Matthew Carrano, NMNH Curator of Dinosauria, traveled to central Montana in August with a team of four Department of Paleobiology staff and a Research Student from George Mason University to collect fossils from Upper Cretaceous rocks of the Judith River Formation. Here is our trip report.
Curator Matthew Carrano studies ecosystems that existed 76 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous. In recent years, his fieldwork has focused on collecting the fossils of small vertebrates in Montana, but this year his field team's task was to excavate dinosaur bones from a site discovered last summer. We spent a week digging carefully into a steep hillside and returned to the Museum with bones from a horned dinosaur (ceratopsian), as well as fossils of other species.
We repeated the process of overburden removal (above, left) and careful excavation (right), several times, eventually finding dinosaur fossils in two different layers of rock. Click photos to zoom.
|Our discoveries included the long rib of a ceratopsian dinosaur shown above, left, and the limb bone of another dinosaur shown on the right. Click photos to zoom.|
Volunteers in FossiLab will prepare the fossils for study over the coming months. If you visit the Last American Dinosaurs exhibit this fall or winter, you may see the opened field jackets in FossiLab.
An historical side note: Early 20th Century NMNH paleontologist Charles W. Gilmore collected dinosaur fossils in 1914 at Judith River Formation sites less than 20 miles from this summer's excavation site. He returned to Montana in 1928, collecting at sites of similar age located farther to the northwest, along the Milk River. We haven't found photos from the 1914 trip, but this one from our archives shows his 1928 camp.
Note that permits are required to collect vertebrate fossils on public lands. Fossils collected on public lands remain the property of the American people and must be kept in museums or other public institutions. We thank the commercial fossil collectors who, while walking on private land adjacent to the site last summer, noticed pieces of dinosaur bone eroding from the ground there and alerted the local BLM office. Since Matthew Carrano and colleagues were already working on BLM land in the region, he was asked to assess the site and subsequently was issued a permit to excavate and collect the bones for the Smithsonian.
Photos by Abby Telfer, Michelle Pinsdorf, Advait Jukar and Matthew Miller. Thanks to Tom Jorstad and Department of Paleobiology volunteer Mark Lay for researching Gilmore's collecting activities. More information about Gilmore can be found in an earlier post.