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Dinosaurs - an endangered species, again...



Hello, fellow Dino-Listers!
(and apologies to those who get this more than once - I subscribe to a number of lists, and this issue is important to me, so I'm gonna try and cover all the bases here...)
 
    I've recently been in communication with Tom Lipka, whose Brian Patterson Grant project I had the privelege of helping out with last year.The project (for those of you who aren't familiar with it - the rest of you can skip to the next paragraph...) involved work in the Arundel Clay of Maryland, not a state widely known for Aptian dinosaur remains. They're there, though... from sauropods like *Pleurocoelus* to allosaurine theropods which may have preyed on them. Graceful (duck-billed?) ornithomimosaurs, sturdy nodosaurs, and as-yet unidentified small theropods (*Deinonychus* sp.?) also shared this back-water habitat with crocodiles, turtles, small mammals and even sharks. In the past, the site has been worked by such notables as Arthur Bagnold Bibbins, John Bell Hatcher and O.C.Marsh, but these early explorers eventually tired of the difficulty of the site, and sought their dinosaurs in the legendary beds of the American West. You see, although the preservation of _some_ fossils here is astonishing (there are tree-trunks in this clay that look like they are _one-and-a-half_ instead of _one hundred fifteen million_ years old) the articulation is, in a word, non-existent. It's nearly impossible to determine whether two bones - or even two _parts_ of a _single_ bone come from the same animal. Tom has picked up where these gentlemen left off. For ten years, he has crept up the bowl-shaped, black hillside of this deposit on his hands and knees, sifted the powdery result of drying clay through sieves, carefully dug, brushed, and filtered his way through tons of earth in all kinds of weather. (rarely the _nice_ kind, to hear him tell it - and my experience wasn't much better - sweltering heat, unrelieved by daily thunderstorms) The Arundel clay is beginning to yield a few of her secrets - and after ten years of determination, Tom can now hold a box full of bones in his hand and say with certainty what Marsh and Hatcher couldn't - "These are from _one_ animal..." It is a site in which many new discoveries are being made - some have been published, others are in progress, and there are others which have revealed only the tiniest, most tantalizing _hints_ of what lies beneath the surface...
 
    O.K. - this part is for everybody - including those who skipped the last paragraph. Here's the latest I have on the proposed development of the site:
    The _owner_ of the property upon which the site resides has decided that he no longer wishes to rent the land to the brick-works which has worked the area for many years, and with whose principals Tom has worked out an agreement to allow him to prospect the Arundel for fossils. (High levels of wood {lignite and fusain} inclusions make this particular type of clay bad for bricks. Stuff blows up in the kiln.) The land is for sale. That's the bad news. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources wants to acquire the site for a "Dinosaur Park" - lots of fun for kids, a day in the sunshine for parents, a resource for schoolchildren - all is rosy, yes?....Well......
    The fossil-bearing site isn't really all that big - about two acres. Not big enough to comfortably support the levels of human traffic that could be expected fairly close to the nation's capitol. Most of the fossils are _tiny_. Many of the most important discoveries to be made here will come from the siftings that you get when you run a sample of clay through progressively finer screens. Nearly _all_ of the fossils from the Arundel are fragile. (anyone surprised? ;-))
    There's one person - AFAIK _only_ one - who has been intimately connected with that piece of ground for the last ten years.Who knows where to expect to find the bones of ornithomimes. Who knows which end of the bowl holds the tiny, precious jawbones of mammals. Who has watched, and noted, _exactly where_ on the site something entirely new has been showing hints of itself from time to time... That person is Tom Lipka, known to some on this list as tompaleo@aol.com .
    So, the good folks from the DNR are banging down Tom's door to get his opinion on how, exactly, the site can be safely incorporated into a dinosaur park for the enjoyment of kids, and the good of the continued research yet to be done here, right? In the words of one of my fellow volunteers last year - "Not so much." They're not answering his phone calls. They're not available to hear what he proposes. Their comments regarding Tom's work? "In the meantime, the quarry remains available to Tom Lipka as a research site." To Tom, and to me as well, this sounds as though once the work on the park begins, he'll be asked to follow in the footsteps of Hatcher and Marsh, and leave the Arundel Clay to which he has dedicated so much of his life to an uncertain fate.
    If you share my concerns (and Toms!) regarding the fate of one of the few remaining (like there were ever that many!?) _Early Cretaceous_ dinosaur sites along the east coast of the United States, please contact the people listed below, at the following E-mail addresses. (when writing to Governor Glendenning, please include Tom's name in the subject line, along with the words Dinosaur Site.)
    Tom has also asked that you cc: a copy of your correspondence to him at tompaleo@aol.com
 
Governor Parris Glendenning
governor@gov.state.md.us

Richard Dolesh and                                    Arnold "Butch" Norden
RDOLESH@dnr.state.md.us,                 BNORDEN@dnr.state.md.us

    Hopefully, this site will continue to provide new insights to those who have the dedication and intestinal fortitude to work it with the determination that this place requires of those who would learn here for many, many years - even centuries - to come.
 
    Thank you, for _your_ part in this adventure.
 
            Bruce Shillinglaw