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Excavation of dinosaur bones concludes at Highlands Ranch construction site

Workers from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science wrapped up their work by finding a 'nicely preserved vertebra.'

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. — The excavation of triceratops fossils has concluded at a construction site in Highlands Ranch, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS) said Tuesday.

“We ended the dig with the excavation of a nicely preserved vertebra,"  said Tyler Lyson, the museum’s curator of vertebrate paleontology. "The rule of thumb is to dig one meter around the last unearthed fossil, and if no other fossils are found within that meter, it is unlikely any others will be recovered."

The fossils were discovered by construction workers at a site near Wind Crest, a continuing care retirement community.

RELATED: Fossils found at Highlands Ranch construction site are from a triceratops

Lyson also expressed his gratitude to the construction workers for allowing them to dig and to Erickson Living for donating the fossils to the museum. The fossils were discovered on private land owned by Erickson Living, meaning it was the organization’s decision about what to do with the fossils. 

“The discovery and excavation of the triceratops fossils on campus has been a thrilling experience for our residents and staff,” said Craig Erickson, executive director at Wind Crest. “It is our honor to donate these incredible artifacts to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for further study."

RELATED: More dinosaur bones found at Highlands Ranch construction site

The DMNS team would need to find about 200 bones at the dig site, called the quarry, to locate the entire skeleton. DMNS said last week that about 30 percent of the animal had been uncovered.

Some of the Highlands Ranch fossils are on display in the museum’s fossil preparation lab, located in the “Prehistoric Journey” exhibition on the third floor, where volunteers work to clean and stabilize fossils before they are added to the museum’s collections for future research and possible displays.

Fossil finds are nothing new in Colorado, a rare fish fossil was discovered in southeastern Colorado -- one of only three of its kind in the world. The world’s first Stegosaurus fossil was found in Morrison, and one of the most complete Torosaurus skeletons was found in Thornton.  

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