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Gary L Thompson

Here is a link to the story run by Utah State University:   "Jaws of Death"

 

LINK  to original post about this discovery.

 

 

Here is my story:

 

My name is Gary Thompson, when I was a young boy our class was learning about fossils including some of the terrain and ground indicators for finding fossils. We took a field trip into the Escalante Canyon between Delta and Grand Junction Colorado.  During this trip we were told that people have found dinosaur bones and petrified dinosaur dung in the canyon.  During that trip I found a few interesting pieces.  It was that experience that intrigued me and began my fascination for interesting rocks and fossils and started me hunting for them every chance I got. 

 

The year mom and I were about to move from Colorado to New Mexico I wanted to fossil hunt one more time before we left.  I had been fishing in the Surface Creek many times in the past and was familiar with the terrain in that part of town.   I asked my mom to drop me off out near the rodeo grounds where I thought I could do some good rock and fossil hunting.   There was a road that goes up the side of the mesa were you could see layering exposed on the hills beside the road.  Down at the bottom of the mesa where she dropped me off at Main and Cedar Mesa/Surface Creek rd there is an area that had loose dirt where I began to scan the area for anything that looked interesting. 

 

I noticed a darker dirt layer edging the top of the cliff like hill side. I climbed up towards the darker top edge and noticed some rust staining in the lighter soil layer right below the darker layering, which I had learned about in science class could be an indication of good fossil possibilities.   In that lighter layer facing, I could see roundish oblong fossils with a segmented fern like fracturing pattern with a kind of caramel coloring.  Some side views and some end views.  I began investigating and digging out that area finding more shell fossils and the other fossils I later learned where called Baculites.

 

After I got tired of that area I started walking up the road along the side of the mesa, scanning the edges for anything interesting.  About half way up, I noticed an area a little bit back from the road with some mounding dirt that looked interesting.  I walked back into that area and began inspected the ground for rocks and fossils.  I was looking through the dirt and I happened to notice some scattered rock fragments on the ground that stood out to me.  I have always had a knack for seeing differences and things that seem out of place.  I began picking them up and inspecting them.   After examining them more closely I noticed that they had a certain look, color and texture that indicated to me that it might be petrified wood or bone fossil.

 

 I continued to pick up and inspect these pieces when I found a little piece about 1 ½” wide and kind of oblong that had a more defined shape to it that looked like the end of a bone, looking at it as if it were sectioned, and you could see the circular bone outline of a marrow middle . I gathered up those pieces and then with my hands and a rock I started scraping the surface of the area to try to find more like those. 

 

 As I scrapped and dug around I began to find what looked like long oval bones about an inch across and maybe 8-12 inches long, that kind of resembled rib bones.  At that point I was certain it was bone fossil. I followed along that bone line clearing the dirt around the edges with my hands and a little stone.   That section ran into what I could identify as large vertebrae about 6in across.  It was then that I realized it was not a rib bone I had started out following but a part of a very large vertebrae.   I excitedly began digging and clearing the dirt off the vertebrae section.

 

In my child’s mind I was excitedly thinking I might have found a dinosaur.  As I removed more dirt I exposed more vertebrae and it began to curve back into the mound of dirt a bit. I dug about 4 and a half feet of it out , leaving it in the ground but clearing the edges, revealing more of the vertebrae with the extending bones.  

At that point I realized that it was a very significant find I had made and that I needed to stop digging and report it. 

 

Because my mom and I were getting ready to move to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico that week, I did not want to leave it exposed and unprotected without telling someone about it.  I felt that my science teacher Mr. Jones could help me contact the correct people so it could be protected, excavated and taken care of properly.   I did gather up a few small samples, and I found some plastic garbage along the side of the road that I used to cover the bones that I had exposed.  I then put dirt on top on the plastic to protect and hide my find.  I walked home with my little bag of fossils and shared the exciting discovery with my mom Helen Louise Moore and showed her the samples I had collected.  The next morning I brought the samples to Mr. Jones seeking his advise and help with the proper course of action. 

 

Mr. Jones was extremely curious about the samples I had found and what I describe to him. He kept the sample pieces and he asked me to take him to the site.  I believe it was the same afternoon after school that Mr. Jones and I went back to the site in Mr. Jones’ vehicle.  We parked near where I had found the shell fossils and walked all the way up to the large bone fossil I had begun to excavate and reburied previously.  When we reached the site I began to carefully re-expose the bones I previously found.  Mr. Jones could see there was something significant that I had discovered and excitedly began helping me pull the dirt back out from where I had previously dug and replaced it.

 

When we had re-exposed the 4 1/2 feet of the fossil vertebrae that I had discovered and cleared previously, he confirm to me that it was a very important discovery.  At that time we covered it back up with the plastic and dirt and Mr. Jones took me home.   The next day I returned to school and I remember Mr. Jones was telling the class how I had found the bone fossils and he was talking about them to the class.

 

 My mom and I moved a few days after I discovered the bones and showed Mr. Jones my discovery.  Before we left Cedaredge we had visited my grandparents to say goodbye and I told my grandmother about my exciting discovery.   I left Cedaredge knowing that Mr. Jones verified my discovery and believing he would do the right things with my discovered bones and that they would not be destroyed.

 

I was a kid at the time so I did not know how to follow up with the teacher or the project.  Sometime later I received an envelope from my grandmother, Helen Moore that contained a Delta County Independence newspaper that had an article written by Muriel Marshall.  She had written the story about the activity at the site and that I had discovered the fossil.  It was very satisfying to see my name in the article and to know Mr. Jones had spoken with her verifying my find. 

 

In this article I also learned that my discovery was a really significant and exciting find and Dr. Jim Jensen (dinosaur Jim) from BYU was excavating the site and that he had not yet been able to identify it but thought it could be a new species of some kind.  I was happy to learn that my discovery was so significant and relieved that my discovery had been properly reported by Mr. Jones to Paleontologist ‘Dinosaur Jim’ of BYU and that it was being properly cared for.  But, I was also sad that I could not be there to be a part of it. 

 

The article also told of the school kids taking a field trip to the dig.  It had talked about the young Scheetz brothers who had been helping Dinosaur Jim at a previous dig site, and had come to help him and Mr. Jones at the Cedaredge site as well. 

 

Upon detailed research of the mosasaur’s skeleton and a phylogenetic analysis, Joshua Lively PhD determined the BYU specimen is not closely related to other species of the genus Prognathodon and needed to be renamed.

 

He reclassified the mosasaur as Gnathomortis stadtmani, meaning "Jaws of Death",  and reports his findings in the most recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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Thanks for the update, Mr. Thompson.  :) 

 

 

EDITLINK to Wikipedia Article. 

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  • Fossildude19 changed the title to Jaws of Death - Gnathomortis stadtmani

Congratulations, Gary!  I'm glad the mosasaur you discovered was seen by Joshua in his research.  He has a good eye for detail, and he will be publishing more on mosasaurs in the near future.  ;)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Complete with a Jim Jensen shout-out!

Wonderful reads.

 

(I was a Jensen kid back in the 80s...that man personally answered every letter little dirt rats like myself ever sent him.)

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Great story.  Bravo for you.  And thanks for sharing.

 

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Thanks for the great story. Sorry I missed your original post, but now it seems to be clear what it is which you discovered. The wheels of true science move slowly sometimes, but at least they are steady and mostly precise.

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bcfossilcollector

Great discovery!  Thank you for sharing. Truly remarkable. 

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Gary L Thompson

Here is a Photo I took of the casting at BYU. Also the original photo of DR Jim Jensen at the dig site.

IMG_0657.JPG

Original Dig.jpg

IMG_0672.jpg

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It's a really select group who can pose for a selfie with such a spectacular personal find. ;)

 

 

Cheers.

 

-Ken

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Not sure how I missed this post... Very interesting story! What a journey! Congratulations on the awesome find and subsequent contribution to paleontology!

 

:yay-smiley-1:

 

 

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  • 1 year later...

Very cool! 

Thanks for sharing, I have read the whole thing.

Looks stunning I would want the original one for myself lol 

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