Saturday, March 25, 2017

Montbrook Site, Florida - Day 3 Tooth Day

March 24, 2017 - Friday

Back in the sand this morning, I started cleaning around that fragile bone I found yesterday.  My tool struck something hard, and I could just see something between sand grains that was whitish.  I kept moving sand and realized I'd found turtle.

I spent a good part of the morning working around this turtle, finding bits of things.  I found gar scales, fish spines, another turtle toe, and other shell fragments while clearing that space.  I was excited.  It seems, though, that veterans of this dig had gotten to the point where they felt "Oh, another turtle."  That's okay - it is my first turtle!

Dr. Bruce McFadden, FLMNH Curator
of Vertebrate Paleontology

At lunch, I met Dr. Bruce McFadden, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum at the University of Florida in Gainsville.  He is planning a trip to the Badlands of North Dakota this summer.  He mentioned looking for ways to promote ancient history (paleontology, geology, etc.) studies by young people, perhaps using the most recent technologies available.

Terri Tydings - in the red shirt, standing

Around this time of day, a tooth was found that caused quite the stir.  It is likely the tooth, the cusp of a molar, of a juvenile bear!

Art Poyer with a rhino tooth

Then Art Poyer found a rhino tooth, in nearly the same level of the quarry.  Also a juvenile, this and the other tooth add to the possibility that this spot was an oxbow of a river, collecting parts that washed downstream.

Meanwhile, I continued clearing my square.  Both the turtle shell and limb bone have been removed so either I, or the next one assigned to the square can look for more.  I know they're there.  I saw the hints.

Bones in my square

Friday, March 24, 2017

Montbrook Site, Florida - Day 2 Turtle shell

March 23, 2017 - Thursday

The orange sand layer is at the top

This day I was assigned a different square, in the orange sand layer.  On the edge, going into the wall, is thought to be another limb bone of a gomphothere.  This was to be another day of not many pictures because I kept getting my hands dirty.  As I dug this square, I kept finding what I think are bits of turtle shell.  Sadly, they are broken and scattered.  I kept probing to see if I could find the extent of the shell, but the whole square had pieces.

Gomp limb bone is under the bags to the left.
We water the surface to make it easier to dig.


What was fun though, as I found some toe bones of varying sizes (1 to 2 cm).  And the best I found was a very fragile bone that I don't know to what it belongs.  My first guess is a scapula, but whose?  An alligator?  A big turtle?

And Rachel found a crab - yay invertebrates!!!!

I've also been doing some photogrammetry of finds in the quarry.  Check out:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Montbrook Site, Florida - Day 1 Getting Sandy

The Florida Museum of Natural History FLMNH is digging Miocene strata at the Montbrook Site, in northwestern Florida.  I saw an article in The Fossil Project newsletter and decided to see if I could join the team of volunteers for a few days.  My application was approved, so I'm in for four days of digging 5 million year old dirt.

Montbrook Site March 22, 2017

This quarry was first opened to mine road bed material.  The landowner's granddaughter found bones in it while looking for arrow heads.  Eventually the FLMNH was contacted and began excavating in the fall of 2015.  They have found LOTS of animals, including such otter, gomphothere, fish, birds, turtles, a saber-toothed cat that takes the age of this taxon from 1 million years back to 5 million years ago!

In day one, I was assigned a 1-meter square to work, that had part of a gomphothere vertebra showing.  A little into the day, I found a gar tooth; a little later I found fish bones, including a fin spine.

5 million year old gar tooth

At the end of the day, a man driving a big excavator came around and asked if we needed anything lifted out of the quarry.  There were only a few of us left and we all worked together to get a net under the large jacket, then hooked the net over the teeth of the bucket of the excavator.   The operator of the excavator was good!  He lifted the jacket out and hauled it to the top of the space so that later retrieval will be much easier.

That pretty much ended the first day.  The last task was to try to get as much sand off of my person so that the rental car didn't look like I'd spent the day at the beach.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Eight: North Canyon and Kings Canyon

July 15, 2016

For most of us, this was the last fossil-hunting day of this fantastic trip.  Our first site of the day, called North Canyon, was in the Weeks formation - younger than the Marjum but still Cambrian.  Piles of shale spilled from the quarry and most had tiny lingulid brachiopods.  Some also found trilobites, too. Knowing that the day was going to get hot, we quickly got good samples, packed up and moved to the next site.

North Canyon Quarry
Slab with brachiopods

This next site, called Kings Canyon, was actually at the top of a mountain up a very rocky, steep road that leads to radio and microwave towers.  We're not sure yet which Devonian formation this is, but it was thought that we would find graptolites.  Instead we found lots of interestingly preserved gastropods and a few corals.

Atop a Devonian formation

Interesting gastropods
The day was still young so after leaving this site, several of us returned to Fossil Mountain.  That was such a crazy-diverse site.  And one spot, dubbed the Dennis Brachiopod Hill, had rocks that were almost completely brachiopods.  Wow!

The whole wall is brachiopods

I know that there will be a few who remain in Utah for one more day in the dirt.  I decided to head on home - all of my boxes and baggies are full.  What a great trip.  Now, I am off to identify them all!

Salt Flat Selfie

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Seven: UDIG and Marjum Pass

July 14, 2016
Starting the day at the UDIG quarry makes one happy with fossil collecting.  You know you are going to find something!  Fresh material had been opened up in a couple different places at the quarry and there was plenty of room for everyone. 

<<== Room for more. 

There must have been some really good finds over there.                                      ==>>

The list of finds that I know of include at least 3 species of trilobite, hyoliths, algae, and brachiopods.  We definitely stayed for the whole of the duration of time we paid for - it was hard to leave!

The gang's all here (except Susie)

Michael's beautiful Asaphiscus wheeleri.

Marjum site
Despite the baking 99 degree temperature, we again formed the caravan to go to another Cambrian site - at Marjum Pass.  Mostly we found Perinopsis here.  A few asteroid fossils were there, too. 

The most unusual specimen Taylor brought down at the end of our dig there.  What is it?
Unidentified, but cool!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Six: Skull Pass, Fossil Mountain, and the Great Basin Get Together

July 13, 2016

I only got one photo in this morning of yesterday's finds:

5 kinds of brachiopod, colonial coral, and horn coral.

Highway closed while these passed
Trouble comes in threes... we had two vehicles with problems yesterday.  This morning one car had a flat that had to be changed right at the beginning of our trip.  The timing was serendipitous, though.  We had all pulled over and the task was nearly complete when the local authorities closed the highway for some very large vehicles to pass.  I have no idea what these things were.

Our first fossil stop, then, was the Ordovician site called Skull Pass.  Here we looked for graphtolites and eldonia.  Now that's an odd creature!  Eldonia pictures make me think of a jelly fish with a gastropod inside.

Atop Skull Pass


That spiral is eldonia

Fossil Mountain
Next stop, Fossil Mountain.  This site is Lower Ordovician in age.  It is also a famous site because of the diversity of fossils that may be found there.  We found many of the different invertebrate fossils, some of which we can't yet even place into phyla!   It was amazing!  The next photos show a few of the species that are easy to see in a picture.





Other finds included trilobites, orthocone cephalopods, bryozoans, and coral.

It was hard to leave this place except that it was rather hot.  Even sitting on the ground was occasionally uncomfortable because the rocks were so hot.  I think we'd do anything to be able to sit and find fossils, though.  Still, the itinerary next included the Great Basin Get Together.  At this picnic in a nice park in Delta, we shared some of our finds.

The Egg Game
Then Joe had a game prepared for us, one where we were to try to end up with the most eggs in a very short time.  Once the time was up, we opened the eggs to found our numbers.  These numbers corresponded to some delightful prizes.

A prize-winner

Tomorrow - Trilobites!

Nevada - Utah Mega Trip 2016 Day Five: Lehman Cave and Conger Spring

July 12, 2016

It's time to leave Ely, NV.  After 60-something miles, we were at the Great Basin National Park.  There is a very nice visitor center here, with explanations about the basin. It has been in use by humans for thousands of years.  It is somewhat isolated so there are some species of plants and animals that are only found here.

In the park is Lehman Cave.  While not the largest cave, it has many beautiful structures.  One particularly interesting one is called a shield.  This odd feature has a disk shape under which drapes and stalactites form.  Any idea how they formed?

A beautiful room in Lehman Cave

It's Bacon!

Some of the shields, the center one being the most famous

Heading east again from the park, we left the pavement again to go to Conger Spring.  A Pennsylvanian site, there was a hill that I called brachiopod heaven.  I haven't spread my finds out yet, but I'm pretty sure I have at least 7 or 8 different species.  There were several other families of fossils, too, such as colonial and solitary corals, crinoids, and bryozoans.

Now, this day wasn't quite perfect.  Two different vehicles required attention.  One is still on the side of the road, waiting for humans to come tend it.  All humans in our party are fine...

Given that, I haven't pictures of specimens from this day yet.  I will try to get some today to show you.  Of course, that just depends on whether or not I can stop myself from collecting in time today to do so.