pg电子游戏下载app paleontologists and students have unearthed significant dinosaur fossils — including a possible new species — in the Montana badlands.
这是七月里蒙大拿州东部荒地潮湿的一天, the midmorning temperature already edging up toward the triple digits. 被野火的烟雾笼罩着, the sun casts a primordial gleam on hills built up by eons of sediment and eaten away by wind and water.
大约6600万年前, a Triceratops took its last breath a few feet from where Wilson Mantilla now stands. 古代的土地很肥沃, crisscrossed by rivers snaking their way east from the young Rocky Mountains to North America’s inland sea. The Hell Creek Formation (as the layers of sedimentary rock are now known) was teeming with plants and animals — and dominated by dinosaurs. After the Triceratops died here, it was eventually entombed in mud. Until now.
Behind Wilson Mantilla is Kelsie Abrams, paleontology fossil lab manager at the Burke. She spends most of her time in a climate-controlled laboratory, 精心准备化石 来自世界各地. But for two weeks a year she travels to far-flung dig sites, 为化石开采和保存提供建议, and managing teams of volunteers like those now gathered on a hillside of soft mudstone, 挤在部分出土的三角龙周围.
Joining Wilson Mantilla and Abrams are a pg电子游戏下载app-trained paleobiologist, 四个pg电子客户端的学生和刚毕业的学生, 还有其他学生和志愿者. They’ve traveled to this remote locale for the opportunity of an aspiring paleontologist’s lifetime: to be at the front lines of dinosaur discovery.
While volunteers shovel rock from the perimeter and carefully pry mudstone from fossilized bone, Abrams speculates that this Triceratops was picked clean by scavengers or tossed about by running water — scattered into puzzle pieces that she’ll reassemble in the lab. Then, she and a couple of students kick around ideas for a murder mystery. 毕竟他们是侦探.
This is what hooks many budding paleontologists: the ability to lift the veil of the present and peer back into the distant past, 那时有人类从未见过的生物在地球上游荡. And to learn more about what their extinction — and the species that rose in their places — might mean to us today.
How did the team know there were fossils here in the first place? 这一旅程始于2019年, when a Montana rancher flew his plane over the property he leases from the Bureau of Land Management. 在空中检查他的牛的时候, he noticed something peculiar poking out of a hillside.
农场主告诉威尔逊·曼蒂拉, his go-to contact about fossil discoveries on his land for nearly a decade. Experts would eventually confirm it was the horn of a Triceratops (a “trike,” in paleontology slang) — a large herbivore that roamed the Late Cretaceous landscape alongside its foe, the T. rex, until the mass-extinction event that brought an end to the age of the dinosaurs. In the rancher’s honor, Wilson Mantilla dubbed it the Flyby Trike.
在被大流行推迟了一年之后, Wilson Mantilla and Abrams cleared their calendars for July 2021 and pulled together a team of volunteers and students from the pg电子游戏下载app and other universities. 伯克年度K-12教育工作者 狄格野外学校 项目也会帮助挖掘, bringing their firsthand experience back to students in Washington and across the country.
就在离三轮车现场几百码的地方, prospectors with permission to scout there followed trails of “float” — shards of fossilized tendon and bone that drift down the hill — to their origins like breadcrumbs, 又发现了两种恐龙的化石. 距离主星团六英里, a prospector had helped Wilson Mantilla find yet another fossil with great promise.
每天到达主要的挖掘地点后, 志愿者背着书包, 准备好装备和装满佳得乐的冰箱, 开始徒步前往三种化石中的一种:三角龙, a hadrosaur (duck-billed herbivores) or a theropod (meat-eating dinosaurs that include tyrannosaurids and velociraptors). 一个较小的小组正在挖掘第四块化石, a rare theropod that sends a fresh wave of anticipation through the group: It just might be an entirely new species.
As they walk, they swat at black flies and pull their hat brims down for shade. If chisels, 刷子和铲子是挖掘必不可少的工具, 防晒霜也是如此, bug spray and plenty of fluids — especially in eastern Montana at the height of summer.
On this day, pg电子客户端学生伊泽贝尔·鲁伊斯说, ’22, kneels next to a large hunk of Triceratops frill — the distinctive armored plate extending above its massive head — and carefully uses the point of a rock hammer to pry mudstone away from what might be another bone. pg电子客户端毕业生韩瑶, ’20, 采取一种更温和的方法, brushing dirt off a large bone fragment that appears to be in danger of shattering. Abrams covers it with a special glue to protect it until she can meticulously separate fossil from rock back in the lab.
Ruiz pauses for a swig of Gatorade and hunkers under the tattered tarp overhead, 尽她所能遮荫. 她擦了擦额头上的汗，休息了一会儿 tinks of rock hammers echo around her, gradually uncovering more of the Triceratops. 然后，继续工作.
Hauling out a jacketed theropod required teamwork — and a tractor.
The ball on the back of the Triceratops skull, nicknamed the "trailer hitch."
Abrams prepares plaster strips to begin jacketing the Flyby Trike.
The possibility of a new discovery adds a blast of excitement to what is already a peak experience for second-year transfer student Zeke Augustine, ’23. 他刚从小工地回来, where he helped excavate what could be a new species or might be a “chicken from hell,” paleontologists’ nickname for the rare Anzu wyliei — an 11-foot-long theropod estimated to have weighed up to 650 pounds. 的脊椎, 威尔逊·曼蒂拉说, 对盗蛋龙群来说是正确的吗, 化石的大小与安祖属相似. They’ll learn more as it’s studied back in the Fossil Preparation Lab, 但奥古斯汀, 毕生的恐龙爱好者, 帮助确定了线索:骨盆, vertebrae, limbs and a four-inch claw that Wilson Mantilla describes as “visceral.”
今天奥古斯丁带着更多人回来了, focused on a more common hadrosaur — but digging up any dinosaur is the stuff of paleontology dreams.
These aren’t the fossils you see in the movies, standing out a distinct white against the dirt. Fossils form when dissolved minerals seep into and replace organic material, 结晶成原始骨骼形状的. That’s why you don’t use high-tech equipment to scan the ground, explains Wilson Mantilla — it would be like trying to discern rock from rock. 你得挖，而且要小心.
更重要的是, fossils are rarely found complete and intact — they’re often scattered by scavengers, 在水里翻滚或在土里磨损. That’s the case with the hadrosaur that Augustine and Eddie Armstrong, ’20, 正在进行的工作, 还有志愿者老文斯·布鲁斯., who goes on dinosaur digs every year with his wife and son.
研究小组发现了鸭嘴龙的臀部和腿部, and much of the fossil has already been encased in plaster for protection and safe transport back to the Burke. Augustine and Armstrong are down on all fours carefully unearthing several vertebrae, 在杂乱的泥岩衬托下显得格外光滑.
当天晚些时候, volunteers help roll the other plaster-encased theropod fossil — a hipbone of an ostrich-size animal — onto a pallet, which the rancher then winches up the hill with his tractor and loads into Bruscas’ pickup truck for safe transport back to the Burke.
经过一个月的挖掘, it becomes obvious to Abrams and Wilson Mantilla: The dig team won’t be able to excavate the Triceratops this year. The more they expand the perimeter around it, the more fossil they find. There’s plenty left to be unearthed, and they’re running out of time. So, 为了保护它不受冬天恶劣天气的影响, they cover it in insulating plaster and shovel mudstone on top.
While Wilson Mantilla and Abrams look forward to returning next year — especially since the Burke Museum doesn’t yet have a Triceratops skull, only a cast — they’re thrilled about what their team uncovered. 比较常见的鸭嘴龙和兽脚亚目恐龙, 还有种子和琥珀的化石, will add to their knowledge of the area’s biodiversity at the end of the age of dinosaurs. 还有另一个挖掘地点的兽脚亚目恐龙, 无论是稀有的安祖威利，还是属内的新种, 会给地狱溪多样化的生态系统带来新的启示吗.
“Each fossil we collect helps sharpen our views of the last dinosaur-dominated ecosystems and the first mammal-dominated ecosystems,威尔逊·曼蒂拉说, who’s interested in how mammals rose to prominence as dinosaurs were largely erased from Earth. “With these, we can better understand the fragility, collapse and assembly of ecosystems.”
Ruiz, Yao, Augustine and Armstrong return with something of their own: The experience of a real-life field dig to complement their classroom learning and help launch them toward their dreams of becoming paleontologists.
Someday, they too could help contribute to our knowledge of what once was and what might be. In fact, Wilson Mantilla and Abrams would say, they already have.
“This is not just Kelsie or me doing something,威尔逊·曼蒂拉说. “这是一个完整的团队，每个球员都有重要的角色.”
摄影由达纳布鲁克斯，' 21，和丹尼斯怀斯. All activity and photography followed the COVID-19 safety protocols at the time.
鸭嘴龙的股骨有多大? 兽脚亚目恐龙的髋骨长什么样? Did Burke volunteers uncover an Anzu wyliei or a new species? And how, exactly, do you go from jumbled bones encased in hardened mud to a fossil displayed in all its glory?
你自己看吧: Visitors to the Burke Museum can now watch paleontologists remove rock from the hadrosaur and both theropods. All four dinosaurs will be held in trust for the public on behalf of the Bureau of Land Management and become a part of the Burke Museum’s collections.参观伯克