2010 FIELD NOTES

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October 31, 2010, Sunday.
           I hadn't planned to go to the field today, but after a couple of cups of coffee, I decided to make one last trip to my research locality before deer season opens next weekend. The locality had received about three inches of rain since my last visit in August. The amount of erosion the locality has experienced this year has been amazing. Some of my "site" no longer exist. The first site I went to, I found a small metoposaur interclavicle approximately 12 cm in width. I found it less than two meters from where I had found another small interclavicle. At the next site, I found a fragment from a dicynodont skull. I was getting beginning to believe that I was going to have a fantastic day. Then I basically found nothing the rest of the day.
 
3869 Site XL
 
October 24, 2010, Sunday.
           The sun was already well above the horizon by the time Gretchen Gurtler and I left for the locality. When we were about ten miles from the locality we were wondering if we were going to be able to make in to the locality because of the recent rains. The locality was only supposed to have received about two inches of rain earlier in the week, where other areas received up to four and a half inches. 
           As we got closer and there was still abundant standing water, my doubts increased. A short distance before we turned off the highway, we drove out of the "rain belt". When we turned off of the pavement, the dirt was almost as dry as the pavement. Three and a half miles later when we arrived at where we park the surface was only damp. 
           Our main goal for the day was to recover the phytosaur jaw Gretchen found on October 3. The proximal end had been protruding out into a "sink-hole". She had recovered the portion sticking out of the bank and the material that had fallen into the sink-hole when she discovered the jaw. 
           We made the quarter mile hike over the ridge to the site and began removing overburden and filling in the sink-hole before we started excavating the remainder of the jaw. The portion she removed on October 3 and the portion remaining in the ground comprised the complete, large jaw. While Gretchen completed trenching around the jaw, I went back to the truck for the materials to make the jacket. 
           On the way back to the site with the jacketing material, I stopped and collected various elements at several different sites, including the proximal portion of a large aetosaur rib. We finished trenching around the jaw and then applied the plaster and polyvinyl acetate mat jacket. I checked a nearby site where I had previously collected part of a tiny phytosaur snout. I collected a variety of small elements, including a Vancleavea sacral vertebra and an archosauromorph ilium. At Site 7, I collected a metoposaur (Koskinonodon ?) postorbital and frontal. I found a few other elements before we returned to remove the jacket. 
           We flipped the jacket (see Gretchen at top right with the jaw). We had an observer as you can see (second right). We saw several praying mantis and the grasshoppers (locus) were thicker than we have seen the all year. 
           We carried the jacket back to the truck (third right). The portion of the jaw Gretchen found that we jacketed and removed was 1014 mm (40.25 inches). This has potential to be Gretchen's second phytosaur jaw discovery that exceeds four feet in length. 
           We stopped to eat and then I headed over to check a couple of sites, including the area where I found the huge Paracrocodylomorph ectopterygoid on our last trip. The recent rains had not uncovered anything else in the area where I found the ectopterygoid. At a nearby site, I collected a juvenile phytosaur premaxilla and a dentary, some aetosaur scute material, and some fragments of a small braincase. On my way back to the truck I found the interesting fossil seen at bottom right (rock hammer for scale). Gretchen said it looked like a petrified alien's arm. 
           I apologize for the problems in formatting the website. I am still trying to learn how to use the new software. I hope to improve; however, there are no guarantees. I may have to switch software again!
Gretchen with a large phytosaur jaw she found
Gretchen Gürtler with her
phytosaur jaw.

praying mantis watching us dig

Praying mantis watching
us dig.

the fossilized alien arm

Interesting.
Fossil alien arm
 
October 9, 2010, Saturday.
           Friday was an absolutely beautiful day as our group met to go to the field in the Palo Duro Canyon area. I had met one of the group previously and that was the person for whom I was primarily doing the stratigraphy. The purpose of the trip was to locate where a collection of fossil plants had been collected many years ago. We went to the first site where we met a very nice young lady who lived nearby. She showed us the way to the first plant site. The first site had some nice plant material (see right) but was not the locality where the plants of interest were collected. 
           The lady who collected the plant material of interest was also with us as we went to the second (primary) plant locality. The plant locality of interest was the second one visited, as confirmed by notes from the collections of WT A&M. I need to go back a make a more detailed measured section of the locality. There just wasn't enough time to do a proper measured section at that time. 
           Later, we also looked at some of the WT A&M collections including the Triassic plants, phytosaurs (see right), and bivalves.
plants in Trujillo at Palo Duro
Plants in the Trujillo Fm.

WTAM leptosuchus skull
WTAM Leptosuchus skull.

 
October 3, 2010, Sunday.
           The gray skies were misting rain as we prepared to leave for the field. Gretchen Gürtler and I weren't sure if we were going to be able to reach the locality or not. Rains came and went during our drive to the locality. When we arrived it was pretty dry and no rain falling. The locality had received over 25 inches of rain since our visit last spring and the amount of erosion at the locality was astounding. We started out finding a few isolated teeth and coprolites, then I found an phytosaur coracoid. Then I found a huge Paracrocodylomorph ectopterygoid. It is not Postosuchus. It may be an unknown Rauisuchid or Poposaurus. It is well over twice the size of the ectopterygoid on the Postosuchus holotype. We found a few other various elements. Tom found a metoposaurid (Apachesaurus ?) interclavicle, then I found part of a Koskinonodon skull. Tom then found a partial phytosaur mandible. Gretchen checked out her Poposaurus and Adamanasuchus sites with no positive results. In her travels, she did find a large Trilophosaurus vertebra and the proximal end of a large Postosuchus femur. After lunch Gretchen headed over the ridge to the west while Tom and I collected the partial phytosaur mandible. While I was transporting it back to the truck, I discovered a metoposaur interclavicle and clavicle. Tom worked on recovering those while I headed over the ridge to the west to see what Gretchen was finding. She had not made it too far before she found the right mandible of a large phytosaur. It was in a dense sandy siltstone with only the most posterior end of the mandible exposed. When I arrived she had about 1/4 of it exposed. We worked for a couple of hours and got it about half excavated. Due to it getting late in the day, we protected it and buried it for us to extract at a later date. After being cloudy and misty early, it turned into an absolutely beautiful day
 
Gretchen Gurtler in the field
Gretchen Gürtler when 
she wasn't digging on
a fossil.
 
August 22, 2010, Sunday.
           The clear skies as dawn broke found me on my way to recover the Parasuchid skull(s). It had never cooled off so it was already warm. I saw a doe with three fawns on my way into the site. After I packed the jackhammer into the skull site I began working on the specimens. I ended up splitting the block and making two jackets to get the material out. I still can't tell if it is two skulls or two halves of the same skull. I saw no duplicate elements; however the posterior half of a skull was alongside (not behind) the anterior half of a skull. Previously a pair of phytosaur mandibles, a partial metoposaur skull, and a metoposaur interclavicle were collected from the same site.
jacketed parasuchid phytosaur skull
Jacketed parasuchid skull
 
July 25, 2010, Sunday.
           The meeting yesterday went well. Gretchen Gürtler and I examined a variety of fossil elements including a large metoposaur jaw, a clavicle, various phytosaur elements, some poposaurid vertebrae, and a bit of aetosaur material. 
           We headed for the field early today. We arrived at MOTT 3632 and stopped and overlooked the badlands. Gretchen found our first rattlesnake of the day while I was pulling the truck off the pasture road. We dropped off into the badlands and immediately found beds of huge bivalves. Probably the largest Triassic freshwater bivalves I have ever seen. I found two more rattlesnakes but we found no bone material in the area though. So we headed for MOTT 3629. 
           At MOTT 3629 Gretchen went to photograph the phytosaur jaw she found last December and see if anything was weathering out in the area. We circled around the area and I ended up at the rhynchosaur site. Gretchen came over and we collected a variety of vertebrae, some rauisuchid teeth, and other elements. Gretchen then headed for the middle site where she found a Trilophosaurus femur and a variety of other elements. I headed east where I collected some more bivalves and an aetosaur vertebra. Then we went west and we found very little material. We decided to head back for the truck and go back to some other areas of MOTT 3632. 
           We went to the north margin of MOTT 3632. I circled around the south and west margins of the area and found nothing. Gretchen was working the north margin and finding a lot of fragmentary material but nothing good. After we joined up I found a fair aetosaur lateral osteoderm. We then moved around to the southwest area for a quick look. There I found a group of vertebrae and an ischium before we headed back for Lubbock. (These turned out to be a pair of ischia and vertebrae of Poposaurus langstoni.)
rattlesnake
Rattlesnake

Gretchen Gurtler with a phytosaur femur
Gretchen with a
Trilophosaurus femur.

 
July 18, 2010, Sunday.
           It was late (7:30 am) as I met the three students to go to the field. It was already warming up. John Fronimos, Kevin Hoch, Girish Tembe, and I headed for my research area to prospect and recover the material Gretchen Gürtler and I had found last week. 
            When we arrived, I gave them each a map of the area and explained where the best places to prospect were and a bit of the geology. They scattered in the light breeze looking for fossils to find and rattlesnakes to avoid. I gathered some digging equipment and water and headed to our digs at Site VI. I uncovered the fossils to let them dry. We didn't have any Tyvek with us last week so we had to use aluminum foil to cover the specimens and I knew they were going to be wet from moisture rising out of the ground. I then returned to get plaster. I was trying to cover distance so I was pretty much following the path Gretchen and I had taken last week and wasn't "prospecting" along the way. 
           Upon returning with the plaster, I finished excavating and trenching the two metoposaur clavicles and the unusual phytosaur osteoderm. While doing this, walking between the specimens, I collected a phytosaur tooth, and rauisuchid tooth, and part of a small Trilophosaurus pubis. Girish came by and I showed him some good areas to go check-out. I jacketed the two clavicles using plaster and AC filter, interlaced with some tape/bedding mesh. Since the osteoderm was only about 15 cm wide I just used the tape/bedding mesh, gauze, and plaster. 
            I needed to let the plaster dry, saw John and Kevin sitting at the metoposaur pond, had hopes they had found something new, and headed their way. On the way I found what appears to be part of a "baby" phytosaur jaw and marked it. At Site XXIV, the metoposaur pond, John and Kevin were examining the metoposaur detritus from previous decades. I led them over to my phytosaur skull and then Girish showed up None of them had found much more than bone scrap and a few Trilophosaurus and metoposaur vertebrae. Then we headed back to the truck for lunch. On the way across the basin, I found a Dromomeron tibia, within less than two meters of where I found my first one here. 
            After lunch I recovered the tibia and phytosaur jaw before starting to excavate the phytosaur skull. The skull was in poorer condition than I thought, and I didn't think it was in good condition to begin with. I glued some pieces together and consolidated parts of the posterior portion of the skull and then started excavating the premaxilla that appeared in much better condition. I didn't get the skulls completely excavated because I knew I didn't have time or materials to jacket both skulls together or separately. The portion I uncovered indicates the second skull is larger and better preserved. I knew it would be a minimum of three weeks before I could make it back here so I covered the skulls with Tyvek and buried them until I can return. About the time I was getting the site covered, everyone else showed up. 
           We went by Site IV where I got a couple of Trilophosaurus vertebrae and a radius. Then to Site IV, where I got a Trilophosaurus dentary section and more vertebrae. We then went and collected the jackets and called an end to our nine hour day.
Rosette of a parasuchid phytosaur
Parasuchid phytosaur
premaxilla.

Tyvek and matrix covering phytosaur skull
Phytosaur skull buried
under Tyvek and
matrix.

 
July 11, 2010, Saturday.
           It was early on a damp, misty morning when we checked the radar and decided it was worth a try to go to the field. So Gretchen Gürtler and I grabbed our gear and headed south. It was still drizzling rain when we reached Post but the sky looked lighter to the south. We continued on. Just outside Post the rain stopped. On the way in to the locality we saw feral hogs and deer. Due to the rains we had a longer hike in to the locality than usual. 
           We split up and began checking various sites. Gretchen began finding material quickly with some phytosaur vertebrae in the area of where she found her skull. I didn't find much until I reached Site VI. Gretchen and I joined up again at Site II. Gretchen had collected a vertebra of one of Momchil's taxa, some Trilophosaurus vertebrae, and some teeth. We went to Site VI and I showed Gretchen the angular/surangular of a phytosaur jaw I found. Gretchen then found a metoposaur clavicle and I found a phytosaur premaxilla. Gretchen then found the blade of a juvenile phytosaur pubis, a phytosaur quadrate, and then a large metoposaur clavicle. 
           The sun finally came out and it began to get hot. I went to Site III where I collected Trilophosaurus material: jaw fragment, ilium, vertebrae, tarsals, phalanges, humerus, and femora. At Site V I found a vertebra of one of Momchil's taxa, a Trilophosaurus tooth, some drepanosaur vertebrae, and various other elements. At Site IV, I found the mandible of either a sphenosuchian or a dinosauromorph. I need to prepare a lot of matrix off of it to identify it for certain. After collecting a few more elements we were preparing to leave. We wanted to check the "metoposaur pond" before we did. 
            We worked our way towards the pond and Gretchen found an interesting humerus on the way, but didn't find anything at the pond. I detoured by Site IX where I found a phytosaur skull. Not sure how much is there or its identification (all the diagnostic phytosaur material from the locality so far belongs to Parasuchus (Paleorhinus).  It is lying on its left side with parts barely exposed. The quadrate, quadratojugal, jugal, and the premaxilla (end of the snout) were slightly exposed. We covered it to come back to jacket on the next trip and then headed back to Lubbock.
 
White-tailed deer
White tailed deer

Trilophosaurus tooth

Trilophosaurus
tooth
 
July 5, 2010, Monday.
           It has been a very rainy week. Our fossil localities have been receiving a lot of rain. 
           We will have to spend some time in the field checking for material exposed by these rains. To the right you can see the National Weather Service map of the rain accumulation from this storm. Some of the areas received over a foot of rain and most of our localities received at least five inches of rain.
            Gretchen Gürtler and I spent much of Saturday working in the collections. She was re-organizing, re-sorting, and repairing some of the Shuvosaurus material. I was working on a variety of projects including preparing some on the "road-kill" Pseudopalatus skull. I was also examining some of our Dockum rhynchosaur material, preparing a Trilophosaurus lower jaw that we found on our last trip to the field, preparing some of my drepanosaur material, and worked on a couple of manuscripts. 
            It has been six weeks since Gretchen and I were in the field together. It rained this weekend and now we have to wait for it to dry out. Then we will have to address the hard question: which locality do we go check first? We still have the five phytosaur skulls to recover.
 
National weather service map show rainfall totals
 
June 15, 2010, Tuesday.
            Decisions! To turn into a "real blog" or continue to just report our abbreviated field notes, that is the question. Do you really care what I think or do you just want to know what we are finding? I am going to be off-line for a short bit while I change the software I use for my website. The transition looks like it is going to take some time and work. Since our fieldwork has been sporadic at best, now seems to be a good time for the change-over in software. 
            Currently I have been trying to finish up a project photographing radioactive rodents, but the digital camera keeps shutting down in the "radioactive room". Got a new camera yesterday though! We will see if it "likes" the "radioactive room" better. 
            Continuing preparation on the Pseudopalatine phytosaur skull jacketed on Nov. 2, 2008 (see 2008 field notes). It is an enigma. The top side appeared to be in good condition. We are preparing the bottom of the jacket and it looks like it was ran over by a truck! The left side (top) was pretty well intact; jaw and skull in occlusion, most teeth present, etc. The right side (bottom) is severely crushed with the right postorbital portion of the skull apparently missing, as is part of the right maxilla, and the right premaxilla is severely crushed. There was evidence of mudcracks that the posterior portion of the skull was embedded in; similar to what I found with my dicynodont skull. The entire skull is riddled with plant roots that are a serious problem. They are inter-twined throughout all of the fractures in the skull and cause all kinds of problems. 
            A number of our localities are reported to have received from two to four inches of rain yesterday. We have a lot of fieldwork ahead of us.
radioactive rat skull
Glowing skull

phytosaur skull and jaw

Phytosaur snout and jaw

roots intertwined in a phytosaur skull
Roots intertwining skull.

 
May 23, 2010, Sunday.
            The morning was grey and overcast as Gretchen Gürtler and I headed for the field to my research area. We were looking forward to the trip since it was the first time we had been in the field since February. Being overcast and somewhat cool made it a good day for us and the wildlife. To the right is one of "our field partners", one of three rattlesnakes we encountered today. 
            We had a good day in the field. We had barely left the truck when Gretchen found a section of a phytosaur premaxilla. While she worked that site, I went over to another area  and collected a vertebra of one of Atanassov's taxa. We found elements of the usual subjects: phytosaurs, metoposaurs, and trilophosaurs. Our paths criss-crossed several times as we each checked out various sites. I saw Gretchen digging in one spot for a while and I need some thin Butvar so I went over to see what she had found. Gretchen was collecting part of the ventral portion of a metoposaur skull (at right). 
            I left Gretchen at the metoposaur pond and headed back for Site V. I found a 7 cm+ Rauisuchid tooth as I went by Site IX. Arriving back at Site V, I collected a variety of elements including an Atanossov vertebra, two Trilophosaurus femora, some Trilophosaurus vertebrae, and phytosaur vertebrae. Gretchen came over to help me recover a couple of "bone masses". While I was finishing up recovering a vertebra and rib, Gretchen went to Site IV. I soon followed. 
            At Site IV, we collected a Trilophosaurus femur, a number of podial elements, a nice Trilophosaurus dentary (see right), Trilophosaurus vertebrae, and a variety of other elements. We finally decided to head back to Lubbock. I got some photos of a Mississippi kite that decided to attack on our way out. With all the material we found, it was a good day in the field.
western diamondback rattlesnake
Rattlesnake

Gretchen Gurtler collecting partial metoposaur skull
Gretchen Gürtler

Mississippi kite
Kite attack

 
May 16, 2010, Sunday.
            This spring has been hard on our field work. The first part of the year it seemed to snow or rain almost every weekend. The end of the spring saw us too busy with classes and reports when it wasn't raining or the wind blowing at near hurricane force. We have rain forecast for this weekend, again. 
            To the right are some Permian invertebrate fossils I collected during our Sequence Stratigraphy field trip to north-central Texas. Nothing special, just the typical brachiopods, gastropods, etc. The route we took carried us past a number of my relative's ranches. 
            Next is the "resident" gray fox from the RH Center "visiting" the museum one morning last week before dawn. It is followed by one of my specimens depicting the "radioactive rat" skulls I am photographing. The real specimens are actually voles. 
            I cut open a jacket with phytosaur skull(s) in it this morning (see Nov. 2, 2008). In the field, the skull was more or less upside down, with the jaw in occlusion. It appeared to have most of its teeth and be in fairly good shape. This afternoon I began to uncover bone in the jacket, working on the "bottom" of the jacket. Unfortunately, the skull appears to be crushed much more than the top side we saw in the field. It is extremely fractured, with clay filling the fractures.
Permian fossils
Permian invertebrates

grey fox at the museum
Grey fox at museum

 
March 29, 2010, Monday.
            The full moon setting this morning was beautiful as I headed to the museum before sunrise.
            Yesterday the wind had died down to about 20 mph as I left for the field, alone. It was the first time I had been to the field alone in almost two years (Gretchen has gone to a conference). I spent much of the day on a road trip re-tracing sandstone units in the lower Dockum. To the right is some of the sandstone. I stopped in at my research area. I only checked on a few sites: I, III, IV, V, XII, and XLII. Yesterday XIII was a lucky number. There I found the proximal half of what appears to be a sphenosuchian femur (needs preparing) and a partial Trilophosaurus jaw.
Triassic deposits
Triassic exposures

Santa Rosa Formation

 
March 10, 2010, Wednesday.
            It was a relatively late start last Saturday as I left with my Sequence Stratigraphy class for a trip to the road cut section north of Caprock Canyons State Park. In the road cuts there is an excellent section of the Triassic Dockum Group exposed. I found some bone fragments in the section; however, they were not diagnostic. The section there shows an excellent sequence of conglomerate, sandstone, and mudstone strata with a wonderful variety of sedimentary structures. 
            Saturday was a beautiful day to be in the field. Today was warm and windy. Tonight there is a possibility of snow in the northern parts of the area. West Texas weather!!! 
            Doug has been having some success piecing together some various elements of his sphenosuchian while I have been sorting and identifying material from Gretchen and my last three field trips. Too much to do and not enought time.
Dockum plant fossils
Dockum plants
 
February 20, 2010, Saturday.
            The sky was overcast and dreary as the day started. It was cool but not cold as we headed for the field for the first time in over a month due to uncooperative weather. The weather was supposed to clear and it wasn't supposed to start snowing until late tonight or tomorrow, so we were going to make the best of it. It turned out to be a beautiful, calm, sunny, 70 degree day. 
            We had not visited the locality since last October and although we didn't find anything spectacular, we did find some interesting fossils. Gretchen Gürtler, as usual, made the first find. She found part of a Koskinonodon skull (the orbit was preserved). It was Johanna Cortes' first trip to the field with us and she was fascinated by the abundance of coprolites. Soon, Johanna had also found an Arganodus tooth. I found a couple of very poorly preserved unionid bivalves. I believe they are the first we have from this locality. The moisture conditions were not conducive for collecting but I was able to show Johanna some of the Triassic plant fossils at the locality.
            Then Gretchen came up with what appears to be a large reptilian premaxilla fragment (not phytosaurian). We will have to prepare and piece it together for identification. Johanna found an aetosaur dorsal vertebra. Gretchen went by to see if there were any signs of small fragments missing from her beautiful Tecovasuchus paramedian osteoderm. No luck. Then she went by her Desmatosuchus site and there wasn't anything additional weathering out there. The same was true for her Poposaurus site. I did find part of a paramedian osteoderm at her Adamanasuchus site.
            We went to the western portion of the locality where I went to check on my baby phytosaur site. I found a piece of maxilla that I hope I am able to piece to the previously collected elements. I collected a number of tiny teeth there also (not all phytosaurian). Gretchen found a portion of a small metoposaur skull nearby. Again we need to prepare the specimen to see if it is identifiable below family level. To the right is also one of the rauisuchid teeth; a fish jaw fragment and scale (on my GPS screen); and one of the tiny teeth I collected (note the texture of my jeans for scale).
            Gretchen made the "find of the day" with a small flint point you can see on the palm of her hand at right.
Johanna Cortes and Gretchen Gurtler
Johanna Cortes, Gretchen Gürtler

Rauisuchid tooth
Rauisuchid tooth
fish scale and jaw fragment
Fish scale, jaw fragment
reptile tooth
Tiny reptile tooth
erratic flint point
Ennigmatic point

 
February 12, 2010, Friday.
            It was before dawn when I arrived at the museum for work. Our winter continues as this was the view of my truck as I looked back on my way into the Museum. It is hard to go to the field and search for fossils when they are covered with snow. So we must be content with preparing and cataloging.
Snowfall before dawn
Dawn snowfall
January 18, 2010, Monday.
            The day got off to a slow start as Gretchen Gürtler and I headed for my research area late in the morning. We stopped and visited the landowner who happened to be on that part of the ranch. I dropped Gretchen off at Site XL because of muddy roads and I drove on around to near Site I. We scoured the locality with very little success. At Site III, I found the proximal end of a Trilophosaurus femur, at Site V I found a vertebra of one of Atanassov's taxa, at Site IV Gretchen found some more Trilophosaurus material (see photo at right top), at Site XII Gretchen may have made the find of the day with what appears to be two articulated  caudal or cervical paramedian aetosaur osteoderms, and at Site XVI she found several phytosaur osteoderms. Then I found some dermal armor of a Dasypus (extant). 
            We did much better with wildlife today. We saw Canadian geese, snow geese, a variety of common ducks, mountain bluebirds, cedar waxwings, bobwhite quail, scaled quail, northern harrier hawks,  a roadrunner, brown thrasher, and then lots more of the other common species.
Gretchen collecting fossils
Gretchen Gürtler digging
on a metoposaur skull
Extant Dasypus armor
Extant armadillo scutes
 
January 3, 2010, Sunday.
            Our winter break ends tomorrow. Gretchen Gürtler and I were frequently in the museum over the break working on various projects and research. 
            Deer season ends today; so, we can  gear-up our field work again.  The recent snows and rains have us anxious to visit several sites. 
            We still have seven phytosaur skulls (or partial skulls) in the field to recover. I was discussing it with Doug last month and our goal is to bring them all in during 2010.
burrowed sandstone

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