Dinosaur bones give us clues about how dinosaurs moved, how they behaved, and what they looked like. These dinosaur fossils while impressive in their size help us understand the past, the process of evolution, and the biology of these magnificent creatures. The skulls give us information on brain size, and how well-developed their senses were. Did they rely on sight, smell, or hearing, possibly all of the above. So the size of the brain case tells us how smart these animals were. The size of the openings for the nostrils, eyes and ears tell us about how important these senses were and we can also tell how big the nerves that carried information to the brain from these organs were.
Humans have 206 bones in their body, and usually our bones stay pretty much intact when we die. Imagine though, if they didn’t. Finding and identifying dinosaur bones is more involved. Dinosaurs lived all over this planet. as they died, their bones were usually scattered about by carnivores and scavengers. Insects and bacteria further contribute to the deterioration. In situations like these the bones can still be buried and eventually fossilize, but not much can be learned from individual bones. The delight of a Paleontologist is to find a skeleton intact or mostly intact. For this to happen the animal has to be buried soon after it dies or sink to the bottom of a lake that is deep enough so that there is very little oxygen at the bottom. That keeps the animal from rotting. Once that happens it’s just a matter of time.
Over millions of years, the dinosaur bones become buried deep in the earth. They are embedded in sediments and eventually buried below tons and tons of earth.
Once the skeleton is found it can take paleontologists years to dig up and prepare a complete dinosaur skeleton. One such skeleton, named after explorer Sue Hendrickson, was discovered in August of 1990. ‘Sue’ is one of the better preserved T-rex specimens. The amazing thing about ‘Sue’ was that over 90% of the bones were found articulated or intact. Most T-rex specimens are missing half of their bones. Wow!! Way to go Sue! Just a side note here, Sue was also the most controversial dinosaur ever found. She ended up in the Chicago Field Museum, where she stand on display to this day but There was a long drawn out court proceeding contesting her ownership. No wonder Sue sold for $10,000,000.00! Unfortunately Those that discovered Sue, cleaned and prepared her for exhibit got none of that money!!
Most of us only get to see dinosaur bones complete like Sue at a big museum. They are rare finds that take 1000s of hours to prepare by expert hands. Dinosaur bone fragments are much more common and relatively inexpensive. They can be found as jewelry and as specimens in even modest fossil collections.