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Re: Dinosaur "eggs" and bones in Iowa
Digest 36 contains a note from John Schneiderman about the discovery
of supposed dinosaur eggs in Iowa in a newspaper article carried by
the AP wire services. John logically deduced that the"eggs" were
likely just some ovoid rocks, as judged by the photos. The Rev. Orval
Friedrich, along with two other compatriots, reported the discovery of
"dinosaur eggs" found in a rock garden in the "middle of the city
park" in Elmo (northeast Iowa). Each "egg" is 12 inches long, 31 lbs.
[The area is geologically characterized by Quaternary sediments over
Devonian limestone bedrock; the discoverers suggest the "eggs" came
from a local limestone quarry].
As reported in the Mason City "Globe Gazette" (Aug. 8, p A3), the
enthusiastic discoverers suggested that "the eggs may have been
petrified and encrusted in limestone shortly after being laid . . .
the inner material appears to have been well mixed, possibly by
violent shaking or other catastrophic action." The article continues:
"The men believe the rocks are the eggs of either a pterosaurs [sic]
or a pterodactyl, which had wings and could fly. 'Some dinosaurs are
more the reptile type and some the bird type. These appear to be more
the bird type,' Friedrich said."
As a sidebar, Rev. Friedrich has been acquiring a state-wide
reputation for his writings and claims of Viking mooring-stones and
other Viking relics scattered across northern Iowa and southern
Minnesota. He claims that Vikings were sailing around the region,
which drained into the vast "Melt Water Sea" covering a "large area in
mid-America" [New Hampton "Economist", Oct. 10, 1995]. Their ships
were moored to large boulders "almost always found at the relatively
higher elevations." Rev. Friedrich suggested that "a catastrophic
geological event may have destroyed . . . the entire Viking society
which was established over a wide area . . . a horrendous geologic
event with the release of extreme heat from the subterranean and in
the absence of oxygen . . . the area may have been covered by repeated
tidal waves . . ." The Rev., along with his fellow Viking
enthusiasts, are particularly fond of using metal rods
("electro-magnetic indicators") to locate Viking remains. In
particular, once properly "sensitized" to "milk products," the rods
have located deposits of "milkstone," interpreted to represent the
remains of storage facilities for "fermented milk products"
(apparently a favorite alcoholic beverage of the wandering Vikings).
The rods reacted to the supposed dinosaur eggs "when charged with the
chip labeled 'bird'" [Aug 8].
I can better respond to J.S.'s inquiry concerning the quote from the
AP release: "A number of dinosaur bones have been discovered in Iowa
[Jurassic-Cretaceous], most of them in the central and western parts
of the state." It is unfortunate that this statement was not verified
before it was released, as it is misleading and generally false. The
only probable dinosaur material from Iowa is a small bone scrap from
Guthrie County (see note and illustrations in Witzke, B.J., and
Ludvigson, G.A., 1996, Mid-Cretaceous fluvial deposits of the eastern
margin, Western Interior Basin, Nishnabotna Member, Dakota Formation:
Iowa Dept. Natural Resources, Geological Survey Bureau;, Guidebook
Series no. 17; see our web-page for address and publication
information). In thin section, the scrap displays characteristic
dense Haversian bone structure with a complex network of secondary
osteons; it is likely dinosaurian.
No other dinosaur remains are presently known from anywhere in Iowa,
although Dakota Fm. strata along the state line near Decatur,
Nebraska, have produced the distal end of a large ornithopod femur
(which is of mid Cenomanian age at this locality). The bone was
interpreted to be from a primitive hadrosaur by Galton and Jensen
(1978, BYU Geol Studies). In addition, a fragment of a large serrated
theropod tooth from Dakota strata in nearby southeastern Nebraska is
on display at the Univ. Nebraska State Museum (latest Albian or early
Cenomanian); it is labeled as a "tyrannosaurid." Better known are the
remains of the nodosaurid Silvisaurus condrayi from equivalent Dakota
strata in northern Kansas.
The potential for discovering additional dinosaur material in mid
Cretaceous strata in Iowa certainly exists. However, I've been
investigating these strata for many years, and, except for the bone
scrap, have come up with nothing. No microvertebrate sampling has
even been undertaken in the Dakota channel and floodbasin deposits of
western Iowa. Plesiosaur bones are known from late Cenomanian marine
strata near Sioux City, as well as a variety of Cenomanian-Turonian
fish and shark material. If anyone is out there that knows of
additional Cretaceous vertebrate material from Iowa and surrounding
region, please let me know.
Research Geologist, Iowa DNR-Geological Survey
and Adjunct Associate Professor, Dept. of Geology, Univ. Iowa