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Dinosaur fossils unearthed at Highlands Ranch construction site

Data pix.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. -- Construction crews made a historic discovery when they unearthed dinosaur fossils near a retirement community in Highlands Ranch.

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is exploring the site where a limb bone and several ribs from a dinosaur were the first uncovered, according to an announcement made Monday.

"From what we've seen, we think it's a horned dinosaur, something like triceratops," said chief fossil preparator Natalie Toth.

It could also be a rare torosaurus, according to Toth, who says the two creatures are differentiated by just three bones.

"What's really special is that the fossils from the Denver formation are from some of the last dinosaurs that were walking around before the big extinction," she said.

Crews are hoping they'll be able to recover the entire dinosaur, which has been well preserved over 66 million years.

"We have a complete lower leg bone, we have a handful of complete ribs, so for the most part, it doesn't seem like there was a lot of destructive activity destroying the bone, which is really excellent," Toth said.

It could be several weeks before the dinosaur is completely uncovered.

The construction site is on private property, and visitors will not be allowed to see the excavation activity.

It's also unclear where the dinosaur will end up once it's unearthed.

"I sure hope it comes to our prep lab and we get to work on it," said Toth. "Any time you work in a museum, you wait for that phone call, that somebody's found a fossil in their backyard."

“It’s always exciting to get a call about possible fossils, and I can’t wait to share more details as we continue to dig,” said Dr. Tyler Lyson, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the museum. “Finds like this, while relatively rare, are a great reminder of how dynamic our planet is and how much more there is out there to discover.”

Lyson studies the evolution of dinosaurs and turtles and is particularly interested in what was occurring in the Rocky Mountain region 66 to 68 million years ago.

Construction will continue while the museum team works to determine the number and type of fossils.

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