Davies, who also was a part of the dig near Black Mesa, said it's relatively rare to find vertebrate fossils of any kind. One factor that could make theropod teeth a more common find is the fact that the dinosaurs continuously shed their teeth and grew replacements.
Much like today's crocodiles, a theropod's replacement teeth grew in under its existing teeth. So if a dinosaur had a loose tooth, it could fall out while the animal was eating a carcass, Davies said.
The dig was a part of Explorology, a program the museum offers jointly with the Whitten-Newman Foundation. The program gives Oklahoma students and teachers opportunities to participate in field-based scientific research.
Scientists from a broad range of disciplines participate in the program. In Micozzi's case, he plans to use what he learns from the dig in an earth-science course he teaches at ECU.
Part of the purpose of the program is to expose younger students to the thrill of discovering something in the field. But that feeling doesn't wear off with age, Micozzi said — he had the same feeling when he unearthed the tooth.
“The thrill of discovery just overwhelmed me,” Micozzi said. “It really hooked me, and now I'm really excited to go back.”
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I was just digging a trench and being careful not to disturb the bones in the area. I wasn't expecting a tooth.”