Originating approximately 250 million years ago, the Archosauria ("Ruling Reptiles") became one of the most diverse and successful clades of vertebrates on earth. However, many of the amazing creatures that are a part of that diversity are often overshadowed by the poster children of the archosaurs - the dinosaurs. This blog looks at those often forgotten archosaurs, focusing especially on the croc-line, but occasionally looking at the bird-line and even outside of crown-group Archosauria.
Petrified Forest is currently in a phase of expansion. The federal government has authorized the addition of 125,000 acres to the park which is composed of private, state, and federal (primarily Bureau of Land Management) lands. We spent a good portion of the week in the eastern part of that boundary expansion, including an area known as Billing's Gap (the place you go if you want a phytosaur skull). Besides doing field work, we also got to teach the park law enforcement what petrified wood theft looks like.
I have recently returned from 10 weeks of field work at Petrified Forest National Park (plus 2 weeks on the road with family) working with Bill Parker. Internet access was generally problematic at PEFO. Therefore, blog posts became an issue. And hey, it's hard, tiring work being in the field and most things that aren't food, sleep, or beer can get set aside. But I did take lots of notes and pictures, so I'll tell you a bit about my summer field work now:
Bill at the Bowman site, taking field notes.
My first day started a bit slow due to requisite air quality monitoring, but we did find a phytosaur quadrate before lunch. The rest of the week was spent learning the ropes along with two guys from Chaco Culture NHP. Chaco is known for it's archeological resources, but with recent findings in their Cretaceous bedrock, they hired a geocorps participant to do a paleontological inventory. So we had Jim (Chaco Natural Resources) and Phil (GeoCorps) out with us for a few days to learn how to do paleo field work and inventories from the best (Bill got his start doing paleo inventory work for the US Forest Service). We also had the new park superintendent join us one day. It was a pretty full truck. We spent most of our time at a location known as the Bowman Site, stratigraphically situated in the Jim Camp Wash beds of the Sonsela Member of the Chinle Formation, just above the Adamanian-Revueltian transition. We collected several vertebrae, armor plates, and other unarticulated bones. Our lovely fossil preparator, Kenny Bader, was even able to find some tiny freshwater shark teeth in the rock he cleaned from the other bones.