rocky wall of the cliff with picks and large hammers. What a joke—that hardly cracked the rocks at all!

Then they tried using jackhammers and other power tools on the hard rocks. That worked a little better but not well enough. Finally they found some people who knew how to use explosives. They blasted their way in. We spent nine summers digging at Dinosaur Cove. And we found many exciting fossils, including my dinosaur. I loved it there. The people were always really friendly. And there were plenty of cool animals to see—like colourful frogs and sometimes even fair penguins.

What a Rush!
The work we did could be frustrating at times. I could sit for hours breaking up rocks without finding even a scrap of fossil bone. Other times I found only tiny, useless bone fragments. But when I found a good fossil, I got such a rush of excitement. It was as if I’d made some strange connection with a totally forgotten being—a being that had lived millions of years before I was born, when the world was much different.

That is the most wonderful feeling. I got it no matter what kind of fossil I found. So you can just imagine how I felt when I first saw the fossils of my very own dinosaur!  Thanks, Mum and Dad.

See ‘Live’ dinosaurs at the Dinosaurs-Live! Exhibition, Science Centre Annexe Hall! Step into a prehistoric world and come face-to-face with over 50 life sized dinosaurs. Watch them move, hear them roar and gain precious insights into their evolution, habitats and more. From now till 26 Feb 2012 only!

Science Centre Singapore thanks Tom Rich from Museums Board of Victoria, National Wildlife Foundation (USA) and Peter Menzel for the rights to use and adapt Leaellyn’s article.

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