Fossil Friday – Triceratops Teeth

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Dinosaurs evolved many amazing and sophisticated adaptations during their long history. Continue reading

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Fossil Friday – Palm Leaf

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The fossilized bones of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals certainly hog the spotlight, and they are spectacular. But alongside the bones of giants such as Tyrannosaurus is a very different, much more abundant type of fossil: ancient plants. Paleobotany, the study of fossil plants, is a vital part of understanding Earth history. Fossil plants provide data on bygone environments, ecology, and climate.

This fossil is the impression of a 67-million-year-old palm leaf. It was found in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana by local fossil hunter Harley Garbani and donated to the Western Science Center by his wife, Mary. The living plant probably looked much like modern palm trees, and points to a much warmer climate in Montana during the Late Cretaceous Epoch than today. Next time you see a living palm tree swaying in the breeze, imagine a T. rex under it seeking shade from the midday sun.  

Post by Curator Dr. Andrew McDonald

Fossil Friday – Horse molar

WSC24676 Equus conversidens RM1One thing has become quickly obvious as we’ve been examining the Harveston fossil collection: there are a lot of horses. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – horse dentary

WSC24656 Equus left dentaryFossil Friday this week continues our examination of Pleistocene specimens from Temecula Valley, this time with a partial lower jaw from the horse Equus occidentalis. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – horse scapula

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This week we continue our documentation of Pleistocene fossils from the Harveston section of Murrieta, California, with a horse scapula. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Snake Vertebra

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In the opinion of this naturalist, snakes are among the most elegant animals ever to have evolved. The fossil record of extinct snakes was poorly known for a long time. However, recent discoveries have revealed that a diverse array of early snakes lived alongside the dinosaurs, as far back in time as the Middle Jurassic Epoch, over 165 million years ago. The earliest known snake is Eophis underwoodi, from the Middle Jurassic of England: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms6996

Today’s Fossil Friday subject is a fossil snake in the Western Science Center’s collection. This is a vertebra of Coniophis precedens, a snake that lived during the Late Cretaceous Epoch, about 67 million years ago, alongside much bigger reptiles such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. This specimen was collected by the late Harley Garbani in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, and donated to the museum by his wife, Mary.

These early snakes were not venomous, but instead killed their prey by constriction like living pythons and boas. Another Late Cretaceous snake, Sanajeh indicus from India, seems to have habitually preyed upon hatchling long-necked sauropod dinosaurs. Three skeletons of this snake have been discovered associated with fossils of sauropod nests, eggs, and hatchlings: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1000322

Post by Curator Dr. Andrew McDonald

Fossil Friday – juvenile Tyrannosaurus

IMG_2219Tyrannosaurus rex. If any prehistoric animal has achieved mythic status among us humans, it must be this gigantic carnivorous dinosaur. But far from being a mere monster, T. rex was a living creature as complex, wondrous, and deserving of study as any alive today. As with many dinosaurs, the last two decades have seen a burst of new discoveries about T. rex, from the acuity of its senses to how it is related to other species in the tyrannosaur group. One of most fascinating areas of study is how T. rex grew. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – camel elbow

IMG_6264We’re continuing our focus on Pleistocene fossils from Murrieta, California this week with a single bone fragment that has a lot going on. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – amiid fish jaws

IMG_2201At the close of the age of dinosaurs in North America, dry land was prowled by a variety of large and small dinosaurian predators, such as Tyrannosaurus and dromaeosaurs, a.k.a. the raptors. The freshwater streams and lakes were home to very different, but no less voracious, meat-eaters. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – horse molar

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As we continue to work on WSC’s collection of Late Pleistocene fossils from Murrieta, it has become clear that, while the collection my be taxonomically diverse, it contains a lot of horse bones! Continue reading