Fossil Butte


This is not one of Michele’s snaps from Finland, but rather a picture of Fossil Butte National Park in Wyoming. Fifty million years ago, this area looked VERY different. It was a lot warmer, and there was a lake. We know this because this particular lake has left behind some extremely well conserved fossils.

Prehistoric horse found at Fossil Lake.
Prehistoric horse found at Fossil Lake.

When railroad workers in the 19th century visited the area, they noticed so many fossils that they named the nearby settlement “Fossil”.

Fish from Fossil Lake
Fish from Fossil Lake

The fossils from this region are so well conserved because the ancient lake was rich in calcium carbonate. Layers of calcium carbonate would settle on newly dead animals that had sunk to the bottom of the lake, and over the years this created well-preserved fossils set in limestone.


The species found in the limestone are familiar – similar to many creatures alive today – but unexpected for Wyoming. There are crocodiles and palm trees, for example. It suggests that back then, the climate in Wyoming would have been more like that of Florida today.


To see the fossils from Fossil Lake, you can visit Fossil Butte National Park in Wyoming, or see a large collection of the fossils at the Field Museum in Chicago.

Crocodile and palm tree photos are both CC-BY-SA (according to Field Museum usage terms) taken by Eva Amsen.  Other photos are public domain, via National Park Service.

Mammoth ain’t Mopey

I am very pleased to announce that the Mammoth is Mopey project of Jennie & David Orr passed its $104 funding goal on IndieGoGo last night. Personally, this means my kids will be getting a copy of this beautiful and inspiring book, one of our local libraries will be getting a copy of this beautiful and inspiring book, and that I will also be able to show my love for ankylosaurs on my messenger bag with a cool “Paleontology Fancier*” button.

Mammoth is Mopey by Jennie & David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Adapted with Permission)

It also means that you have one week left to pledge your support in the confidence that any pledge is actually a pre-order. You can get a print copy for only $15. My fellow parents know that $15 is actually a pretty good deal for an illustrated book that about which you are enthusiastic – and, if you are not enthusiastic about reading, art, and prehistoric animals, I really don’t know what you are doing here.

You can still take the “Which Mammoth is Mopey Character are You” quiz too. I got the artistic ankylosaur, which I think confirms the accuracy of the quiz beyond any shadow of doubt.

Ankylosaur is Artistic by Jennie & David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

*More like fanciest – am I right?

Mammoths are Money

David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)
David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

Friends of The Finch & Pea David Orr and Jennie Orr would like your help publishing an illustrated ABCs book for children, Mammoth is Mopey*.

David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)
David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

Mammoth is Mopey brings together a love of language with a love of prehistoric critters. The restrictions imposed by the classic “alphabet book” also provide a rich opportunity for the artist/author to take us on a creative journey. In our house, we collect artistic ABC books, not only as aids to draw our children into developing their language and reading skills, but also for their pure aesthetic beauty.

David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)
David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

Now, the only thing that stands between my kids and Mammoth is Mopey is you. Fortunately, for you, this isn’t one of those “you are in my way and I’m going to go through you” scenarios. This is a, “you need to remember your PayPal password and make an IndieGoGo pledge” scenario. So, get on it, before this does become a “you are in my way” scenario**.

*Do you see what I did there with the post title? Do ya? Do ya? LOOK AT IT! LOOK! AT! IT!

**More accurately, a “you are in the way of my kids’ artistic and linguistic development” scenario, which is a much worse scenario.

Deep Pterosaur Breaths

I cannot begin tell you how excited my children will be to learn that scientists think* giant pterosaurs may have breathed in a similar way to crocodilians when they get home from school today. Read Brian Switek’s explanation of the newest research at National Geographic Phenomena.

*Geist, N. R., Hillenius, W. J., Frey, E., Jones, T. D. and Elgin, R. A. (2014), Breathing in a box: Constraints on lung ventilation in giant pterosaurs. Anat Rec, 297: 2233–2253. doi: 10.1002/ar.22839

Mark Witton on Dinosaur Cheeks

“Deinonychosauria” (Cladistic Heraldry) by David Orr (All Rights Reserved; Used with Permission)

Should Deinonychus*, the clawed dinosaur that was the actual inspiration for the velociraptors of Jurassic Park‘s, have lean, Sting-like cheeks or chipmunk cheeks under their feathers?

In a recent post, paleontologist Mark Witton looks at the research on Deinonychus bite strength and how it should influence PaleoArt depictions of this iconic animal.

*While I am on the record with my belief that I could win a fight with a single Velociraptor, I have no doubt that I would lose against a Deinonychus and die slowly as it perched upon my mangled body leisurely consuming my innards.

HT: Tommy Leung

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