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Discovering Dinosaurs

Bureau of Land Management
Environmental Education Electronic Field Trip


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Excavation Journal

June 5, 2001: Another Rare Skin Fossil

By Elizabeth Rieben

Paleontologist Barry Albright called from the site to report the crew discovered another rare skin fossil. This fossil is very similar to the other skin fossil specimens found at the site in May, although the patterns are a little more distinctive and the curves in the pattern indicate it may be skin from the tail or leg bone. We hope to have digital pictures of this fossil soon.

The crew has taken out about half of the specimen and pedestaled (see our glossary of terms) all remaining bone fossils. Since they are allowed to drive to the site only once (because the site is in a protected area), they have piled all the plaster blocks right there at the site. Once they get the rest of the fossils out of the ground, and plaster and wrap them, they will then be ready to load the entire plastered and wrapped hadrosaur tail onto a truck.

I find it interesting that these highly educated scientists don't just use their specialized training in inquiry, deduction and problem solving, as well as geology, chemistry, and anatomy. They also must rely on physical skills (and/or physics and engineering skills) to move heavy objects. And, of course, they depend on wilderness survival skills to work long hours in remote areas. They have spent weeks chiseling through and breaking extremely hard sandstone in rugged conditions, and now they will have to load these heavy plaster blocks onto a truck and drive on primitive dirt roads back to the main highway. After that, they will driveand then eight or more hours back to the Museum in Flagstaff....all of this to allow them to do even more work – perform a meticulous and detailed laboratory study of this hadrosaur tail fossil in hopes of gaining a small piece of information to add to the body of knowledge that presently exists on dinosaurs.

I am sure the discovery of rare skin fossils has given the crew some extra motivation–as they are hopeful they will find even more skin fossils during the detailed lab studies. And who knows what else they might discover?

The excavation work is going very slowly because of the extremely hard rock. But the crew feels confident that the last blocks will be removed next week (week of June 11). We are sending our video crew, headed by Art Ferraro of the BLM's Training Center in Phoenix, back out next week to capture video and still pictures of the last blocks being removed. Check this site next week!