2012 FIELD NOTES

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October 11, 2012, Thursday.
            It started out a very hazy and foggy day as Doug Cunningham and I headed for the field to recover the complete phytosaur mandible I found on August 30. The landowner stopped by and visited as we finished digging and then jacketed the jaw. While the plaster was drying Doug and I went to VPL 3925 to check out the area where I found quite of bit of bone. We found more. The best thing we found was the proximal 2/3 of a phytosaur humerus. I wasn't very well preserved. We found a few more scrappy bones, so we headed back and extracted the jacketed phytosaur jaw.
Triassic phytosaur jaw in the field
 
September 17, 2012, Monday.
            It was a beautiful day in West Texas as Gretchen Gürtler and I met Martin Sander's vertebrate paleontology class from the University of Bonn (Germany), at the Lubbock Lake Landmark. We then led them to my research area, which had received over four centimeters of rain last week. They were a great group of students! We found fragments of many of the "usual suspects" - metoposaurids, Malerisaurus, Trilophosaurus, phytosaurids, but didn't find anything spectacular; however, one participant found some fragments of what appears to be some dicynodont bones. Unfortunately, we were not able to spend enough time at the locality to cover only about 25% of the sites. 
German paleo class at VPL 3869

September 9, 2012, Sunday.
            After a weekend in Eastland, Texas, visiting with many friends at a re-union of our graduating class and my sister, I returned to Lubbock.
           On my way back, I took a detour to my research area for a reconnaissance of the roads after the recent rains so I can be prepared for the following week's field trip. I checked out a couple of sites while I was there and found a Trilophosaurus ungual, a juvenile phytosaur sacral vertebra, and what appears to be a dinosauromorph limb bone (scale bar is 1 cm). The "dinosauromorph" bone is going to take quite a bit of delicate preparation to reconstruct it.
            I think I saw more lizards today on my locality than I have seen in the past three years combined!
Trilophosaurus claw (ungual) from the Triassic Dockum Tecovas Fm, Texas
Trilophosaurus ungual
A juvenile phytosaur sacral vertebra from the Triassic Dockum Tecovas Fm, Tecovas.
Juvenile phytosaur
sacral vertebra
Possible dinosauromorph limb bone from the Texas Triassic Dockum Tecovas Fm.
Dinosauromorph
limb bone

August 30, 2012, Thursday.
            I had to go south to do some photography today, so I also planned to check out some of our localities while waiting on the correct light. I arrived on the ranch about dawn and began the first stage of my project. It was a bit hazy for some of the images, but overall it went well. Doug arrived shortly and I headed for 3923 to leave my truck and Doug was to meet me there shortly. To the right is where I crossed the South Fork of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River (not much in the way of water). I found very little at 3923, only indeterminate bone fragments. Doug arrived and since I had about a four hour wait for the next light, we headed for 3927. There Doug found a large phytosaur osteoderm. We found lots of fragmentary ribs, and lots of indeterminate bone fragments. This was normally a very good site.
            We left there and headed for 3925. We pulled up and parked and there were fragmented ribs exposed. Doug went north looking for a historic archeological site while I covered the paleo site. Lots of fragmented ribs but little else. I ended up finding a phytosaur vertebra and and interesting clam (at right).
            Doug returned and showed me a couple of other historic archeological sites and then we returned to my truck. Doug headed out to take care of other things while I did my next round of photographs.
            After I finished the next group of photos, I had another four hour wait so I went to 3926. I went to check where Gretchen Gürtler (per her request) had found a series of phytosaur cervical vertebrae in 2008. About five feet away there was a very poorly preserved, fragmented, partial skull. While examining it and trying to decide if it was work collecting or not, I noticed something nearby. With a little digging, I quickly determined it was a phytosaur mandible. In the image at the right, you can click on it and go to a larger image. The jaw appears to be complete and nicely preserved. I uncovered enough to see that it was complete, then I covered it to come back and jacket later. I then headed back to 3925 to check an area I didn't have time to earlier. 
            I collected some more clams of what appears to be a different taxon than the ones I collected earlier. I wasn't finding much and continued to expand my search. I finally found an area that was littered with bones. I collected a phytosaur vertebra and a couple of other elements. There was an ischium, ribs, osteoderms, skull fragments, and more. I will have to return when we jacket the jaw. I was unable to stay and collect more because the time for my final series of images was approaching and I had to leave to go do more photography.
Clouds at sunrise viewed from my field office in West Texas.
Clouds viewed from my
"field office"

South Fork, Double Mountain Fork, Brazos River. Dry riverbed.
Brazos River crossing

A Triassic unionid clam from the Dockum Group, Texas.
Unionid clam

Image showing the relationship of Gretchen Gurtler's phytosaur vertebrae, and the Bill Mueller phytosaur jaw and skull in the Triassic Dockum Group.
Phytosaur jaw, skull.

Full moon at sunset in West Texas
Full moon at sunset.
 


July 8, 2012, Sunday.
            It was still hot when I left for the locality at 6:30am. The heat was already oppressive when I arrived at the locality. It was very humid and there wasn't a bit of air movement. I took my GPS and went to the coordinates where a student had collected as couple of bone fragments on April 14. These bone fragments turned out to be the posterior part of a sub-adult skull of our undescribed Paleorhinus taxon. My entire trip was to see if there was more of the skull there.
            When I arrived at the coordinates, I stuck my digging tool into the ground. I immediately spotted part of a braincase. I ended up with five pieces of the braincase within a radius of one meter of the tool. There was no other bone in the area. I dug but never uncovered any more bone.
            I started working my way over to Site IV, finding part of an aetosaur osteoderm and a Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus) on the way. At IV, I found a few small vertebrae, a procoelous vertebra, and a proximal "Malerisaurus" humerus. Then at Site V I found another partial aetosaur osteoderm. I collected some more small vertebrae, radii, and a scapula. There are other bones and a tiny distal humerus (?) to be prepared for definite identification.
            I worked my way along checking several sites and collecting a few small vertebrae and a partial Trilophosaurus ilium along the way. When I walked up to Site III, I immediately spotted a Trilophosaurus jaw section. It turned out to be an left mandible. It appears that it may be complete, I will have to do more prep. I also recovered part of the right mandible. I collected a few vertebrae and a proximal haemal arch. I worked my way to Site I where I found a Trilophosaurus femur and a few other small elements. 
            By then the heat and humidity were getting uncomfortable. I went by my dicynodont sites to check on them and didn't find anything. So then I drove over to Site XLII to check it. All I found there were some metoposaur bone fragments and a couple of broken phytosaur osteoderms. I was hot so I headed home, driving through some cooling rain along the way.
Greater Earless Lizard, Cophosaurus texanus, Southwest US lizard, Texas
Greater Earless
Lizard

Proximal end of a Malerisaurus humerus, Triassic reptile, Tecovas Formation, Dockum Group
Trilophosaurus humerus

Left mandible, dentary, Trilophosaurus, Triassic reptile, Tecovas Formation, Dockum Group, Texas
Trilophosaurus
mandible


July 6, 2012, Friday.
            Joshua and I went to the field on Sunday, July 1. We didn't find anything spectacular; however, we had a good day even though it was rather warm. We collected a variety of specimens: Unionids, coprolites, metoposaurid elements, fragments; "Malerisaurus" elements, phytosaur elements, teeth; Paracrocodylomorph teeth; aetosaur osteoderms; and a few other specimens. In one spot I found where a "new" petrified tree has started weathering out. It looks like it is at least 8 meters long.
            In cleaning and sorting the material yesterday, I discovered a couple of interesting specimens I collected: a phytosaur osteoderm and a phytosaur tooth that are partially replaced by what appears to be carnelian. This was quite a coincidence since recently there was an article published on Triassic bivalves replaced with Carnelian (Bain, 2012).
            To the right are two photos of the broken phytosaur tooth. The thumbnail images are linked to larger photos. There are some interesting dendritic structures mixed in. Views of the phytosaur osteoderm showing the cross-section where it is broken is posted below. We haven't found anything like this previously. 
Phytosaur tooth partially replaced with carnelian from the Triassic Dockum Group, Tecovas Formation.
Phytosaur tooth partially replaced with carnelian from the Triassic Dockum Group, Tecovas Formation.

June 28, 2012, Thursday.
            I had posted on FB that we had moderate success last Sunday. Over the past two days I have examined the material we collected that students cleaned and prepared. I think our success was good. We added two new taxa to the faunal list of the localities. Another locality now is producing dicynodont material and we have a phytosaur taxon from one of the localities that I cannot identify. The phytosaur is different from anything in our collections and I have not found anything comparable in the literature.  NOTE: the image at right is a specimen collected on July 1: see above posting.
Phytosaur osteoderm partially replaced with carnelian (chalcedony - agate). from the Triassic Dockum Group, Tecovas Formation.
Phytosaur osteoderm break with carnelian

June 24, 2012, Sunday.
            It was warm as we (Gretchen Gürtler , Joshua, and I) headed for the field. We went to three localities today: VPL 3867, 3873, and 3939. Gretchen Gürtler quickly found a bone mass she began working on. We collected a few isolated fragments and then Joshua found part a a metoposaur skull sticking out of a bank and began excavating it. While he worked on it, I collected a few metoposaur vertebrae and the right rear 1/4 of another skull further up the ravine. Due to time and heat, we hadn't planned to jacket anything today, so we covered Gretchen's bone mass and the skull for recovery later.
            At 3873, about all we found were isolated, scrappy fragments of phytosaurs and metoposaurs. So, we soon headed for Gretchen's "metoposaur pond" at 3939. We took a little different route in and Gretchen headed for the metoposaur concentration. She had just reached it when I came across the fragmented remains of a phytosaur skull. The only good thing was that the two largest pieces were the squamosals. Gretchen worked her area and found abundant fragmentary material and a couple of osteoderms. I went to another spot and found a large metoposaur atlas vertebra (110mm wide) and a number of Paracrocodylomorph teeth. 
Gretchen Gurtler and Bill Mueller examining Leptosuchus phytosaur squamosals from the Triassic Dockum Group
Gretchen and I with
phytosaur squamosals.

Large metoposaur atlas vertebra
Metoposaur atlas
vertebra


May 18, 2012, Friday.
            I just returned from speaking on the Mesozoic biostratigraphy of the Tucumcari area on Monday and then helping with the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum's first summer paleontology field class of the year. I enjoyed spending the week with Gretchen Gürtler and meeting a lot of nice people. I spent most of my time in the lab with Gretchen, Kendra, Donny, and Roper teaching preparation techniques.
            Thursday I finally spent some time in the field; however, primarily photographing the quarry excavations for Gretchen. It was nice to be in the field with Axel and his field crew. I think I got some nice images of the crew at work.
            Now I have to prepare to photograph the eclipse on Sunday and then teach photography next week for CIDOC to a group of museum professionals from Germany, Brazil, Mongolia, Egypt, and elsewhere.
            To the right is an image of Tucumcari mountain, Mesa Redonda, and a gourd blossom. 

Tucumcari Mountain
Tucumcari Mesa

Mesa Redonda
Mesa Redonda

Gourd blossom
Gourd blossom


May 5, 2012, Saturday.
            I haven't been to the field since April 14, but we have made a couple of interesting discoveries in the lab. The two students have been preparing, sorting, and "identifying" the specimens we collected. One specimen I am still working on preparing is one Gretchen found in March. It appears to be a non-metoposaurid amphibian. Wednesday I went through some of the material the students had worked on. I found a specimen that, at this time, appears to be a new archosaur taxon. Then on Thursday, I went though some more material. I had collected an ilium on our last trip that I thought was probably phytosaur but it could be a preparation learning tool for the students. When I saw it, I was surprised. I glued the last few pieces in place and realized it was not phytosaur. It has a perforated acetabulum. It hasn't matched anything I have compared it to in the literature. Not a bad week.
            Then today was appropriately Dino Day at the museum. 
 

April 14, 2012, Saturday.
            It was a breezy morning as two students and I headed for the field. The locality had received rain since Gretchen Gürtler and I were there three weeks ago. We found a lot of fragmentary pieces and some teeth from the "usual suspects". I did find three aetosaur osteoderms, which are not common at this locality. We headed back for Lubbock later in the day when the dust began to reduce visibility.
Triassic phytosaur tooth
Small phytosaur tooth

March 25, 2012, Sunday.
            It was a beautiful day to go to the field and we were off to a leisurely start. Not only were the wildflowers beautiful, walking around the locality smelled like you were walking in a flower garden.
            I dropped Gretchen Gürtler off at Site XLII and, after looking for some fish remains, I continued over to one of my dicynodont sites. Gretchen found a couple of very interesting, tiny bones that we are going to have to prep for identification (Doswellia osteoderm). I hadn't found much working my way over to Site XXXVIII and then I found a fragment from a dicynodont scapula. I continued over to Site XLI and collected a proximal phytosaur femur and then a small, fragmentary metoposaur interclavicle at Site XXI (<90 mm). After that I went by a number of sites and found basically nothing.
            Gretchen worked her way from Site XLII around the northern margin of the basin. She found some metoposaur skull fragments at Site XXXIII, where she had found a partial metoposaur skull several years ago. She then worked her way around to Site XXIV, while I headed for the northwest part of the basin. At XXIV, she found a group of small phytosaur vertebrae. She also found large fragments of three metoposaur skulls. They were badly weathered/disarticulated prior to burial. Nothing diagnostic. I pretty well found nothing.
            After I arrived at Site XXIV, we decided to head home. While crossing the basin, we stopped and I photographed Gretchen where her Paleorhinus specimen was collected, Site XVI. We then went by another site and Gretchen found what appears to be a fragment from a dicynodont skull. Then we headed home.

Gretchen collecting metoposaur elements.
Gretchen collecting
metoposaur elements.

Bill Mueller watching Gretchen Gurtler collect metoposaur elements.
Me watching Gretchen unearth metoposaur skull fragments she discovered.

Gretchen Gurtler at Site 16, Paleorhinus site.
Gretchen at Site XVI.


March 17, 2012, Saturday.
            Spent the last three days working in the collections with Sterling Nesbitt and Adam Pritchard.
            Doug did a great job of hosting us for dinner one evening and mesquite grilling some good steaks for us.
            We got a lot accomplished and examined a lot of Triassic material. Very productive few days and I also learned a lot in the process. 

That time of year.

March 12, 2012, Monday.
            On Monday, March 5, Doug Cunningham and Bill Mueller had returned to 3913 to work on excavating the phytosaur skull there. They removed quite a bit of the overburden and matrix around the skull. There were numerous flocks of sandhill cranes flying north. It became apparent that the skull was probably incomplete when Bill kept digging but did not find the left quadrate. They worked a while using hammers and chisels after the batteries for the jackhammer died.
           On Tuesday, March 6, Doug Cunningham returned to the dig and continued working on extracting the skull. He confirmed the skull was incomplete. He found the right quadrate, so it appears much of the braincase and left quadrate are missing as was suspected from Monday. He prepared the skull to be ready to excavate, the only problem was the potential return of wintry weather and snow by Thursday.
           On Wednesday, March 7, Doug was again doing yeoman work and returned to the locality, finished excavating the specimen, jacketed it, lowered it from its high perch, and hauled out all of the equipment and supplies. The preservation of the bone appears to be exceptional; however, we will have to do a lot of preparation to determine how complete the specimen is. We know the left quadrate/quadratojugal is missing although the left jugal, left squamosal, and right quadrate are present.
           Today (March 12) Doug and I returned to pack the jacket out of the canyon. We were having to carry the jacket out of the canyon by going down the drainage in the bottom until we reached a spot where we could reach with an ATV. This makes the tenth phytosaur skull Doug has discovered that is now in our collections. We have three more of his phytosaur skull discoveries still in situ in the field, plus a partial skull (Audad Bluff) and the one at 3880.
           After getting the jacket out of the canyon, we headed back to Lubbock.

Doug with phytosaur skull


Bill working on  phyto skull


March 1, 2012, Thursday.
            It was going to be a windy day and the negative ions in the air were hard at work. It was a crazy day.
            We arrived at the locality to extract the posterior portion of a large phytosaur skull. The friable sandstone suddenly became extremely hard. We hadn't used the portable jackhammer since I removed the basal phytosaur skull from my research area a year or so ago.Our seven year old batteries for our portable jackhammer are beginning to die and didn't last very long at all. We didn't get much accomplished compared to what we had planned.
            After the batteries died we went back to check on the small skull Doug had found and the scapula-coracoid. We started excavating the small, upside down skull and it is partial. The anterior portion of the snout is missing but the palate appears intact. We jacketed the specimen and removed it. We will have to prepare it to see how much of the dorsal skull is there. Doug collected a large vertebra and I collected half a phytosaur fibula. We then went and jacketed the scapula-coracoid and removed them. It had been a long day and the wind was strong as we headed back to Lubbock.
Doug Cunningham jackhammering matrix around a phytosaur skull.
Doug working on skull

Bill Mueller clearing matrix from around a phytosaur skull.
Bill working on  phyto skull


February 23, 2012, Thursday.
            It was an interesting week. Gretchen Gürtler, Axel and I attended a CCURI conference and then spent some time in the TMM collections looking at phytosaur and trilophosaurus material (see image top right). It was a hectic trip.
            Today, Doug Cunningham and I went to several localities. We were planning to excavate one of the phytosaur skulls he had found a while back. We excavated the skull. It has a very interesting crest. We then went over to another locality. At the right is Doug with a phytosaur sticking out of a creek bank. We recovered about half of the skull and will have to go back to recover the rest. It looks beautifully preserved.
            We then went to check on several other localities. The huge phytosaur skull was in good shape and well covered. It appears like we will leave it until the fall. We looked around a bit and Doug found a small phytosaur skull. Unsure of how complete it is at this time. Next week we plan to return to collect the skull in the creek bank, a phytosaur scapula-coracoid, a phytosaur humerus, and the little phytosaur skull.
Axel Hungerbuhler, Michelle Stocker, and Gretchen Gurtler examining a phytosaur skull.
Examining a phyto skull

Doug Cunningham with a phytosaur skull.
Doug & Phyto skull


January 29, 2012, Sunday.
            It was a beautiful day in the field as we went to collect the phytosaur skull I discovered last October. There had been some precipitation at the locality since our last visit. Today I had three students with me and it was some of their first time to jacket a specimen so it went a little slower than with Gretchen Gürtler and me. After jacketing the specimen, we searched the area but didn't find much. I haven't gone through what the students found yet. I collected some unionid bivalves, some coprolites, some osteoderms, phytosaur and paracrocodylomorph teeth, and an archosauromorph ilium.
Bill Mueller with field crew jacketing a Triassic phytosaur skull in the Tecovas Formation of the Doockum Group.
Jacketing skull

Triassic phytosaur and paracrocodylomorph teeth collected from the Tecovas Formation of the Dockum Group, West Texas
Triassic teeth


December 30, 2011, Friday.
            I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Eve and New Year's day. Just another candle and another trip around the sun.
            I am planning on this being a very productive year. Hopefully we will be able to go to the field more this year than we did last year. We just endured the driest year in Lubbock's history. To the right are my recent additions to my comparative collection: 45 cm Alligator, 14 cm Castor, and 14 cm Chelydra
Alligator, beaver, and turtle skull
New comparative skulls

Go to:
(2003-2005 Field Notes)     (2006 Field Notes)     (2007 Field Notes)     (2008 Field Notes)     (2009 Field Notes)     (2010 Field Notes)     (2011 Field Notes)     (2013 Field Notes)
(2014 Field Notes)     (2015 Field Notes)     (2016 Field Notes)     (2017 Field Notes)


ALL TEXT AND IMAGES © 2013 BILL MUELLER