Imagine being a 4-year-old boy who loves dinosaurs, digging in the dirt, and spending time with your dad. For Wylie Brys, those three passions intertwined for the best day ever last September when he made an astounding discovery behind a shopping center in Mansfield, Texas: the fossil of what scientists believe could be a 100-million-year-old dino, the Dallas Morning News reports. Scientists from Southern Methodist University helped extract the fossil this week, seven months after Wylie's find, and they think it could be that of a land-dwelling nodosaur, a pony-sized creature that one SMU researcher tells the newspaper was like an "armored beach [ball] that floated out to sea." "Quite rare to find a dinosaur in this area," another SMU scientist adds.
"We were finding some fish vertebrae in the hillside, and then Wiley walked a little ways ahead of me and came back with a piece of bone," dad Tim Brys tells NBC 5 of his son's fateful find. "And I paused and was like, 'OK, where did you find this?'" It took all this time since to get paperwork in place for the dig, which was facilitated by the Dallas Zoo, where Brys works. The fossils were placed into a burlap-and-plaster protective wrap and will be taken to SMU, where they'll undergo a months-long cleaning process before researchers can start to more fully scrutinize them. And if Brys and Wylie—who has since turned 5, as per the Washington Post—hadn't gone on their dad-and-son dig last fall? "It would have been buried and never been discovered in our lifetime," an SMU scientist tells the Dallas Morning News. (A dino found in Venezuela apparently survived a horrific extinction.)