Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 5: The Beatles Strike Again

As more and more of the Amy Dimetrodon popped out of the ground today, the team spontaneously broke into a collective rendition of The Beatles' "Come Together" - accidentally following the proud tradition of channeling the Fab Four in celebration of a big find. It certainly won't have Lucy's groundbreaking, international impact - but it's still pretty cool to see something so recognizable just keep coming together.

This site was uncovered from just one clue - a tiny rib bone in the lower righthand corner. The site extends further to the right, and most of the lines of bones extend further into the hill horizontally. In addition, it looks like each horizontal fin spine is roughly the same distance apart - increasing the likelihood that this is all from a single Dimetrodon.

Since the original discovery of this site on Tuesday, the area producing bones has roughly quadrupled in size. Today at the Amy site, Chris, Kathleen and Kathy uncovered 2 new full Dimetrodon fin spines, each of which is continuing into the face of the hill; two new partial fin spines that look like they will be complete when fully excavated; another tooth from the mystery animal that we theorize to be Dimetrodon loomisi, the "cheetah of Dimetrodons"; a small vertebra; and this:

Multiple vertebra and a fin spine that Kathleen and Kathy unearthed today at the Amy site.

Because they keep finding teeth with roots - indicating that they were lost after death and not while eating - the team suspects they may have a jaw somewhere in the Amy hill. It's exciting, but you have to reign it in sometimes - as Kathleen said, "It's a learning experience. You have to be patient. You're desperate to clear off all the dirt, so you can see the whole bone, but the dirt is often what is holding the bone together."

This image shows the spine running across the top of the picture above, as it is being uncovered.

In one instance today, Chris found two lines of fin spine bones criss crossing each other, meaning the team won't be able to uncover the lower line of bones until they get it into the lab - which could be weeks, or even months away, depending on how soon they can return to work on the site. It can be maddening - but always exciting.

Further up the opposite hill, Shirley, Neal and Kim Beck dug into a possible site discovered by SHS students Jacob and Tarrington, who will be back on the dig tomorrow morning. Though the site was rich with Xenacanthus teeth on the surface, which the guys did a great job of finding - it turned out to prove the rule that you can't strike gold every time.

Neal, Shirley and Kim Beck dig into The Site That Wasn't. Towards the end of the day, Kim did locate some tiny Xenacanthus teeth, a tiny vertebra, a bunch of fish scales, a few little amphibian limb bones and skull fragments and shark cartilage.

Of course, Shirley insists that they did find something: "We found places where there aren't any fossils. That's valuable information. It's very useful for mapping the site as a whole."

David and Johnny also worked on "stabilizing the jacket," though it looked an awful lot like playing in the mud.

David mixes the plaster to soak the burlap and spread over the jacket. It's a delicate art - you have to get each of the ingredianets just right. Too much salt - and it dries before you can get it on. Too little, and you're stuck with a soggy jacket.

They're adding fresh burlap, which is coated in plaster, and reinforcing that with...more plaster. According to David, "this is going to be the tiger tank of the plaster-jacket world." They may also add wooden boards for extra support, and they're currently debating the best way to get this 350-pound behemoth out of the site - which is at the bottom of the hill.

Johnny and David work on wrapping the Spine site with plaster. In person, you can see all the textured burlap peeking through - it makes the jacket look kind of like a mummified block.

Tomorrow they'll undertake the massive task of flipping this monster over. They also headed into town for a visit with another of Kim Beck's science classes.

SHS junior Shelby Winter examines a possible Xenacanth coprolite.

SHS students Shelby Martin and Shelby Winter check out arthopod tracks found on local sandstone.

Tomorrow, they're expecting lots more of the Dimetrodon to pop out of the Aimee hillside. Check back tomorrow to see how this site continues to come together.


Gretchen Sparks said...

I'm back in Houston and chomping at the bit to come back up to work with you all! How long will the crew be working?

Houston Museum of Natural Science said...

Hi Gretchen! Several are going home tomorrow morning, but Dr. Bakker, Neal, Dave and Chris will all be staying for at least two more days - so check back to see how they do!


Anonymous said...

The arrows on the fossil picture are useful. Thanks.

Houston Museum of Natural Science said...

Good! Kim Beck taught us how to add arrows and text in using Power Point. We'll probably go back through the earlier posts and add them in to some of the other pictures for clarification.

Thanks for checking out the blog! If there's anything else that might be useful, let us know - we'll do our best to accommodate.


Rowland said...

In my opinion every person ought to browse on it.
nissan dealerships in chicago | chicago limo service | stud earrings for men