Sunday, May 28, 2017

NPS Paleontology Roundup

In honor of the return of the Park Paleontology newsletter, I thought I'd do a roundup of some recent articles that discuss fossils from NPS lands. First, though, a word about the newsletter itself. The original incarnation was published from 1998 to 2004, and its archives can be accessed here. It was intended for brief communications about various topics relevant to NPS paleontology, from new finds, to new staff, to new legislation. The new edition follows in that tradition, with articles on a new exhibit at Big Bend National Park, type specimens from NPS units (yet again, sorry), Emily Thorpe's work at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, which I plugged last post, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument's new Chief Paleontologist Nick Famoso, dinosaur tracks at Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, and the history of the newsletter itself. If you're curious, yes, the number of fossil species named/possibly named/etc. from NPS units is now at 4,922, thanks in part to the subject of the heading immediately after the jump.

The part and counterpart of University of Minnesota Paleontology Collections 4090, holotype of graptolite Dictyonema minnesotense Ruedemann 1933, collected from the St. Lawrence Formation at a no-longer extant site in Afton, Minnesota, now within Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When to stay away from outcrops and exposures

Some recent events have provided photographic fodder for a brief unscheduled revisit of safety concerns in the rocks of the Twin Cities, but first I am going to plug the reborn Park Paleontology newsletter. I'll hit it some more this weekend in more detail, but I particularly want to call out Chapter 3 by Emily Thorpe, who was a Geoscientists in the Parks intern over the winter at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. Among other discoveries, she's got the first vertebrate from the Yeso Group (Arroyo de Alamillo Formation), the part and counterpart articulated back half of a skeleton. We've had a lot of great projects from GIPs the past few years, and I'd strongly encourage college students in the geosciences to have a look when the next batch of positions comes out.

Meanwhile, back in the Ordovician...

You may remember the following photo from this post, or this post. Coincidentally, in both posts the photo is being used as an example of a hazard. It was taken back in June 2013 along the road into Crosby Farm Regional Park, before you get to Watergate Marina.

I wonder where this is going...

If you take that road today (May 2017), this is what you'll see:

...the answer appears to be "down".

This is why you should not stand too close to the walls of the bluffs, or to the edge on top.

Meanwhile, over at Shadow Falls, the Decorah Shale presents a different issue, one that can be expressed as a recipe titled "Reconstituted Ordovician Seafloor": take a hillslope of weathered marine shale, and over the course of six days add nearly five inches of rain. It's amazing!

Hiking boots? More like cleats.

The running water is Nature's subtle way of telling you to stay off.

It's not the mud itself that's the big problem (unless you hate mud, in which case you're really in the wrong place), but the slippery sloppy footing. If you go over into the ravine, it's not going to be easy to get you out!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The return of "Dinosaur skeletal anatomy"

As promised earlier, I've reworked the skeletal anatomy section of the old website and added it here. I have rewritten parts of it, particularly to improve the section covering vertebrae, and have substituted different skull figures. I also strongly encourage you, if you have not done so already, to marvel in some armored dinosaurs, the ankylosaurid Zuul crurivastator, and the unnamed Suncor nodosaurid. (Also, that's a heck of a plesiosaur that the Tyrrell has to go with the nodosaur!)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sauropods, three-for-one

Three new sauropod species were published this week, although technically speaking all three are based on fossils that have been mentioned in the literature previously. This is just how things work in paleontology. Even if you know you have something new, it may be years or even decades for a description to surface. The three sauropods of the week cover three continents, two epochs, and three lineages. In a slight upset none of them are South American titanosaurs. Instead, they are diplodocid Galeamopus pabsti from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of the United States, titanosaur Tengrisaurus starkovi from the Lower Cretaceous Murtoi Formation of Russia, and brachiosaurid Vouivria damparisensis from the Upper Jurassic Calcaires de Clerval Formation of France.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Further adventures in the Mazomanie

One of the projects I'm working on concerns the paleontology and geology of Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, so I've been doing some location scouting to get a feel for the geology. It's not quite as simple as MNRRA, even though I'm still only dealing with a handful of formations and there's not much structural geology to contend with. The main issue is finding access to outcrops. Other complications include sparser fossils and all of these darn Cambrian cratonic sheet sandstones that look about the same.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mea culpa and Moabosaurus

I apologize for having been light on the whole "Minnesota" and "invertebrates" part of the blog for this year. Having been doing this for a few years now, the low-hanging fruit is picked, and of course the winter is not the best time to be out and about in the rocks, even if "winter" came with quotation marks instead of snow this year. I'm currently on a short trip to Reston, Virginia, to do some work at the USGS, but I thought I'd at least try to put in something relevant for those topics. Then, of course, there’s a sauropod.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

David Dale Owen and the first geological survey of Minnesota

Although Keating, Featherstonhaugh, and Nicollet made significant contributions to Minnesota geology, the first true geological survey in what is now Minnesota would have to wait until 1847. At this point, the future state was split between Wisconsin Territory and a leftover chunk of Iowa Territory, and with the pending organization of Wisconsin into a state it was actually touch-and-go for a while how the boundaries would fall out. The convergence of St. Croix Valley interests versus the rest of Wisconsin with the old Northwest Territory stipulation that a maximum of five states be made out of the territory, and a dash of underlying slave state versus free state politics, could have led to anything from a super-Wisconsin incorporating much of what is eastern Minnesota to a separate state centered on the St. Croix Valley with Stillwater as the capital (the story can looked at briefly here). Anyway, in 1847 Congress authorized a geological survey in Minnesota and neighboring areas, and appointed David Dale Owen to conduct the work (Hendrickson 1945).

A portrait of Owen, found on p. 206 of Owen (1852).