Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mostly bryos and burrows

It's still a little early to be out and about in the metro rocks and expect good luck (for one thing, the Decorah is still in winter-spring-transition mud mode) or consistent weather, but we're getting close, and sooner than usual. Here's one seasonal photo and then a few interesting pieces I hadn't featured before. These are all photos of Decorah Shale fossils from the St. Paul side of the river.

Lower Decorah a couple of weeks ago, after having been relatively warm and dry for several days. These two fragments were covered with half-burrows (imagine a tubular burrow split along its long axis), and several other pieces from the same area and probably a similar stratigraphic level had the same kind of abundant half-burrows.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Meroktenos thabanensis: not Early Jurassic, just ahead of its time

It's been about a month since Meroktenos thabanensis made its (re)appearance, but I'm just now getting around to it. A bunch of other topics muscled ahead of it, which is fitting, I suppose. Prosauropods (by which the reader should understand "sauropodomorphs what ain't sauropods"; if you should want me to write "basal sauropodomorph" over and over again instead, I accept large cash bribes) are among those dinosaurs which never seem to get much respect. They have been fertile subjects for arm-waving, though, one result of which being that a survey of popular-audience dinosaur books will turn up wildly differing depictions over the years. Bipedal or quadrupedal? Herbivorous, omnivorous, predatory, or scavenging? A stem leading into sauropods, a bunch of rungs, or a distinct empire of prosauropods? Gleefully extreme lumping or splitting? What about herrerasaurids? What about Teratosaurus? (if that last one means anything to you, congratulations, you're in your mid-30s or older, or you study rauisuchids.) Prosauropods have also not been helped by a certain vague uniformity of body shape, nor have they been done any favors by geography. North America has an unimpressive record for these dinosaurs, so far including Anchisaurus (let's not kid ourselves about Ammosaurus being distinct), Sarahsaurus, Seitaad, the unnamed Nova Scotia form, and odds and ends. For a group that did not have horns, frills, spikes, bony armor, crests, ridge-backs, spectacular size, or big pointy teeth, and had the poor sense to go extinct before the appearance of tyrannosaurs or dromies to prey upon them, not being well-represented in North America has not helped their exposure. But I digress.