Wash, rinse and repeat: See pics from Paleo Wash Day at HMNS Sugar Land

I would like to thank the approximately 175 citizen scientists that came out Saturday at HMNS Sugar Land. They helped us process approximately 1,000 pounds of soil and rock from the specimens we’ve collected from our Permian-aged (182-187 million years ago) site near Seymour,Texas.

washday 010I was impressed with your cooperativeness, curiosity, and, most importantly, the care you all exhibited in processing these samples. Also, this experience absolutely would not have been possible without the facilitation of our experienced museum and field crew volunteers.

washday 011The Process:

In excavating fossils, many times we will work to retain the matrix that is removed from around the specimen. This matrix is soaked in water and allowed to disaggregate. Then the mud is placed and screens and gently rinsed, leaving behind hard pieces — including fossils.

UntitledAfter rinsing, the specimens are dried and then searched. This process will typically reduce the bulk sample size by 80 percent.  People processing the sample typically are left very wet and muddy, as you can see here:

washday 048From all of us here at HMNS, thank you!

Live from the Field: Secodontosaurus Found?

(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).

Chris Flis sent us another update today – on a huge possible find. The team thinks they may have found the pelvis – and possibly a full skeleton – of a Secodontosaurus. The fox-faced finback – so called because of its slender muzzle – could easily be confused for a Dimetrodon – but they are actually quite different.

If they have in fact found a Seco – it will be the first that has been uncovered since 1936 (with the exception of HMNS’ Nancy Bowen’s discovery of an isolated scapula from this species on one of the team’s earlier digs). With today’s more complete digging methods, this find would give us the opportunity to learn much more about this rare species from the contextual information being preserved around the fossil.

Click the podcast below for more updates from yesterday’s dig:


More from the field tomorrow! Until then, you can also check out earlier updates from this dig trip:

Day One: Live from the Fossil Field
Day Two: The Smoking Gun
Day Three: New Discoveries

Live from the field – New Discoveries

Dr. Bakker (right) and Chris Flis
dig the “Uma” site in Seymour.

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).

Chris Flis sent the update on yesterday’s progress – the day was filled with new finds which you can hear all about in the podcast below.

In the podcast, Chris also talks about “jacketing” several fossils – this is done when a site yields so many fossils that they can’t safely be excavated in the time the team has available. So, the team digs a trench around the site, covers it with many layers of plaster and burlap to stabilize it, and flips it to cover the bottom. You end up with a giant slab of plaster-encased dirt that can be brought home for further excavation and study.

And when I say giant, I mean it – our team has brought home jackets weighing up to 500 pounds. The jacket made for Leonardo, the mummified dinosaur that was found in Montana (which is now on display here) weighed 6 tons!

The team’s 2007 blog has a great video of the end of the jacketing process – and a bit more detail in how it happens.


More from the field tomorrow! Until then, you can also check out earlier updates from this dig trip:

Day One: Live from the Fossil Field
Day Two: The Smoking Gun

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!