Sunday, November 20, 2011

SVP 2011

Wow, I've been lazy about blogging lately. In my defense, most of the people who read this thing also check Facebook and have otherwise regular communication with me. I also haven't been doing a whole lot of prep lately so I don't have many pictures to post. Also, school this semester has been pretty brutal and I really don't have a lot of free time. That which I do have is mostly taken up by spending time with my awesome wife and kids or helping out around the house.
Excuses aside, I recently returned from a short trip to Las Vegas where I attended the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology of which I am a member. The only way I can justify going is if I present some original research so my boss can subsidize a portion of the trip costs. This year, I presented a poster about an extinct varanid lizard, Saniwa ensidens. It is closely related to the living monitor lizards. You can read about the prep here.
Magic Canyon (where this fossil came from) is a very cool place, I'd really like to go back and spend as much time as I want cataloging the fossils and then extracting them. Maybe next year I could to some sort of stratigraphic study of it. I can dream can't I?
Anyway, here is a much reduced in size and resolution copy of my poster. I put a lot of work into this guy and I'm very proud of the work. (Right click and choose 'View Image' to see it a little bigger.)My poster was received well. I didn't get a whole lot of traffic or comments on it, but that which I did receive was positive. My poster neighbor, Massimo Delfino, was the best neighbor I could have asked for. Each time neither of us had anybody speaking with us, he would come over and talk to me. He showed me some cool geology stuff on his netbook and just made me feel so at home in that big kids science fair.
I really didn't enjoy Las Vegas. I really wish Faith could have been there to enjoy it with me. But I didn't really leave my hotel room except to attend a few portions of the conference because I had a bunch of homework that needed to be done. In 2013, the SVP annual meeting will be in Los Angeles so I think I will go and take Faith and the kids, because it's a way better place for families (Ahem, Disneyland).



Thursday, May 19, 2011

Amynodon advenus, Part 4

I feel kinda silly posting more photos of another Amynodon advenus but that's what I've been preparing. For some reason over the past year and half, we've found a lot of them and a lot of Sphenocoelus skulls too. Another Amynodon was found and prepared (not by me), and we've got two more Sphenocoelus skulls at the office that were recently found.
Remember an Amynodon is closely related to a rhinoceros and Sphenocoelus is a brontothere (looks like a rhino but is related more closely to a horse). Rhinos, horses, and brontotheres are all perissodactyls which is a group of hooved animals that all have an odd number of toes. The only other living members of this group are tapirs, though there are several other extinct perissodactyl groups like the freaky awesome chalicotheres.
So anyway, this Amynodon was found near this Sphenocoelus.
First day of prep
Last day, prep complete
Odd toes,


Monday, April 25, 2011

Creodont - Oxyaenodon dysodus

Last year I spent quite a bit of time in the office doing prep and scheduling while my boss was away. When I finally got back out into the field, the others I was working with seemed to be finding all of the fossils on that first day. I said something like "Man! I've been in the office too long, I've forgotten how to find fossils." Less than 30 seconds later, I found this. I'm not 100% sure, but I think it is Oxyaenodon dysodus. It belongs to a group of extinct carnivorous mammals called Creodonts. Modern carnivorous mammals, Carnivorans, out-competed the Creodonts and drove them to extinction around 8 million years ago.
This is the first Creodont we've found at work (that I'm aware of) and it's in a type of rock in which we don't normally find fossils. The rock fractures very easily and is pretty hard, while the fossils are just a bit softer so that makes it challenging. This was on the surface and when I put all the pieces together it looked like swiss cheese with pieces missing in the middle. I endeavored to fill the gaps with bondo and glue with varying success. Here are photos of the jaws after prep. The pieces of the skull which were associated didn't come out looking so pretty, so I won't post them.
I normally end up preparing other people's finds, and I'm okay with that. This is one of the few fossils I've posted that I can lay claim to finding, and I'm very proud of it.

Sharp teeth,


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sphenocoelus intermedius Part 3

So here I am with yet another Sphenocoelus intermedius. I didn't find this one, but I did most of the work collecting it. Also, I was not the only preparator to work on it. Jason began it, Dave continued it, and I finished it.It's missing most of the left side of the back of the skull, but it's got nearly complete nasals which break off so easily. It's also missing all the incisors, canines, and first premolars. Also, the entire top of the head is missing like it's been scalped or something.


Friday, April 01, 2011

Amynodon advenus Parts 2 and 3

Both of these skulls are examples of Amynodon advenus. Like the fossil in the previous post, I began them last summer, and finished them this winter, and only just got all my photos for them.
The first one is the third fossil we collected and I prepared from Magic Canyon. It was found by my friend L.J. but almost everyone at work helped to get it out of the field (except me).
End of Day 1Prep Finished
As you can see much of the left side is missing. This was the exposed and weathered portion. The blue in the teeth is bondo. There was a major crack running through this part of the skull, so there is some loss of bone.Here is a nice profile photo from the right side. You can see the nice big canine and overall shape of the head, though there is a little bit of crushing. This was probably a male while the one I posted on last year was probably a female judging on the canine size. The difference between males and females of the same species is called sexual dimorphism.
This second skull was found just off the edge of a well pad during construction by my friend Shaun. We had been in this area before, but for some reason nobody noticed it until Shaun. Good find Shaun!
Before Prep
After Prep
The pink line in the middle is bondo where I broke it in half when I collected it. Oops! I actually broke it a second time during prep, but as I always say, "It's not done unless you break it at least once".
This photo is a view looking at it straight on. You can see there is significant shift. The top is shifted right (left in the photo) relative to the bottom. This is a fairly common trait of many fossils and happens because of intense heat and pressure due to lithification of sediments (sediment becoming rock). Also, though you can't really see it in the photos, the front of both canines has been worn perfectly flat. This is probably due to the upper and lower canines rubbing against one another during life. I haven't seen this in any of the other Amynodons we've collected, though there is still one more that needs to be prepared.



Saniwa cf. ensidens

I began this project way back last July, but wasn't able to finish it until February. I just barely got all my pictures, so here is the post.
This is a pretty amazing specimen. First off, it's a 30% or so complete skeleton which is unusual. Second off, it's a species that hasn't been reported from the Uinta Formation before. It's a varanid (monitor) lizard that is most similar to Saniwa ensidens though it could be a different species. We're not sure yet.
The first photo was taken after my first day of prep, the second photo is the final one. As you can see there is quite a bit of difference. This guy has a leg, pieces of both arms, 25-30 vertebrae from all along the body, a bunch of ribs, 3 pieces of the skull (upper jaw, lower jaw, and back of the head), and a bunch of other tiny bones I wasn't able to identify.
I've submitted an abstract to a professional conference, but still haven't heard back to see if it got accepted.

Best lizards,


P.S. This is one of the other fossils from Magic Canyon.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What do termites eat? Wood or bone?

These two fossils were found just a few feet from one another in the same bed of green sandstone. The first is a pretty rare item for the Uinta Formation. It's wood, the yellowish stuff.

This second one is a humerus from a large mammal (probably a Brontothere). A large portion of the proximal end (end closer to the body, left side in photos) is missing and it's not my fault. This bone shows extensive signs of insect calcium harvesting. These pits and trails were probably made by termites (dermestid beetles are another likely candidate) prior to the burial of this bone. This kind of feature (taphonomy) is actually fairly common on fossils, but it doesn't get a lot of attention because it doesn't have fangs, horns, or claws.

Sticks and stones may break my bones,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sphenocoelus uintensis

There are three North American species of Sphenocoeuls: S. uintensis, S. intermedius, and S. hyognathus. S. uintensis is the most primitive, S. hyognathus is the most advanced, and S. intermedius is in the middle. This skull is of S. uintensis. Found by my friend Garrett, it was in some very soft (poorly cemented) sandstone matrix. So I was able to finish it in three days, hence so few progress photos.

As you can see, a lot of the teeth are missing. It was a fairly old individual because the wear on the remaining molars is very extensive. Here are the sagittal (top) and right side views of the same skull. When you compare it to the two S. intermedius skulls I prepared earlier this year (1 and 2), you can see that while those ones have more teeth, this one has more of the entire skull.

Aching finger,


Turtle Jaws (Apalone? sp.)

The most common fossils in the Uinta Formation are turtles. There are 14 or 15 different species some more common than others. But as far as I know, there are no known cranial (head) remains of fossil turtles in the Uinta Formation. So here it is folks, the first known cranial turtle material from the Uinta Formation. I didn't find them, I'm not sure to who that distinction goes (Shaun?), but I did get to prepare them. The pink stuff in the photos is Bond-O (autobody filler) which is a really strong support and bonder for delicate or large fossils. The occlusal (biting) surface of the jaws was weathered away and they got really thin toward the front, so I strengthened them with the Bond-O.

Sorry for the change in orientation,


Friday, March 04, 2011

Brontothere Cervical (Neck) Vertebrae

I'm pretty sure this vert is from a brontothere. If you look at the posterior view (2nd photo) you can see a large burrow running from top right to bottom left. It was probably made by a beetle or something scavenging the corpse before the vert was buried.
Carbonated hydroxyapatite,


Small Rhinocerous Jaw

This is a partial jaw from a small Rhinoceros. It was in very hard matrix so I only took enough off to make it small and reveal the teeth. It's missing everything forward of the last premolar. So it has p3-m3 for you anatomy types.
In this second photo you can sort of see the last molar (m3) to the left which is unerupted. So this guy was a young adult just getting his last "wisdom" tooth.No horns,


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

No they didn't. Yes, they did.

In the November 2010 volume of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Thomas Lehman and Steven Wick published an article naming and describing a new type of fossil. They call it Chupacabrachelys complexus. They actually named it after the mythical chupacabra.
So now you must be thinking, it must be some vicious, fangy, meat-eating, terrible monster right? Wrong. Chupacabrachelys means "Chupacabra shell". It's a turtle. It's not even a vicious spiky turtle. It just has a narrow head that "resembles that of a mangy coyote believed to be responsible for chupacabra sightings in South Texas during 2008".
Also, complexus isn't the species name because it's necessarily complex either, it's after the Blue Man Group album 'The Complex' which the researchers listened to while collecting and preparing the turtle.

Watch out,


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who is Gaidal Cain?

There has been a lot of speculation as to who Gaidal Cain has been reborn as in the Wheel of Time Universe. I haven't seen anyone else say this, so I wanted to get it out there first. I think that Gaidal Cain was reborn as Jur and Sora Grady's son Gadren. In Towers of Midnight, Grady tells Perrin (I think it was Perrin) that his young son is ugly, but he loves him still.

Gaidal Cain is Gadren Grady,


P.S. After a little more searching, I found some people had already postulated this. Oh well. RAFO

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sphenocoelus intermedius Part 2

This summer some of my co-workers found a little canyon that was surprisingly fossiliferous. (Fossiliferous means containing lots of fossils.) Each time it was revisited, more and better fossils were found. We first started calling it Fossil Canyon, but eventually we settled on Magic Canyon. This skull is the second we found and collected from Magic Canyon. It's from a species called Sphenocoelus intermedius.

The block was much larger and I don't have a photo of it before I started prep (Notice all the rubble around the block). This photo was taken when I first discovered bone (the darker gray patch in the middle left).
End of work on Day 1
Day 2

Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6 - Work complete!

We collected 2 other things from Magic Canyon, (though there are more than would merit returning). I already prepared another skull, but don't presently have all the photos of it. I'll post it when I get them. The third thing is a remarkably complete skeleton of a new lizard. I'm currently working on preparing it.

Oompa Loompa Doompa Dee-Do,


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What does 63 mean?

A conversation this morning.

Grace: Dad, what does 63 mean?
Dan: 63 is a number. 63 is 9 times 7.
Faith: Sometimes you have a hard time speaking in layman's terms.
Dan: How am I supposed to answer that question?
Faith: What was the question?
Dan: "What does 63 mean?"

What DOES 63 mean?,