2011 FIELD NOTES

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December 30, 2011, Friday.
            I wish you all an early Happy New Year's Eve and New Year's day. Just another candle and a trip around the sun as Jimmy Buffet would say. To the right are my additions the past two weeks to my comparative collection: a 45cm alligator skull, a big 14cm beaver skull (to compare to the Castoroides jaw one of my models is donating to us), and a huge 14cm snapping turtle skull. 
Alligator, beaver, turtle skulls

November 28, 2011, Monday.
            I spent the Thanksgiving holidays in Tucumcari, NM, working at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum with Gretchen Gürtler and Axel Hungerbühler. Axel and I made the finishing touches on the phytosaur manuscript, among other things.
            It was interesting to see some of the MDM collections after additional preparation. Like the new aetosaur they have been working on for the past few years. (See my August 13, 2008, field notes where Gretchen is excavating part of the new taxon.)
            I still believe one of my earlier identifications of an enigmatic element is correct even though Axel disagrees.
            Gretchen and I were also working on manuscripts for several taxa we have collected from the Dockum Group. I am trying to concentrate on finishing my dissertation and not start any new research projects; however, it is hard. I am working on way too many now; but once I finish my dissertation a number of them should be in submission promptly.
Postosuchus bronze skeleton sculpture

November 9, 2011, Thursday.
            Still trying to get caught up after being gone for a week for the SVP annual meeting in Las Vegas. Enjoying visiting with many friends, colleagues, and meeting other paleontologists. It was a long conference but successful. Had some good discussions and was able to see presentations and posters that were very informative. I was able to meet a number of people who I have had communication with over the years but had never met.
            Now with the weather cooling off and Doug back working in the prep lab, we need to make a couple of trips to recover some of the phytosaur skulls we have in the field. 
View of tower from Paris
Las Vegas

October 22, 2011, Saturday.
           It was a beautiful day in the field. Kendra Dean, Joshua Thacker, Jacob Van Veldhuizen, and myself went to check on several localities. At the first locality, 3628, we found some of the usual stuff: a metoposaur femur, humerus, atlas vert; phytosaur teeth, Rauisuchid teeth, coelacanth fragments; and a couple of Arganodus toothplates, a vertebra of one of Atanassov's taxa. While the field crew continued collecting there, I went to 3875 to check there. I found nothing there. Upon returning to 3628, Kendra showed me an excellent Colognathus obscurus mandible she had discovered! I went to check on Jacob's progress and then made a short detour and found what turned out to be a Pleistocene Camelops (prehistoric camel) astragalus.
            After a bit more collecting, we headed for locality 0690. We started out finding some of the usual fragmentary stuff, coprolites, and a few teeth. After a while, Kendra and I took the truck around to the north to go collect some aetosaur osteoderms Gretchen Gürtler had found on a previous trip. Josh was working his way north to meet us. Kendra and I collected the osteoderms and began looking around. I soon found the anterior half of a phytosaur skull.
            Josh and Kendra excavated the skull while I went to check on Jacob and let him know where we were. Jacob prospected his way across the badlands to where we were excavating the skull. While Kendra and Josh were excavating, I worked my way around the hill and found another exploded metoposaur skull. We didn't have time to properly jacket and remove the skull. So after photographing it, we covered it with Tyvec and reburied it to recover after hunting season. Overall, it was a beautiful and successful day in the field.
Kendra Dean with a Colognathus obscurus mandible from the Triassic Dockum Group, Tecovas Formation.
Kendra with Colognathus

Colognathus obscurus mandible Kendra Dean found in the Triassic Tecovas Formation, Dockum Group..
Colognathus jaw

Josh, Bill Mueller, and Kendra Dean with a Paleorhinus - Parasuchus skull Bill found
Josh, Bill, Kendra with
phytosaur skull


August 15, 2011, Monday.
            I just returned from a visit to see GretchenGürtler and spend some time at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum. Gretchen, who has frequently been shown in my field notes became the Director of the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum, Tucumcari, N.M., in July. I also spent a lot of time with Axel Hungerbühler looking at some of the material they collected this summer and discussing phytosaurs. Looking at some of their material re-enforces the proposition by Martz et al. (2003 SVP abstract) that partial and isolated plates often are not reliable for identification of some aetosaur taxa. A more complete representation of the osteoderms from various parts of the body are needed for definite identification. Overall it was a very productive trip.  
Bronze cast of Postosuchus, Mesalands Dinosaur Museum
Bronze Postosuchus mount

June 26, 2011, Sunday.
           We headed to the field a little earlier than normal since it was supposed to be very hot. When we arrived at the locality went to a spot where the landowners had reported some bones to us. I didn't find much but rib fragments. Gretchen Gürtler and Natalie Toth were working their way east. I joined up with them and we collected a number of Unionid clams. We continued working around the basin. Gretchen found a huge phytosaur tooth and shortly after I found a Poposaurus vertebra. We found a few minor elements. Gretchen stopped to work on some bone fragments. While she was excavating it, Natalie and I worked out way southwest. I pointed out one site to Natalie and she stopped there and collected some tiny teeth. I continued on until I found a partial Desmatosuchus osteoderm and then an "exploded" metoposaur skull. We went back to check on Gretchen, but her dig just turned up scrap. We started moving on when I found some skull material and Gretchen excavated it. They have to be prepared for identification. After finishing with the skull fragments, she soon found part of a small metoposaurid interclavicle. After that we worked our way over to the metoposaur skull and then headed back down to the truck for lunch.
            After lunch we started out again and Gretchen soon foun a group of ribs. Most were pretty well gone. She excavated on a group of two or three that may have promise. We consolidated them then covered and buried them to recover at a later date. We split up and headed for different areas to check different sites. Natalie and I didn't find much. Gretchen found some Paracrocodylomorph teeth and a couple of Adamansuchus lateral osteoderms. It was getting pretty hot. I hiked back to the truck and drove out of the basin and circled around to the north and picked up Gretchen and Natalie. Then we headed back to Lubbock. When I checked temperatures this evening, it was 114 about five miles from out locality about the time we left.

Gretchen Gurtler and Natalie Toth collecting Triassic fossils from the Tecovas Formation, Dockum Group.
Gretchen and Natalie
collecting in theTriassic

Texas Horned lizard
Texas  horned lizard

Gretchen Gurtler and Natalie Toth excavating Triassic skull fragments.
Gretchen and Natalie
collecting a skull
fragment

It was so hot the flowers were melting
It was so hot the
flowers were melting



April 2, 2011, Saturday.
           It was a beautiful morning as Natalie Toth, Kendra Dean, and I left for the field.
            Our first stop was at a locality where I had collected a moderately complete aetosaur carapace a number of years ago. Gretchen had also found a series of articulated aetosaur paramedian and lateral osteoderms nearby. This is also the type locality of Libognathus sheddi. We had last visited this locality about two years ago. However, today we found nothing but Antediplodon and a dried out frog. The amount of erosion since our last visit was extreme. The site is almost completely eroded away.
            So we continued and drove south to the next locality. Here we faired a little better, but still didn't find much considering the amount of rain the locality had received since our last visit here. The first place we went was to the baby aetosaur site and then the phytosaur skull site. I was suprised that you absolutely could not tell where we had taken out the 600 pound jacket containing the 1200mm + phytosaur skull and jaw. We did find a tiny horned lizard and very tiny (less than 1 cm) praying mantis near there.
            Our first decent find was an aetosaur lateral osteoderm with a fairly nice sized spine.  I have to prepare the specimen to have a better identification but in the field, covered with matrix, it appears to probably be from a Paratypothorax. We found several partial aetosaur paramedian osteoderms. One that Natalie found appears to be a Typothoracisinae paramedian plate, but it appears to be very long. It is incomplete and still embedded in sandstone so I don't know how wide the plate would have been. We will have to prepare it to get a better idea of the taxon and just how long, relatively, the osteoderm is.
            We found lots of phytosaur skull fragments but nothing substantial. We found a few broken phytosaur teeth and a few rauisuchid teeth also. There is an extensive zone of Antediplodon in the thinly-bedded, gray sandstone just above the site. It extends around the margin of the basin for several hundred meters. Unfortunately, most are completely recrystalized. I did collect a few that exhibited some fairly diagnostic characters.
            Late in the afternoon, it was getting quite warm and the wind was beginning to increase in strength. So, after pretty well covering the basin, we loaded up and headed back to Lubbock.

Aetosaur lateral osteoderm spine.
Aetosaur lateral osteoderm

Texas Horned lizard
Tiny horned lizard

Very tiny praying mantis
Tiny praying mantis

Natalie Toth looking for more Triassic aetosaur osteoderms
Natalie in the field

Kendra Dean looking for Triassic bones in the field.
Kendra looking at clams



March 20, 2011, Sunday 
            After spending the week in the collections and prep lab, I left Thursday evening for the field with Michelle Stocker (UT) and Sterling Nesbitt (UWBM). We were later joined by Matthew Brown (TMM). I spent the next two days with them prospecting for fossils in the Triassic Dockum Group before I had to return to Lubbock while they remained in the field to recover what had been found and do more prospecting. Friday was cool and windy as we started out at their Desmatosuchus site where they were uncovering paramedian osteoderms, ribs, vertebrae, and more. I walked almost seven miles and didn't find much but some burrow fillings and osteoderms. After lunch Sterling and Michelle went to do some prospecting and I went to go check out some areas primarily for the geology and sedimentology. Later, I went to where Matt was excavating a couple of bone elements he had found. Then, while waiting on Michelle and Sterling to return, I found part of an exploded metoposaur skull near the Desmatosuchus site. Sterling and Michelle had found part of a phytosaur skull, coprolites, and some other poorly preserved material.
           Saturday was overcast and misty. We started prospecting a new area. It was slow at first. I found a poorly preserved aetosaur lateral osteoderm. Sterling and Michelle found several mostly "exploded" metoposaur elements. I found several "exploded" elements and what was left of a very poorly preserved metoposaur skull. We continued prospecting, each walking almost seven miles and covering a lot of outcrop. At the end of the day, Sterling and Michelle had each found phytosaur vertebrae, Matt found an interesting small cervical vertebra. All I had found was the aetosaur osteoderm, a fragmentary metoposaur skull (3rd down on right), a fragmentary metoposaur interclavicle (bottom right), and other fragmentary elements.
            The first day of spring was absolutely beautiful in this part of West Texas. I was jealous that I wasn't in the field today, but I have too many things going on this week!
Triassic burrow fillings
Triassic burrow fillings

Michelle Stocker and Sterling Nesbitt digging Desmatosuchus aetosaur osteoderms.
Michelle and Sterling

Left margin of a metoposaur Koskinonodon skull.
Koskinonodon skull frag

Fragmentary metoposaur Koskinonodon interclavicle
Koskinonodon interclavicle


March 15, 2011, Tuesday. 
           I am enjoying spending some time with Michelle Stocker and Sterling Nesbitt in our collections this week. Along with doing some field work last Sunday, I had delivered some guns to a video crew to use as props in an independent film. I took an element out in a block without uncovering any more of it than was exposed (see right) because I thought it was dicynodont element when I found it. While excavating the element I was totally oblivious to the 3.8 earthquake centered about ten miles from me. Today I was able to remove some matrix and it has turned out to be a fairly decent dicynodont humerus. Most of the other material I found was phytosaur and metoposaur material.
Dicynodont humerus from Texas Dockum Group
The dicynodont humerus as
I originally found it.

March 6, 2011, Sunday.  
            Natalie Toth and I left a bit late to allow the temperature to rise a bit. When we arrived, I gave Natalie a brief tour to orient her to the location. We then headed to the sites in the northwest of the locality. I began finding various bone fragments, elements, and then a phytosaur vertebra. Soon Natalie found a dorsal phytosaur vertebra, her first Triassic discovery. We continued working the locality. Site I was very productive with metoposaur elements, Malerisaurus humeri and femur, Trilophosaurus vertebrae, femora, scapulae, and various other elements. Most of the other sites produced the typical metoposaur, Trilophosaurus, and phytosaur elements.
Bill and Natalie with her first Triassic fossilp
Bill and Natalie with
her first phyto vert.

February 13, 2011, Sunday. 
           I am still recovering from my recent illness (nothing serious); however, I didn't feel up to going to the field this weekend even though the weather was beautiful. I have been researching the literature and on-line databases for maximum sized metoposaurid elements. If any of the Triassic people out there know of any metoposaurid elements larger than the ones listed below, I would appreciate your contacting me and letting me know.

Metoposaur skull > 606 mm long (UCMP ?) or > 570 mm wide (UCMP ?);
Metoposaur interclavicle > 575 mm long (MCZ ?) or > 391 mm wide (PPHM ?);
Metoposaur clavicle > 420 mm long or (U Mo 511) > 231 mm wide (PEFO 23383);
Metoposaur mandible > 554 mm long (symphysial length) (ISIA 61);
Metoposaur vertebra > 85 mm wide (TMM 31185-25) or > 41 mm long (TMM 31185-25).

           There were some big, slimy critters swimming around back in the day! 
Metoposaur clavicle
Metoposaur
clavicle

January 9, 2011, Sunday.
            I received an email that the International Committee on Zoological Nomenclature has finally rendered an opinion on the petition to conserve the amphibian genus Buettneria. The committee ruled that the name would not be conserved, so the name Koskinonodon is the valid generic name for the metoposaurids formerly known as Buettneria. I do not much like the name Koskinonodon; however, I do believe the ICZN made the proper ruling.
           I spent part of the weekend sorting and identifying some of the material collected earlier this week, such as the Paracrocodylomorph tooth seen at the right. I ran across a fragment of a tiny metoposaurid interclavicle (approximately 5 cm wide if complete) that Gretchen had found but had neglected to tell me about. She was too excited about the phytosaur leg she found.
           Right now in the Prep Lab, I have a Pseudopalatine phytosaur skull ready for a student to start on next week; my Parasuchid skull I am preparing; a jacketed Metoposaurid skull another student will be working on, and then another Pseudopalatine phytosaur skull that I am doing the final preparation on. Doug is working on preparing his sphenosuchian skeleton. Lots of work to be done! 
           I have to finish identifying all the material collected Wednesday and try to finish a phytosaur manuscript; then,  week after next it is back to photographing the radioactive rodents from Chernobyl.To the right is a paracrocodylomorph tooth. 
Triassic Paracrocodylomorph tooth.


January 5, 2011, Wednesday.
            It was a very cool morning as Gretchen Gürtler and I headed for the field. We saw a lot of waterfowl on our way to the locality: green-wing teal, pintails, mallards, gadwall, hooded mergansers, and Canadian geese. 
            We arrived and checked out the area where they had built a new stock tank or "pond" in the middle of the fossil locality. The landowners had scheduled the work to take place where we could be on site during the excavation, but the contractor got a bit of a jump and before any of us knew it, the tank was completed. No bone or fossils were exposed in the disturbed area or "tailings", so we began to search the remainder of the locality. It hadn't rained since our visit in October, so it gave us a chance to check some areas we did not have time to examine in October.
            Gretchen soon found half of a metoposaurid interclavicle. If complete it would have been about 7 cm in width, either a juvenile Koskinonodon or an Apachesaurus interclavicle. After that we found a variety of elements and specimens......carbonized tree limbs and tree trunks, lungfish burrows, coprolites, isolated teeth, Koskinonodon, Apachesaurus, Vancleavea, Archosauromorph, Trilophosaurus, Phytosauria, Adamanasuchus, Desmatosuchus, and Paracrocodylomorpha. 
            Later, Gretchen found a complete Koskinonodon interclavicle. We jacketed it for extraction and then continued prospecting while the plaster dried. In the southwest area I found a small series of articulated Desmatosuchus paramedian and lateral osteoderms. While I was finding those, to the northeast, Gretchen found an associated phytosaur femur, tibia, fibula, and more. She also found some vertebrae and skull material of a Leptosuchus adamanaensis. By the time we collected that material, collected my Desmatosuchus osteoderms, and went back to collect the jacketed interclavicle, the sun was beginning to set and we headed for home. 
            To the right is Gretchen with her Metoposaur interclavicle (top) and Gretchen with the phytosaur leg that she found (bottom).
Gretchen Gurtler with a Triassic Koskinonodon interclavicle from the Tecovas Formation, Dockum Group.

Gretchen with the hind limb of a phytosaur.

Go to:
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