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News Release April 11, 2002
GSA Release No. 02-21
Contact: Ann Cairns
Director – Communications and Marketing, 303-357-1056

A New Way to Sleuth Dinosaur Bones

Is there a more effective way to find dinosaur bones? When paleontology student Derek Main found out a friend was using Ground Penetrating Radar to find missing persons for a forensics project, he decided to try GPR to find dinosaur bones. GPR is usually used by geophysicists to find oil.

"I thought that if GPR could locate buried humans, why not dinosaurs," Main said. "They are certainly much larger! I wanted to develop a new application for this technology."

So for the first time, GPR was used to map a dinosaur fossil quarry and pinpoint the locations of dinosaur bones. Main and his team conducted the experiment in the Upper Cretaceous Javelina Formation of Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas.

Main, who works for the Paleontology Department at the Dallas Museum of Natural History, will present his findings April 11 at the Geological Society of America's South- Central Section meeting in Alpine, Texas.

Did he discover any new or unusual bones?

"The only unusual aspect of the project was how well it worked," Main said. "When we excavated at the Alamosaur quarry, the fossil bone that we uncovered was exactly where the GPR map predicted, and the mapped location and depth were within centimeters of accuracy. The main point of the project was to not only prove that the technology worked, but to also develop a practical use for it in the science of paleontology. I think we accomplished that."

— by Kara LeBeau, GSA Staff Writer

Contact information:
Derek J. Main
Paleontology Department
Dallas Museum of Natural History
P.O. Box 150349
Dallas TX 75315 USA
Phone: 214-421-3466
Abstract available at:

Geological Society of America
South-Central Section Meeting
April 11-12, 2002
Sul Ross University Center, Alpine, Texas

For information and assistance during the meeting, please see the media assistant at the GSA registration table or call 915-837-8326.


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