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I also have recently returned from the field. Montana to be specific. This
was my second season working the Early Cretaceous Cloverly Formation with
Rich Cifelli from the University of Oklahoma and cooperatively with Des
Maxwell of Paleoworld fame. In fact we were camped within spitting distance
of Des's crew so we customarily got together not only in the field for work
but back at camp for some libations! There is actually allot more to report
than I am able to report because some exciting discoveries have been made
that are awaiting publication. Therefore I cannot talk about them at this
This years work was basically finishing of work we began last season. In a
nutshell, last season, we prospected much on both Indian lands and on
"private" property for potential microvert sites. Of course, such sites are
even rarer than the dinosaurs there and we found plenty of those.
Tenontosaurus, usually in scrappy, disarticulated (dubbed "exploded")
condition are ubiquitous all through Units V-VII (sensu Ostrom, 1969). Some
Deinonychus material was found mostly in Unit VII but it was nothing to
scream at being mostly teeth and partial claws. We also continued working on
a large associated sauropod quarry that was worked the year prior to my
arrival and then this was turned over to Des Maxwell towards the end of last
Among this year's quarry-ers was none other than Kevin Padian!
As for me personally, last season was spent virtually all prospecting with
some quarrying and some matrix collecting/screen washing. It was the hottest
period on record for that part of MT and I must have walked over most of
Carbon County then! Among the non-dino elements I found then were croc teeth
identical in morphology to the Arundel form "Goniopholis" and described as
such by Ostrom and others, and the ubiquitous turtle Naomicheles (possibly
also in the Arundel). other members of our crew found elements of a
Sauropelta, and a rich microsite containing an abundant microfauna some of
which are new and in the process of being described.
Moving up to this year, we spent most of the time washing the matrix that was
recovered from the aforementioned microsite but that could not be washed
before the close of last season. In and among the wash were lots of dino
teeth such as from Deinonychus, Sauropelta and a sauropod virtually identical
to Astrodon from the Arundel Clay.
However, we did do some prospecting in some virgin areas! These new sites
look very promising and very near this area I found a potential microsite
right next to a sauropod tibia and fragmentary fibula, in Unit V which we
will hit next season. I also found an example of Maxwell and Ostrom's
Deinonychus-Tenontosaur association. Not far from the sauropod site, high up
in Unit VII, there was a small pile of tenonto ossified tendon, bone scraps
and a juvenile tenonto claw. In this same spot, a partial theropod claw
believed to be a Deinonychus ungual phalanx II was with the tenonto . Last
year there was a similar find. Then it was a nearly articulated Tenontosaur
foot with some associated Deinonychus teeth and some microverts, (2 for 2!).
Further out into the uncharted Cloverly, I stumbled upon an interesting
facies change, possibly associated with either slumping or faulting which
visually made the Cloverly more Morrison-looking. At this area were more
exploded tenontosaur verts but Rich found the humerus and other associated
limb bones of what appears to be of an ankylosaur. Since this was our last
day however, there was not much we could do other than report it to Des who
hopefully followed up on it. Another waypoint for next season.
The weather was bizarre! Unlike last seasons 100+ inferno, when I first
arrived this time it was rather cool and spring like during the day and
cooler at night. A couple days later, the temps soared to 102 and this was
the day I was inadvertently left out in the dessert and had to hike a few
miles with virtually no water back to camp (thank God for the GPS!). Then a
series of typical Montana thunder storms blew threw successively cooling down
the days back to spring like but making the nights down right COLD especially
due to northerly winds at 30 knots! This made for some very cold field
Still on a personal note, southern Montana is beautiful! The Cloverly crops
out just about everywhere giving a rather arid and plain looking region a
splash of color. And while much of it has been prospected there are many
hidden canyons and other places that have not been touched! I can foresee
many more careers being spent there, one of them hopefully mine. Besides the
paleo, it is a naturalists and hunter's paradise so I was in heaven on many
Faunally and to _some_ degree paleoecologically, Unit V of the Cloverly
appears to be very similar to the Arundel. In fact the mammals are all (I
believe) from the younger Unit VII and not from Unit V which is closer in age
to the Arundel where Arundelconodon hales from.
The floral aspects of these two units are strangely dissimilar however and
this is an area that needs to be addressed.
Oh well, back to the daily grind! Hope this was of interest!
Thomas R. Lipka