Courtesy Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale UniversityOn this day in 1877, railroad worker William Harlow Reed came over a ridge-top with the remains of a freshly killed antelope slung over his shoulder, and spotted huge fossilized bones exposed on the side of the steep bluff located a half-mile south of Como Station, a desolate railroad stop on the High Plains of Wyoming. It was a discovery that would forever change his life.
Reed and station master, William Carlin, began collecting up as much as they could, dreaming of money and employment other than railroad work. They waited several months before announcing the discovery in a letter to Yale professor Othniel C. Marsh, at the time one of America's prominent paleontologists. When a crate of bones - along with the guarantee of many more - arrived at Yale, Marsh realized they were dinosaur remains and hired both men to excavate and send him as much as they could, and to keep out any interlopers to his claim. Marsh knew if he could keep it secret - at least for a short time - the fossils at Como Bluff could give him a huge advantage in his rivalry with Philadelphia paleontologist, Edward Drinker Cope, and their notorious Bone Wars.
Courtesy Mark RyanThe dinosaur-rich strata at Como Bluff (the Morrison Formation) are found in the exposed flanks of an anticline (an upward fold), the center of which has been carved out by erosion [see diagram]. All three periods of the Mesozoic Era (Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous) are represented in the rock layers found there. Besides dinosaurs, fossils of fish, crocodiles, flying and swimming reptiles have also been found there. A significant number of important Late Jurassic mammalian fossils were discovered and collected by William Reed from Quarry 9 on the east end of Como. Reed also discovered and removed the great Brontosaurus excelsus skeleton that stands today in Yale's Peabody Museum.
Courtesy Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale UniversityIn the years following its discovery hundreds of tons of dinosaur remains quarried at Como Bluff were shipped to Yale and other institutions pushing America into the forefront of vertebrate paleontology, and heavily influencing how museums would be constructed throughout the world.
Courtesy Mark RyanThe dinosaur halls at the American Museum of Natural History have several mounted specimens found at Como Bluff as does the Smithsonian in our nation's capitol. Well-known genera like Allosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus and Camptosaurus are just a few of the dinosaurs pulled from the mudstones and sandstones at Como Bluff. In the early 20th century it was thought that Como had exhausted its supply of dinosaur remains and exploration there for the most part tapered off for several decades. But in recent years, paleontologist Robert Bakker has been re-examining the quarries and uncovering additional secrets still buried in the Jurassic bluffs at Como.
Courtesy Mark RyanWilliam Reed worked for Marsh for several more years and the two men remained friends until the Yale professor's death in 1899. Reed continued in the field of paleontology, working independently, and for a time with the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. He finished out his career as a popular geology professor and museum curator at the University of Wyoming, just sixty miles from Como Bluff, the great dinosaur graveyard that changed not only the course his life but also that of American paleontology.
Como Bluff was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. It's also been designated as one of Wyoming's National Natural Landmarks by the National Park Service.
Courtesy Mark RyanHey kids! This coming Wednesday - January 30th - is my birthday. And even more exciting, it’s once again Draw A Dinosaur Day! I used to love drawing dinosaurs as a kid so I think it really cool that the two events fall on the same date each year. What’s so special about Draw A Dinosaur Day? It’s not really complicated – it’s just a day to draw your favorite dinosaur and submit it to the official DADD website. Simple, huh?
Several years ago, Mr. Todd H. Page, the brains behind DADD, thought it would be “a fun way to get everyone to do something creative and silly.” He got that right. Just look at some previous submissions.
This year will be the 7th annual Draw A Dinosaur Day. So, in the next few days start to figure out which dinosaur you want to draw and then, on January 30th get out your pens, pencils, crayons or whatever and draw a dinosaur. When you’re finished, upload your masterpiece to the DADD page!
That’s all I want for my birthday.
Courtesy Jordi Payà via FlickrPaleo-blogger Brian Switek has written an interesting and lengthy article recounting the recent attempt to auction off a stolen Tarborsaurus bataar skeleton. Professional paleontologists and other concerned parties complained that the illegal dinosaur's remains had come from - and by law belonged to - the country of Mongolia. A last minute court order stopped the auction just as the Tarborsaurus (a relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex) was on the block and already receiving bids. Switek, who blogs about dinosaurs on the National Geographic magazine’s Phenomena website writes how the black-market fossil trade deprives institutions of both funds and important scientific knowledge. It does so by creating a commercial market that tends to overly inflate the price of rare fossils beyond the reach of most non-profit institutions, and removes rare specimens from scientific study and public view.
Courtesy Public domain via WikipediaThis clever greeting card was created over 90 years ago by paleo-artist, Charles R. Knight. I thought it'd be a great way to wish all readers of Science Buzz a very Happy New Year!
I'm a big fan of Knight's work. Many of his best prehistoric-themed murals can be seen at the Field Museum in Chicago. Additional paintings can be found at colleges, libraries and other museums in the US, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.
Courtesy Mark RyanWe're lucky to have one here at the Science Museum of Minnesota. It's a large original painting of a Stegosaurus done by Knight in 1930 (see photo). It hangs in the Dinosaurs and Fossil gallery next to the Camptosaurus exhibit. The painting was the template for the mosaic that graces the entrance to the Reptile House at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy chensiyuanGrand Canyon, could you please show us your birth certificate? A new theory that parts of the Grand Canyon were carved as far back as dinosaur days has geologists picking sides on a controversy. New research contends that the western end of the canyon might be up to 70 million years old, carved by an ancient river that flowed in the opposite direction of today's Colorado River. Conventional theories about the canyon had its aged pegged at 5 to 6 million years old.
So what do you think?
Thanksgiving is upon us, and once again, the centerpiece of the traditional holiday meal is a dinosaur. Eat up and 'Happy Thanksgiving'!
Courtesy Mark RyanDinosaur expert, Jack Horner, was in the Twin Cities this week for a very interesting talk at Macalester College on his investigations into creating a dinosaur through manipulation of the chicken genome. His research involves switching on evolutionary carryover genes that lay dormant in the chicken's gene sequence, such as teeth or a long reptilian tail. He's had some success but is still a long way off from unleashing a Chickenosaurus on the world. When asked why chickens when a bigger bird like an ostrich would make for a cooler and much larger dinosaur, the Museum of the Rockies paleontologist answered that the chicken genome already exists, chickens are cheap, and there are simply just more of them. Afterwards, Horner signed copies of his book, How to Build a Dinosaur for students and the public.
Paleontologists from the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology have announced the discovery of the first ever evidence of feathered dinosaurs discovered in the Western Hemisphere. Until now, all previous feathered dinosaur evidence has come from fine silt lagoon and lake deposits found in Germany and China. The remarkable Canadian fossils come from 75 million year-old river deposits found in the badlands of Alberta. The feathered remains belong to a type of dinosaur known as ornithomimid, or bird-mimic (apropos - yes?). News of the discovery is reported at the online journal Phys.org.
Courtesy Mark RyanNational Fossil Day is finally here. The official website calls it "a celebration organized to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value."
I'm a big fossil fan year round but I'm particularly happy today because I won first place in the NFD's Art & Photo Contest! The theme this year was "Careers in Paleontology". My entry, pictured at right, is a nod to paleoart and features a new "dinosaur" species (Bryocrinoidosaurus decorahi) created using invertebrate fossils found in Minnesota. You can view all the winning entries here.
National Fossil Day is planned and promoted by the National Park Service through partnerships with professional organizations, government agencies, and other science-related groups such as the American Geosciences Institute, the National Earth Science Teachers Association and the Paleontological Research Institution.
The Science Museum of Minnesota celebrates National Fossil Day this coming Saturday, October 20, from 1pm to 4pm. Everyone is invited to join in on the celebration of fossils!
Courtesy Mark RyanI don’t have a clue who or what entity officially proclaimed October as International Dinosaur Month (and there doesn’t seem to be any official site online), but whoever it was, it’s a great idea! This means not only do we get to celebrate Earth Science Week (October 14-20), and National Fossil Day (October 17*) this month but we also get to celebrate everyone’s favorite prehistoric beasts! A quick Internet search brought up a couple teacher sites here, here and here each offering some interesting ideas on how to celebrate the great Mesozoic monsters this month. There's also this International Dinosaur Month site on Pinterest , and another Pinterest site (mine) featuring dinosaur postcards. Or you could go view some dinosaurs at a local or nearby museum. Below, I’ve included a few museum links to dinosaur-related exhibits, and a site that lists dinosaur exhibitions around the world. If you or your classes are celebrating dinosaurs this month or have other suggestions on how to do so, please let us know.
*The Science Museum of Minnesota will celebrate National Fossil Day on Saturday, October 20 this year.