Thursday, August 27, 2015

Diggin' PEFO

I wrote some time ago about the fledgling Petrified Forest Field Institute at Petrified Forest National Park (PEFO) and the class offerings that were due to start this month. When I got an email from PFFI a couple of days ago, I realized that here we are with August almost done, and I'd lost track of the goings-on in northeast Arizona. I don't know about the other courses, but they've had amazing success with a paleontology dig that took place early in the month. This is from the email I received:
When park paleontologist Dr. Bill Parker’s group took off the morning of August 8th, they all had high hopes for finding fossils. After all, they had all signed up for his “Dig Fossils for a Day” class with the Petrified Forest Field Institute (PFFI), a new program in its inaugural year. But even the most optimistic participant could not have anticipated an exciting discovery that could rewrite the scientific journals!

SaurichthysOne student found the jaw of a long-snouted fish that had previously been thought to be extinct in North America during the Late Triassic, about 220 million years ago. Prior to her find, the fish, which is closely related to the genus Saurichthys, is from a group of fish known globally in the Early Triassic but up to this point had only been found in China in the Late Triassic.

The class made other finds that were exciting as well. They included vertebrae of a very long necked lizard (Tanystropheus) first found in the park only last year and teeth of the large carnivore Poposaurus, both considered rare in the park fossil record.

There aren't any more of these one-day digs until next year, but in late September there's a five-day, camp-in-the-desert paleontology outing. I wish I could go, but because I can't, the next best thing will be seeing what that one turns up.


Thought of the day:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' - Isaac Asimov