Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Waco Mammoth Excursion



Dr. Bakker’s presentation on mass extinctions
Ever wonder why large animals such as the dinosaurs and wooly mammoths became extinct while small animals like tiny prehistoric mammals and pond turtles survived?
A size comparison of the modern day elephant, wooly mammoth and the columbian mammoth (the species found at the Waco site)
The excursion group learns about the features of the Columbian Mammoth as well as the story behind the site yet to see
Entering the building enclosed site, a life size Columbian mammoth mural awaits to greet you. The edifice built around the site is air conditioned and kept at a constant temperature all year long to help preserve the site and bones. The building around the site is also impermeable, thanks to the construction design, to floods that could cause potential damage to the bones. 

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lysorophus at Area 51 Field Notes

Saturday, March 31st, 2011

Lysorophus: Permian (287 million years ago) burrowing carnivorous amphibian. They would estivate to escape the heat and the dry season. At this site they are found varying in shape and size, curled up in half donut looking burrows. Lung fish and a jaw (may be sillerpeton or Phlegethontia) in same area.

Lysorophus skeletons curled inside semi-donut shaped burrows

The first bone found at site Area 51 was actually a neural spine bit from a larger amphibian called Eryops, a carnivore with primitive ear drums. The piece of neural spine was approximately two inches long, lying completely exposed on the east side of Area 51. I spotted the neural spine on my way back to join Dr. Bakker after visiting an "Adventure Bush". Many other bone bits from Eryops were found with the neural spine. A bit further from the Eryops remains appeared to be rocks scattered all over the hill. After taking a closer look, each of these rocks were full of fossilized skeletons of the little critter lysorophus. Tens of thousands of lysorophus are preserved at this site! All clearly visible at the surface! There are more bones than rocks at this site! In each donut, you can see the articulated vertebrae and ribs and bits of the skull! Everywhere you stepped, every rock you picked up, BONES! All spiraled in their burrows and frozen in time, these snake-like amphibians died waiting for the rains to end the Permian drought 287 million years ago.

Dr. Bakker at site Area 51

This is was the first bone found at site Area 51, a neural spine bone bit most likely from an amphibian called Eryops
More Eryops bone bits at Area 51
Lysorophus Skull

Now why exactly did I name this site Area 51? I did so because the name itself is so mysterious. I never expected to find the world's largest pocket of lysorophus. There are so many questions about this gathering of amphibians just as there is about Area 51. Even the little lysorophus almost look alien with their elongated bodies and tiny limbs.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 2011 Dig

First day of the Spring Break dig in Seymour, Texas. Arrived Thursday and Dr. Bakker and Kathy are with us (my mom and I) We went out prospecting for bones. I found a fossilized fern tree and got to name the site! I did not know what to call it but it became known as “Apple”.
My mom found the first two bones of the day and named her new site “Nutmeg” (After our dog). We went back to the cars for lunch and spent some time skipping rocks across a small lake. Dr. Bakker taught me how to pick and skip rocks!
The four of us went to a new area we had never been before. I found part of a dimetrodon rib that resembled porcelain. Dr. Bakker found more of the porcelain bone while I found a bit of neural spine (porcelain style). It was a specific kind of dimetrodon because the spine was shaped like a figure 8. Kathy helped with the name of the site and it was decided to be called the “Lazy 8”


Eve's Rib found at the Alana site.
3-11-11  Alana Site

My mom found a flat slightly curved rib.

I found bones of one of the ranch cows. 
The vert was chewed by coyotes

-Found fragments of an amphibian called Captorhinus
-Found three shed teeth (of Dimetrodon)
- One xenacanth tooth
- Discovered a strange wasp species that seemed to mimic a lady bug

Kathy Zoehfeld


Woke up for the New Maverick @ 7:30... western omelet as usual. On the T.V. there was a tsunami and earthquakes in Japan. After breakfast we went to the Tuffy site. Mom and Kathy went to mail my Doodle for Google and to close Nancy’s garage. Dr. Bakker and I found 5 head spines of xenacanthus while they were gone. Around 2:30 we decided to go eat lunch @ Subway. Dr. Bakker suggested we go walk around and prospect for fossils. Kathy stayed in town while Dr. Bakker, my mom, and I went to a part of the ranch we have never been before.
We prospected for quite a while  until I decided to stray away. On my way back to Dr. Bakker, I saw on the ground was a gorgeous bone! Now the whole time we had been looking there we did not find any bones whatsoever. I picked it up and licked it (An easy way to tell between dirt and bone, bone sticks to your tongue because it is porous) It was a definite bone, it stuck right on my tongue! The bone was a beautiful red and purple color. Immediately I called Dr. Bakker to inspect it and it turned out to be either diadectes or eryops. It was my turn again to name the site. But little did we know that right behind us was a rock with a skeleton! But wasn’t alone....there were literally thousands of rocks with little skeletons all bundled up in these semi-circle rocks and everywhere! At this new site, there was more bone than rock! Turns out that most of these little skeletons were from a burrowing pinhead amphibian called lysorophus, and there, still estivating, tens of thousands of them! This site, which I named Area 51 after the once burrowing little aliens, is according to Dr. Bakker the world’s largest pocket of lysorophus yet. 
Knowing that David and the rest of the crew would be back this afternoon, I brought back many of the lysorophus specimens. As we got back to Head Quarters (Nancy’s) the others began to show up.

See the next post - Lysorophus at Area 51 Field Notes