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[dinosaur] Elasmosaurus discovery, collection, and transportation in 1860s Kansas

Ben Creisler

Two new history-related papers:

Michael J. Everhart (2017)
Captain Theophilus H. Turner and the Unlikely Discovery of Elasmosaurus Platyurus.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 120(3-4): 233-246
doi: http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1660/062.120.0414

Theophilus Hunt Turner (1841–1869) was the military surgeon assigned to Fort Wallace in far western Kansas during the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division. The circumstances surrounding his 1867 discovery of the type specimen of Elasmosaurus platyurus were not recorded in Cope's (1868a) original reports, and were unknown until the 1987 publication of Turner's personal letters. As described originally by Turner, the story involved the unlikely association of four men and a series of events that resulted in the collection of the largest fossil specimen of the time from the wilderness of western Kansas. Here I provide additional details regarding Turner's posting at Fort Wallace and a review of the historical accounts surrounding this exceptional discovery.


Jane P. Davidson and Michael J. Everhart (2017)
Scattered and Shattered: A Brief History of the Early Methods of Digging, Preserving and Transporting Kansas Fossils.
Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 120(3-4): 247-258 
doi: http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1660/062.120.0416

The fossilized remains of prehistoric creatures are often difficult to remove from the rock that encloses them, and the bones are generally fragile once removed. In most cases, larger specimens need some protective covering in order to be transported from the collection site. Not doing so can result in the specimens being shattered and scattered. Historical developments in collecting, preserving and transporting techniques for newly discovered fossils are discussed here, including two important early Kansas discoveries of type specimens: Elasmosaurus platyurus in 1867 and Protostega gigas in 1871.

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