Live from the Field: The Smoking Gun

Kim Beck, a regular excavator with the
HMNS team, looks for fossils eroding out
at the surface.

Our paleontology team – led by Dr. Robert Bakker – is back in Seymour, TX this week, digging for Dimetrodon at a site they’ve now been working for several years. (You can read more of what’s been found already in our daily blog from the field in 2007).

Listen to the podcast below to hear David Temple – our associate curator of paleontology and a one of our BEYONDbones bloggers – fill us in on the progress from yesterday - including the discovery of “The Smoking Gun,” and evidence of cannibal Dimetrodon – as well as the history of the site the team is digging on, which is so rich that scientists have been pulling Dimetrodon and other Permian-era species out of the ground there since 1877.

If you’re a paleo expert, you can skip this paragraph and head straight to the update – but David mentions a few things that not everyone is familiar with: “matrix” is a term paleontologists use to describe the material that surrounds fossils. “Wet screening” is the process of putting matrix on a small-weave screen and running water through it to find any tiny fossils that might have been missed. And, Dimetrodon grandis is the very largest species of Dimetrodon ever found – making it the biggest, baddest predator of the Permian.


Our field team will be updating us on progress at the site every day this week – so check out yesterday’s update from Kat Havens, another of our excavators – and come back tomorrow for more from the fossil field!

Live from the fossil field!

Dr. Bakker’s drawing of a Dimetrodon fighting a Xenacanth
illustrates E.C. Olson’s theory of what really went on in the
Permian – and how Xenacanth might have defended itself against
the biggest predator the world had ever seen.
(c) Dr. Robert T. Bakker

Our paleontology team – led by Dr. Robert Bakker – is back in Seymour, TX this week, digging for Dimetrodon at a site they’ve now been working for several years. (You can read more of what’s been found already in our daily blog from the field in 2007).

They’ve found Dimetrodon – the T. rex of its day – all over the site. They’ve brought back jacket after jacket of fin spines, vertebra columns, even skulls of this species, for study. But – and this is the mystery – not a whole lot of herbivores. So – what was Dimetrodon eating?

The theory put forth by E.C. Olson is that they were eating Xenacanth (freshwater sharks) that swam in the shallow seas present in the area during the Permian. And the team has found evidence to that effect – in the form of chewed up shark skull in the area. But they’re still after the smoking gun that would prove Olson’s theory definitively.

Twelve or so of our best diggers have made this their mission this week – and one of them will be checking in with us every day. Today, Kat Havens – one of our regular bloggers here – fills us in on what was found. Listen closely – it’s pretty cool.


Check back soon – more news from the field tomorrow!