What to Read Before Your North Dakota Fossil Dig

North Dakota’s dry landscape is fertile ground for the preservation of dinosaur fossils, and each year travelers have the opportunity to join a public dig in hopes of finding their own prehistoric specimen. If you intend to make the (kid-friendly) trip, or are merely fascinated by the creatures that once roamed the earth, here are two books that explore paleontology and its findings — and one dinosaur-themed adventure book for your little one.


Soft Tissues and Hard Science
By Phillip Lars Manning
320 pp. National Geographic. (2008)

In 1999, a teenager named Tyler Larson discovered a “dinosaur mummy” by chance on his family’s property in North Dakota. The hadrosaur, named “Dakota,” was nearly complete and had preserved much of its bone, soft tissues, tendons and ligaments. Soft-tissue fossils are an extraordinary find; “Dakota” was 67 million years old, yet it retained about two inches of skin and even contents in its gut. Paleontologists can use these specimens to better inform their understanding of the dinosaur’s movements, habits and appearance. Dr. Phillip Lars Manning, a paleontologist from the University of Manchester, was called on to lead the team tasked with excavating “Dakota,” and in “Grave Secrets,” he recounts the details of his work, the history of soft-tissue fossil discoveries since the 19th century, and also explains how “Dakota” has altered the study of hadrosaurs.


The Search for a Lost World

By Raleigh Rimes
30 pp. Candlewick Press. (2013)

This imagined account of a 1907 “expedition into the unknown” follows Percy Fawcett and his young assistant, Raleigh Rimes, as they set off in search of the lost island of Yannapalus in South America. There, they discover that dinosaurs still roam the Earth. Presented as a journal of his adventures, “Dinosaurology” includes mini-biographies of both real and imagined…

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