Peabody Fossil Hunter

Thursday, July 7

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 5:17 am

We returned to Camel Butte to collect soil matrix that could contain mammal teeth too small to spot crawling around on our hands and knees. Because they’re made of enamel, teeth are incredibly durable compared to the rest of the body. They’re all that’s left of some species, so we use subtle differences in the tooth shape and size to figure out what species are present, the relationships between the species, and also what they might have eaten.

The obstacle is that they’re only a few millimeters long, each smaller than a pea. Recovering them will require more than surface searching, so we carried about 16 large Ziploc bags full of fossiliferous dirt back down the butte to screen-wash at the lab. Once they’ve been washed and dried, we use dental tools to pick through the rocks and fragments for small fossils. Today’s picking yielded a few more condylarth teeth, tiny fish jaws, and the ever-present turtle shell fragments and garfish scales.

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