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.