May 19, 2024

An amateur paleontology enthusiast living in France made a life-changing discovery while walking his dog two years ago, when he stumbled upon the bones of what would turn out to be a nearly intact, 70 million-year-old dinosaur skeleton.

Damien Boschetto, now 25, had been walking his dog Muffin in a wooded area of Montouliers in southern France in 2022 when he noticed the bones protruding from a partially eroded cliff, according to CBS News. As a member of the Association of Culture, Archeology and Paleontology (ACAP) with the nearby Cruzy Museum, Boschetto alerted local experts to his finding.

It turned out that the bones were part of a roughly 30-foot-long, 70 percent complete skeleton of a long-necked titanosaur. Titanosaurs were the last surviving group of long-necked sauropods that roamed the Earth during the Cretaceous Period approximately 145 million to 163 million years ago, and were still believed to have been thriving at the time of the extinction event.

The species were the largest land animals ever known to have existed, with some growing as large as current day whales.

With help from fellow ACAP members and the museum, the skeleton took two years to dig out, with the team working across several 10-day periods. During that time, they kept the excavation under wraps to prevent thieves and onlookers from compromising the site.

“It happened one morning like any other, during an ordinary walk,” Boschetto explained to FranceBleu back in February. “While walking the dog, a landslide on the edge of the cliff exposed the bones of various skeletons. They were fallen bones, therefore isolated. We realized after a few days of excavations that they were connected bones.”

“The territory around Cruzy is rich in fossils of dinosaurs and other species living at the same time,” he likewise told ABC News. “For 28 years, Cruzy has been supplying and building one of the largest collections of dinosaur fossils from the Upper Cretaceous period in France.”

Now that the excavation is complete, the skeleton will be on display at the Cruzy Museum. The museum’s founder, Francis Fage, said that Boschetto’s discovery proves he has an “eye” for dinosaur research. “It is very rare to find this, he had to have the eye,” he told FranceBleu. “There are some who have passed for 30 years and they have not seen this site.”

And for Boschetto, the fateful discovery was also serendipitous. After happening across the skeleton two years ago, he quit his job in the energy sector and is now planning to pursue a master’s degree in paleontology so he can continue his work with the museum.

In the meantime, he’s just excited at the prospect of people visiting the Cruzy Museum to view the relic. “It is a flagship piece for the general public, to be able to admire a dinosaur in anatomical connection like that,” Boschetto added.

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