Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Fossils at Xiphactinus Killzone

        Yesterday proved to be a fantastic field day.  Volunteers, staff and public participants arrived at the Xiphactinus site to continue excavation of the specimens.  The site is making excellent progress and field jackets are starting to come into the museum.  Both the fish Xiphactinus and the mosasaur Clidastes have been mapped onto a grid and are beng jacketed as we speak.

        There was some excitement at the site with a large crayfish found while bringing some water up from a near by water source to finish the field jackets.  It was about 13 cm in length with great big pincers.  It scared us half to death and thought it was going to get my big toe!

        Later in the afternoon, a large portion of the lower jaw from Xiphactinus was recovered, numerous small teeth and fish vertebrae as well as a lower leg bone (tibiotarsus) of the bird Hesperornis by a 5-day Fossil Adventure participant, Gavin. It is complete and excellently preserved.

Anita Janzic

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fishy findings!

          It was a grand start to the week for Andrea Hrenchuk and myself. We took a school out digging to the highest point on the escarpment, Mount Nebo! The kids had an excellent time digging and uncovered a few fossils! We then joined up with the rest of the crew at our "Xiphactinus Killzone" site. Joesph Hatcher was hardcore excited about his recent finds from last week. And was overjoyed to be finding more Xiphactinus fossils.

          The crew went back to the "Xiphactinus Killzone" the next day. The name comes from a fossil that was peaking out of the ditch wall, which was recovered last year right before the end of the 2009 field season. The fossil ended up being a Xiphactinus, and the site became a top priority for excavation for this season because of that glorious find. A variety of different creatures are being found in the Killzone-- including mosasaur vertebrae! Which Linda found on Tuesday. Linda (the first picutre on your left) is one of our fantastic volunteers who is mostly in the lab where she preps fossils so they may be researched or put on display for the public. Hrenchuk grid-mapped fossils, including mosasaur and fish vertebrae, that were still in-situ (haven't been disturbed from their resting place). She then proceeded to apply a field jacket to the specimens so that the fragile fossils may be transported back to the museum safely and intact. Field jackets are made of different layers including wet newspaper/paper towel, burlap (potato sack), and plaster of Paris.  Wednesday, the crew was back at the site again. And the site was producing more mosasaur vertebrae, fish vertebrae, and micro fossils again! However, our volunteers couldn't take the 32°C and 41 humidex heat, so the crew headed out. The crew returned and worked on the Xiphactinus Killzone, and found more fishy vertebra and started cleaning up the site to prepare for our visitors on Monday. And who might these visitors be? Stay tuned to our blog to find out!
-Jaclyn Kozak

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All I wanna do is find fossils with you!

        This week at the CFDC-- fossils, fossils and MORE fossils! On rainy Monday, Katie Magotiaux, Matt Duda, Joesph Hatcher and myself attempted many of our sites with variable success. Most of our sites were too wet, Hatcher did verify Lapinskie's mosasaur find at one of our sites. We also went looking for invertebrate fossils and bentonite layers at Odanah shale exposures. We did end up at one of our unnamed sites, where the famous paleontologist, Elizabeth Nicholls, researched and published her findings on its stratigraphic sections for the world.
        Magotiaux and Anita Janzic had more success at finding invertebrate fossils on Tuesday-- finding a bivalve yet to be identified and other unidentifiable impressions, while Duda and Hatcher were finding fossils north-west! The same bank that earlier in the season Duda found a Xiphactinus jaw and Janzic found articulated mosasaur vertebrae, is producing yet again! On Tuesday the team found many fragments and a crushed mosasaur vertebra of Pembina preservation. They also collected seven mosasaur vertebrae and several other fragments!
        The whole Fossil Crew, along with CFDC's paleontologists-- Anita Janzic and Joesph Hatcher, went back to the north-west bank that was booming with fossils on Wednesday. Lapenskie found a lovely set of mosasaur pteryogoid teeth-- which are a mosasaur's second set of teeth that are hooked back, forcing prey to their stomachs with no chance of escape! Lapenskie's luck continued through-out the day, she also found a beautifully preserved Tylosaurus (a large mosasaur) tooth. Andrea Hrenchuk and Katie Magotiaux did quarry mapping of a horse skeleton for a taphonomy study, whilst the rest of us were finding fossils. Both are biology students at the University of Winnipeg and enjoy identifying bones! If you ever have a bone that needs identification-- they're your girls!
         Duda had a dig tour on Friday. He went and visited last year's death assemblage and found a few new fragments and a mosasaur tooth, possibly from it's pterygoid set! Also at the site he noticed cougar footprints and feces! Our animal friends are usually just cows, but don't worry yourselves! The CFDC has and will remain to take the utmost precaution at all their sites-- to protect themselves, the public, and the wildlife.
        Friday was also an exciting day for Hatcher at the "Xiphactinus Kill zone". He discovered  Xiphactinus vertebra that started the site's interest and a glorious fragment of a very tiny vertebra that he needs to do some research to identify. The Xiphactinus vertebra had many spikes attached (ribs and neural arches!) as well as possible skull elements.  It may be in the Gammon Ferruginous member, that isn't readily visible or present Manitoba. A geologist from the Manitoba Geological Survey plans on visiting the Morden area to confirm that this layer is indeed the Gammon! What a wonderful and huge scientific find for the CFDC if it turns out to be so!
        Hrenchuk ended off the week on a positive note at the "Xiphactinus Killzone". She took her full-day dig tour group to the site to do some brushing, pickaxing, shoveling, carrying buckets, and learning. Much fun was had and is yet to be had at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre!
-Jaclyn Kozak

Monday, July 05, 2010

Major Excavation and Major Exhibitions!

Hatcher enjoying the summer heat at the Xiphactinus Killzone.
           Despite the torrential rain fall, the CFDC still had a very SUCCESSFUL week. Katie Magotiaux and myself worked on our upcoming "Fish of the Cretaceous" exhibit. Recently, due to construction, our previous fish exhibit had to be removed because of the fossils sensitivity to the constant vibration of jack hammers. But no fear! The new exhibit is going to be fish-tastic! Currently we are working on molding a Pachyrhizodus caninus, a large carnivorous fish, but smaller than the Xiphactinus. The molding process involves layers upon layers of latex rubber painted on the fossil. After we "paint" the one side, we move on to the next. It is essential to leave a spoat in the mold so we can pour plaster in it later to make the replica. In the end we'll have two individual sides that we can put together, pour plaster, let dry, and enjoy! All of our dangling creatures in the museum  are not real fossils. They are replicas of the real deal. The reasons are ample-- fossils are mineralization of a bone and therefore very heavy! Secondly-- we don't want to drill holes in fossils to build the specimen's 3D skeleton! Thirdly-- fossils are fragile and we must be extra careful with the real-deal! The Pachyrhizodus  should be complete very soon, drop in and say "hello"!
       Matt Duda and Andrea Hrenchuk are currently working on complete a glorious Terminonaris (crocodile) exhibit! The crocodile was excavated in Dauphin last summer. The CFDC did some research and prepped the specimen this winter and also did a few replicas of the fossils. Duda and Hrenchuk are currently working on information and making accurate looking replicas (including painting) of the replica fossils!
      Geology student Kathryn Lapenskie is working on a volcano exhibit! She plans on tying in recent volcanic eruptions and prehistoric volcanic eruptions in the information she will be presenting. Right now, she is having a lot of fun making an accurate model of the Mayon Volcano, a perfect cone-shaped stratovolcano in the province of Albay, in the Bicol Region, on the island of Luzon. She had hoped the CFDC might fund her to go on an excursion to the island, but the funds were a no-go.
Fish jaw and mosasaur rib.
     Besides all our exciting upcoming exhibits we are working on, this week we called in the back hoe to dig up the top overburden of a ditch. Joesph Hatcher and Reid Graham found a Xiphactinus jaw bone protruding out from the side of ditch, as well as a mossaur vertabra at the very end of our 2009 field season last year! Hatcher believes that this will be a very prosperous zone for fossils. And already we found another fish jaw bone (possibly Xiphactinus or Pachyrhizodus?), and here's the neat part-- fossilized to it was a rib! We still have to dig more over-burden off the top to get to the layer where the Xiphactinus jaw was found, but the fossil crew is looking more than forward to a summer of hard work!
-Jaclyn Kozak