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

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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

Fossil Friday – freshwater snail

IMG_2137The world of the dinosaurs was populated by some of the most gargantuan and charismatic animals ever to roam our planet. It is easy to forget that the Mesozoic Era was just as rich with all sorts of life as our modern world. Continue reading

Fossil Friday -crocodilian teeth

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Tyrannosaurs were not the only large reptilian predators prowling through North America in the Late Cretaceous Epoch. Crocodilians made rivers and lakes dangerous places to linger, even for small dinosaurs. Unlike today, with American alligators and crocodiles found only in the Southeast, during the Late Cretaceous crocodilians lived all over North America. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – horse lunate

We’re continuing our efforts to document an describe the fauna from the Harveston neighborhood of Murrieta, a small but diverse collection that appears to be the only Rancholabrean-Age site in Murrieta. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – lizard vertebra

Although the name Dinosauria means “terrible lizards”, the dinosaurs are not lizards at all, but instead are their own separate group of reptiles (the “terrible” part depends on whom you ask). Even so, there were actual big lizards living alongside the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous Period. Continue reading