field journal #9

so far the great canadian dinosaur rush era fossil hunter francis slate's lost quarrys had been elusive. i hoped recruiting my friends/former tyrrell coworkers tony and yumi would help me track these down, or at least help make a significant fossil discovery along the search.
based on the evidence i had at hand, mr. slate had done a lot of his drumheller area work around the many coal mines operating here during the dinosaur rush. his clever strategy was to save time by investigating and following up the discoveries made by the miners in their daily encounters with the local geology. meaning slate had potentially thousands of fossil hunters at his disposal (as there were thousands of miners living here in that era... though realistically most wouldn't have been looking for fossils, but the few that did would have been huge time savers).

we'd already checked out the areas around 2 of the valley's coal mines, the atlas and midland, but with no luck. not that this was casting doubts on slate's site being out there! with over 20 more of them out there it was time for us to pick up the pace, if we were going to exhaust all avenues!

so today we popped by the area around nacmine (the north american coal mine). in modern times there is still a small community which still bears the name of the mine, but 70 years ago it would have way bigger, and right under one of the biggest mines in operation in the valley.

it was a funny day of fossil hunting though, and not what i'd expected...

i'd brought along tony, as typically he is something of a fossil magnet. on every trip i have gone on with him (including the one to DPP), tony always manages to find the best stuff.

its not that i'm a bad fossil hunter, but i have to look real hard to find cool stuff. tony is a natural though. my guess is he has keener sight and sees the differences in rocks much better than me.

however if not thinking of it as a physical difference (which i'm sure it must be), it can appear as though tony just randomly stumbles on great fossils by accident (which to be fair a few times des happen... he'll walk right past a good spot first. one that even i with less keen senses would probably have spotted).
today though i didn't need tony apparently. of all the finds we made, mine were the most impressive. sadly they weren't anything too spectacular...

this dinosaur vertebrae was our first "cool" find of the day. due to its heavy encasing in iron stone, we couldn't ID it. however as this is the horseshoe canyon formation it is a super safe bet that this would turn out to be an edmontosaur if we were to collect and prep it. edmontosaurs are STUPID common around here! you'll find 10 (some say as many of 20) edmontos before you find something else!

when tony came to inspect it, he was of the same opinion as me. we'd found plenty of broken scraps of bone so far, and this was our only in-situ bone (fancy wording for found in its original burial place). that still didn't warrant us wasting anytime on it. especially given its being encased in iron stone, and lack of other bones in association with it. this wasn't the big find we were hoping for...

at the same time tony was impressed. not that either of us thought i was bad at fossil hunting. we're both just used to him outshining me in the field on caliber of material found (i'd find the same amount, but nothing as cool as his...). i'd out done him... for now...

my last find of today had me think maybe the tables had turned. maybe i'd suddenly became a fossil magnet like tony...
i found a pretty patchy micro fossil site, with little of interest in it. except for this one fossil...

an intact hadrosaur tooth! (you guessed it, edmontosaur most likely! though there is a slight chance it could be from one of the other rarer hadrosaurs of the horseshoe canyon era).

with that conclusion, nacmine turned out to be a dead end.

which is sad. in addition to slate, there was a slim chance we could have come across another BIG lost quarry. that being the site of joseph burr tyrrell's first albertosaur. it was in this area that he recorded finding it. however that was well over a 100 years ago. erosion by now most likely had wiped out the surface layers he had been working on. coupled with his only taking the skull it wasn't a big dig (though if erosion hadn't destroyed the spot that meant the body could still be there!), and won't be easy to spot. so it isn't surprising we didn't find it.

at the same time a tyrannosaur can dream a little can't he?


Raptor Lewis said...

Not a total loss, Traum. I am surprised, though, how Slate can be THIS elusive. It's mind-boggling. Hmm...Sadly, I don't have anything else to say other than encouragement, sorry. I'm still in school and I may know a good deal (though not as much as you) about the biology portion of paleontology, but I still have a lot to learn. So..no advice from me, just encouragement.

Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

hehe! I wouldn't mind finding just another Edmonto

Zach said...

Doggone duckbills. Have there been any studies of tooth morphology across the Hadrosauridae? I ask because I wonder if different genera had different teeth. I doubt it, though. Seems like duckbills were all basically the same aside from their cranial crests. Maybe I'm just biased against duckbills... :-)

Traumador said...

dinorider- the first one is a thrill... but by 10 you get real sick of edmontosaurs real quick (espeically since you never find much of their skulls...)

zach- i'm not sure of any one definate study, but i'm sure they've been done throughout the ages.

afterall how many species are named after just teeth?

in my experience of finding teeth (which is not the most extensive compared to some mind you, but quite a bit) hadrosaur teeth are just that hadrosaur teeth. i'm pretty sure if there was even a difference between hadrosaurids and lambeosaurid teeth it'd be pretty common knowledge.

as for the crest only differences it turns out there are more differences if you look hard (i myself don't either as typically i'm just eating dinner when looking at hadrosaur skeletons, and who wants to know where their dinner came from really :P)

a friend of mine i currently doing her masters on hypracrosaurs, and trying to determine if there is a difference between albertan and montanaian species.

her big complaint is that so much of hypracosaur ID is based on neck neural arches and spines... and a lot of the material she has to work with is JUST skulls (provided to her no doubt by someone with the crest only mentality LOL)

i'm interested to see what dr. david evans is going to do to the field of duckbills... he is the upcome and coming phil currie, but for hadrosaurs (rather then theropods)... already he has redefined several things about Dinosaur Park hadros (clarifying the Lambeosaur species difference as opposed to male and females).