Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Monday, July 17, 2017

Phytosaur's Tooth in WY

Phytosaur (ancient crocodile)  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
While in Wyoming (see previous post) we took up our host’s (Al) generous offer to hunt over his 160 acers for dinosaur bones. There was a recent university find on his neighbor’s property of a phytosaur skull along with some teeth. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/phytosaurs-mostly-gharial-snouted-reptiles-of-the-triassic-part-i/  Also some other bones were found on our host’s property. Al, knowing we wanted to find something interesting, contacted his neighbor and got us permission to look in the area where the phytosaur skull was found.  We no sooner got to the area when Al found a piece of a tooth and I found an entire phytosaur tooth that had weathered out of the cliff-side. I was sure I had a dinosaur tooth. Well no sooner did I mention this to a geologist friend of mine than he informed me what I had was an ancient crocodile tooth and not a dinosaur fossilized tooth.  Hmmm time to do some research.

 "Nowhere was the line dividing "dinosaurs" and "non-dinosaurs" more tenuous than during the middle to late Triassic period, when various populations of archosaurs had just started to branch off into dinosaurs, pterosaurs and crocodiles.” See: https://www.thoughtco.com/definition-of-a-dinosaur-1091930   So of course Mike the geologist was right but I can cover everything by saying broadly that it is an archosaur tooth…. Sounds much better than ancient crocodile don’t you think or maybe just leave it as a phytosaur tooth? Okay then, the old croc tooth was found in almost the exact spot where the university dug out the skull. Al told us to continue looking in the purple dirt/clay which we did until Austin found a couple tooth pieces. A hamburger and brat cookout was promised and Al was sending up smoke signals so I headed back.  After dinner Austin and I climbed another cliff where small dinosaur tracks (yes dino tracks) were found by the university folks and some bones. Austin found some small bones which when licked stuck to his tongue. If my memory serves me right the bones of dinosaurs are/were very porous and tend to stick like Velcro to wet surfaces. We were looking near a greenish brown layer of clayish dirt in a different cliff which may have been an extinction boundary theorized to have been the geological signature of a large extinction event https://www.britannica.com/science/K-T-extinction, so I’m thinking we were in the right spot especially since Austin found some possible dino fossilized bones. Austin also found a number of small dog tooth calcite specimens near the top of the cliff. An overhanging crumbling rock cliff worried me some and since the sun was going down and I had turned down Al’s offer to take his handgun along to shoot rattlers I decided it was time for us to leave while we could still sidestep any rattlesnakes, scorpions or phytosaurs lurking about.


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