A seven-year-old girl uncovered the 100 million-year-old bones of an extinct dolphin-like marine reptile, despite expert claims that a professional paleontologist might search their entire career to find fossils of the same quality.
Amber Wilson was on a family holiday with her parents in the outback Australian state of Queensland when she came across the fossilized bones of an ichthyosaur, a 23-foot long animal that was around during the dinosaur age. Amber had discovered a hockey-puck shaped vertebra among a pile of rocks, then dug up a long skull with the help of her family.
“Money couldn’t buy the incredible experience our family got from finding this fossil,” Mr Wilson said.
The family quickly called for help from staff at the Kronosaurus Korner museum, where the fossil was found at the end of their vacation in July. Dr. Timothy Holland, Kronosaurus Korner’s Curator, said that he was stunned by the discovery, which could have taken a professional their entire career to unearth.
“I have never seen tourists uncover such a beautifully preserved fossil before,” Holland said. “It is easily the most complete ichthyosaur skull in our collection and one of the best from Australia.”
A protective coating of plaster, newspaper and hessian was applied over the bones before being lifted from the ground. Nine people were required to lift the nearly 900 pound specimen. Over the following four months, dentist tools and toothbrushes were applied to the fossil, nicknamed “Wilson," to remove rocks.
Volunteer Gary Flewelling said that the snout of the animal took his breath away, and that every day is Christmas in the lab when there’s a specimen like “Wilson” to work on.
The bones are now on display at the Kronosaurus Korner.