Friday, July 28, 2006

July 28, 2006

Wow! It’s hot out here now. When the thermometer tops 100, it just drains your energy. Finding dinosaur bones, however, sort of re-energizes one. And that’s what we have been doing….. Lot’s of bones of various kinds – all Diplodocus, we believe, but from different parts of the skeleton. Since my last report we have already uncovered phalanges (toe bones), an articulated ulna/radius and associated carpal and metacarpal (lower arm, wrist foot), more vertebrae from the neck and tail, and some chevrons and gastralia (tail spines and stomach ribs). Best of all, Sara has uncovered skull bones! A real Eureka moment (although you’d never here this from Sara who is about the most quietly competent teen around – and I do mean quiet). She beavers away in the quarry, uncomplaining, and has turned up the best things so far. Indeed, some of the best things ever out of this quarry. We have only a few skull elements to date from the Mother’s Day Site, and skulls are some of the most scientifically useful things one can find from a dinosaur.

Because skulls of most reptiles, including most dinosaurs, are made of numerous bones that are relatively poorly attached together, they tend to come apart after death. Sauropod skulls, in particular, are very delicate so finding them intact is very difficult (we’re lucky at Cincinnati to have two complete sauropod skulls and parts of several others).

Well, as you can imagine, finding parts of a skull this year have kept us going. Nevertheless, the field school will take a more leisurely day tomorrow, visiting the Dodson site and then hiking down Petroglyph Canyon south of the Pryors to look at evidence of prehistoric Native American graffiti (Hey, you kids, stop drawing on the rocks!) – actually probably shamanistic effigies, but who really knows. We’ll then look at some more interesting geology, and in particular, stop at exposures of the Sundance Shale for some Middle Jurassic seafood. Everyone will be able to find fossil oysters and squid-like animals (belemnites), and unlike the regulated vertebrate fossils, can be collected and taken home by our guests.

I’m still trying to get some photos up for you and will try that now. Look for them soon.

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