Solite Day 1

Believe it or not, it doesn’t rain every single time I go in the field. Today we started an excavation in the Triassic rocks at the Solite Quarry (now owned by CEMEX), on the Virginia-North Caroline State Line (see my previous posts on these deposits here and here).

The driving force behind research at Solite over the last 18 years was Nick Fraser, former Director of Research at VMNH, and now Keeper of Natural Sciences at the National Museum of Scotland. Nick arrived in the US last night, accompanied by Andrew Ross (also from the National Museum of Scotland) and David Nicholson of the Natural History Museum in London. We were joined at Solite this morning by Michal Kowalewski and Shuhai Xiao from Virginia Tech, and two carloads of Virginia Tech students.

We spent a half-day in the quarry in a light rain (it’s been raining the last four days here). Solite fossils are difficult to see except in strong light, so we didn’t have high hopes with the overcast skies. But it turned out to be a great day, as we found several specimens of Tanytrachelos.

Tanytrachelos ahynis is a small protorosaur, a small group of Triassic reptiles found in Europe, North America, and China. The most famous protorosaur is the outrageously long-necked Tanystropheus from Europe. Tanytrachelos is much smaller, at a maximum of about 20 cm in length (Tanystropheus is 3 meters). Tanytrachelos is also much more common; several hundred have been collected at Solite. Sometime I’ll do a more detailed post about the unusual anatomy of Tanytrachelos, but it was an aquatic animal, with long back feet and webbed toes. The long foot is visible in this specimen collected this morning:

Here’s a more complete body with both a front leg and a back leg:

Here’s a neck (and probably the front part of the ribcage) with a skull:

And finally, and more-or-less complete specimen (part of the tail isn’t visible, but it’s probably there, under a few millimeters of sediment):

Not bad for a half a day in the rain. The weather’s supposed to clear a bit tomorrow, and Nick, Andrew, and David will be here for the next 10 days or so, so I’ll be posting regular (if not quite daily) updates.

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One Response to Solite Day 1

  1. Alton Dooley says:

    Apple has updated their web editing software. That, of course, means that nothing works anymore, and Apple has yet to acknowledge there is even a problem (even after several thousand complaints posted to their discussion forum). Two effects of this, at least for now, is that the new entries don’t have comments pages, and it takes me several hours to post an update, which means that I might not get something up every day. You can use this entry for comments (I hope) until the problem is fixed.

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