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Park Pilgrimage Produces Protohadros


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A few weeks ago I decided to take the kids to my local park. They are building houses in this area and completed a new road which made getting to this park much quicker. Now instead of going way around it's only about a mile from my house and a much more direct shot.


On the drive to the park I looked over to my right and saw some red/orange soil. The only formation in this area with that color is the Woodbine formation. "Odd," I thought. "The nearest Woodbine outcrop on the geological map is miles from here." I told my kids we were gonna make a quick pit stop for 10 minutes or so to explore and pulled into the site.


If you've never hunted the Woodbine before, you're missing out. That is if you like torture. Everything is one of 3 shades of brown and finding anything, even an oyster can be a pretty big deal. So as I was walking I saw something odd partially uncovered in the dirt. It was white, black, and was striated. "Well that's odd looking." I put my hat down at the hopeful object, walked to the trunk of the car and got my handy dandy screwdriver, walked back and dug/pried the bone up out of the sandstone. I looked down in shock. I was staring at bone, but not just any bone, based on the size this has to be dinosaur bone.





I was instantly flashing back to the conversations I had with my friend earlier this year. He has forgotten more than I ever hope to know. Dinosaurs have never been found as far north in the Dallas/Fort Worth area as my hometown I was told. So the odds of finding dinosaur bone this far north just didn't seem to add up. It’s probably just croc I was thinking. I grabbed the kids and got them into the car and drove to the park. While they played I sent pictures to my friend, who immediately called me. He confirmed my suspicions, way too big

to be croc. It was definitely Dino.


A few days later we met at the site. The biggest concern: was it was trucked in from another site? A likely and probable scenario that happens all the time around here when construction starts. We went and looked and nope this is all original Woodbine. The huge sand and iron bedrocks made it plain that this stuff wasn't trucked in from out of town. This was the original source. The stratigraphy telling us a beautiful story of an area once composed of sand dunes and river deltas and then repeatedly ravaged by forest fires. So not only had I found a random outcrop of Woodbine where it's "not supposed to be", I'd then randomly stopped at the right spot at this massive site, and then walked right towards the dinosaur bone at this anomalous site. Sometimes it's clear the fossil gods are just smiling down on you.


There's just one tiny/HUGE problem though. The bulldozers had already been there. So the bones have been scattered and thrown all over the place and they look like, well like they've been pushed by a bulldozer. This is a blessing and a curse. The bones would have never been found if not for the bulldozer as beforehand this was a pasture. But also it seems like the bulldozer operator really had it out for these bones. They've been through some things. Some terrible, horrible things. So they're ugly, hideous even. But not too ugly that I can't love them and give them a good home.


So I went back a few days later and spent a good 3 hours at the site. After several hours of finding nothing at all I began to think that maybe finding the bone was just a one off. I persisted through and was rewarded with finding an interesting bone that was later identified as the top half of a caudal vert.



My spirits lifted and I continued on then finding a tiny shard of bone. Not quite what I was hoping for but I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. I pressed on the last hundred feet hoping to finish that side of the site and i noticed a rock. Yeah just a rock, one of millions out there, but something about this caught my eye and I still can't explain why. I picked up the rock, turned it over, and I was then looking at a wonderful spongy porous structure. While a definitive statement cant be made on this bone, it seems to be a solid match for the end of a lower limb bone.




Now full of glee and Christmas Cheer in November, I went home to clean up and gawk at my finds.


A few days later I return, this time it wasn't quite as successful. I found another bone shard (meh) and a nice Cretalamna shark tooth. Pretty darn cool find if i might say so myself. Then I keep pushing on and find this little fella lying on the surface. Broken in two just an inch apart. Still no clue as to what part this one is from on the dino.




After a break of a few days and doing some research on my finds I return this time with my kids. We spend roughly an hour or so at the site and then decided to call it. Not a single thing did I find. As we head back to the car I tell the kids, "Hey I wanna check this side out real quickly. The last 3 times I've come here I've wanted to check it out but never do." The kids hop in the car and buckle up and I go to explore to see if it's even Woodbine or if it's another formation. Well turns out it is Woodbine. I walk right up to a large bone peeking out of the ground, with two smaller pieces next to it.




This turned out to be the superstar find of the bunch. After digging it out, taking it home, cleaning it up, chatting with it, giving it a name (we decided on Woody) I had a few ideas as to what it could be. I sent pictures to my friend Bradley who I jokingly call the Woodbine Wizard because he knows so much about and finds SO many things in the Woodbine. In fact he's the one who trained me on how to hunt in the Woodbine.  He looked at it and right away said, "Dude, that's a caudal vertebrae!" A few days later he and my other buddy David came over to my house and the Wizard showed me his perfect caudal vertebrae which we used to compare to what I found. And he's right, I had indeed found what had been my local fossil Holy Grail. Now granted, I would have liked it to have looked a little prettier. But I found a dinosaur vertebrae in my hometown, and a mile from my house! Yeah, I'm not gonna complain about that.


So as I mentioned my 2 friends the Woodbine Wizard and David, come out with me and we take a gander. Let me take a second to tell you how amazing these two dudes are. They come from out of town and want to visit my site to help me find more. They tell me, "anything we find goes directly to you." It's my site and my dino and they're just excited to help me out. Let me tell you guys, life is good when you can find some solid dudes like that to be your friends. So we spread out and check the area near where the vertebrae was found. David and I struck out that day but the Woodbine Wizard struck again!. He picks up a PERFECT segment of rib. Initially we all thought it was a modern rib it was so perfect. Absolutely crazy the difference in preservation. Makes me wonder how long some of these other fossils were sitting out exposed to the elements. Or maybe the bulldozer driver doesn't hate ribs as much as he hates vertebrae, limb, and pelvic bones. We'll never know. He also found a beautifully hollow bone preserved in a concretion. Whether or not this is theropod, bird, fish, or what I have no idea.





Thanksgiving break, has struck and no school for the kids or teaching for me. So what is the first thing I do with my day off with the kids? That's right! Make the long one mile drive to the site. After an hour of finding a whole lot of nothing, I barely catch something out of the corner of my eye. It is thin and barely exposed. I try to pick it out and it doesn't budge. Okay, I say to myself. I call over my kids (AKA my Camera Crew) and I start digging and they filming. It took a couple of minutes but I end up digging out a scapula blade. Then nearby I find a dozen or so bone shards that had washed down the hill, presumably from said Scapula.




At this point I finally email the local university. The response I get is what I thought it would be. The gist was: Thanks for letting me know! Shame it was bulldozed. Keep looking and good work! This is an exciting response for me which you'll see towards the bottom of this article as to my plans for this dino.


The next day the Woodbine Wizard shoots me a text, he's going to be in town to see his brother and ask if I am up for a quick hunt at my site. Pssh, does a fat puppy hate fast cars! (In case you're wondering they do indeed hate fast cars). It's misting but armed with hot cocoa for my kids, we brave the weather and it paid off. I find a bone and turn to shout to my buddy, who literally at the EXACT same moment yells out me, "Dude! Bone!" As you might have guessed his find is way better than mine. I found a generic chuck of bone from who knows what, and he finds a beautiful piece of bone set in a larger piece of rock. It turns out this bone is the capitulum to leading into a tuberculum where it broke off. That's fancy talk for it's the straight part at the base of the rib where it connects to the vertebrae. Then a few minutes later he finds another bone. This one has been heavily compressed and fractured. This one I'm not sure on the ID or if we ever will know, but of all the ones with an unknown ID i think this one has the best shot of being identified in the future.




So that's it. Today (the day before Thanksgiving 2020) I spent 3 hours at the site and found 2 pieces of coprolite. Not bone or teeth but not nothing either.


So you're also probably wondering how I'm able to give an ID based on something that looks like it went through a blender (or in this case, a bulldozer). Well luckily the bones I found give us a rather solid ID. The convex and concave nature of the pubis ventrally and dorsally, the exact match of the scapula regarding shape and angle, the same cross section in rib, and shape of the caudal vertebrae. I've also had a friend who is an expert on the Woodbine look at it as well as a paleontologist from the local university and they also concur.


There is also a real lack of diversity of Woodbine fauna (and Appalachia in general it appears). But even more so in the Woodbine. I believe there was a paper by Main in 2013 that stated essentially, if you find dino here in Dallas Fort Worth in the Woodbine, it's probably Protohadros. So that helps to really narrow down the contenders. But the neat thing about Protohadros is that it's a fascinating blend of Iguanodontid and Hadrosauroid characteristics. This shows in the bones making it quite unique without a real possibility of another potential match. So there you have it! That's why I feel fairly confident labeling this Protohadros byrdi.


So with the local university deciding it wasn't scientifically important, this allows me to keep it. For those of you that don't know I run a traveling education program called Dino Bo. I do it here locally and I generally stay in the area. This will allow me to keep it and use it as a display for teaching kids here in the community. The impact it will have on children and future generations here in the local community cannot be overstated. The plan is to have a nice display made showing all the bones and their location on the dinosaur. I'm hoping to raise money at some point in the future to pay to prepare a few of these bones for this display. This will further help to reach one of the goals for my program, to get kids interested in science and get them outside. Having a dinosaur found in the very town these kids live in will do wonders for those goals.


I'm sure more will be found and I'll continue to update this post as more is found. So stay tuned folks!



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Wow, I really like this story.  What a great adventure you are having and what a gift to the children in the community to share the discovery of dinos in their back yard.  Kuddos!  :default_clap2:

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Awesome report and finds!

I can’t imagine finding that right where I live! Sounds like you’ve got a great spot!

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Great story and congrats on finding dinosaur material in your own town! I'm happy you'll have a local dino species to show the kids on your displays, that should be great to stimulate their interest and imagination.


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If I saw something like this, I would not even see it as a fossil. :Confused05: Sometimes I throw stones away because they don't look like anything.:look: Perhaps I have an undiscovered new species in my hands, but I don't know about it.:duh2: Probably it comes with experience.:zzzzscratchchin:

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  • 1 month later...

I thought I would post an update to this. Since you know... more has happened that warrants an update.


I had gone to the site roughly another 5 times or so, and in nearly 10 hours I found a whole lot of nothing. Nothing but the occasional piece of poop, or coprolite that is. Thankfully all fossilized, I haven't had the misfortune of picking up any of the more recent additions to the geological record...yet. So needless to say I thought I had maybe finally tapped the site out. That the siphon just didn't have anything left to offer.



So after a few weeks of inactivity I decided to head out a couple of days after Christmas. It was gorgeous weather and there was several days of rain in the upcoming forecast, so I decided to head out and enjoy the weather. At the very worst I get a good bit of fresh air before being stuck indoors for quite a while. I prepped by grabbing my usual tools, my walking stick and a screwdriver. However this time I was armed with a screwdriver from the set my son got me for Christmas and a nice cordial cherry from my daughters gift to fuel my hunt. Fantastic gifts that no doubt aided in my success.


On the trek over I was mulling over where to hunt. I was flirting with hitting up an area that just seemed to get consistently lightly looked over or just skipped entirely. But as I pulled in I decided to head back to ground zero. The site of the first find. I had learned A LOT since my first find and seen a lot of the preservation differences since my first  foray into this area. I decided to take my new found knowledge and head back to that area before heading out to that other site.


I decided to make sure and practice a lesson it's taking a while to learn but that might have finally taken hold, slow down. Take it nice and easy. It's better to cover a smaller portion of ground well, then to cover a large portion poorly. It's quite hard to get lost in the sense of adventure though, the thought of what could be at waiting with the next step. But I literally kept repeating to myself in my head, "Slow down." After an hour of finding a whole bunch of nothing. I kept on, enjoying the wonderful weather and the quiet calmness. I took a step, and peeking out before me was a nice round bone looking thing. "Nah, it can't be," I thought. I bend down and see that wonderful spongy texture. A late Christmas gift was at my feet.


I pried it out and staring back at my appeared to be a vertebrae, BY FAR, the nicest of the now 3 I had found. The pad face was filled with matrix but the iron sandstone seemed like it would come out rather easily with a little bit of work. So now with my new all time favorite find in my pocket, I sat off looking for more. Not caring if I ever found anything else ever again. After another 15 minutes I was sporting a now sore face from all my smiling, I managed to look down through the pain though and spot a nice rib shard. Not much bigger than a pen lid, the preservation and shape perfectly match the wonderful rib section we found previously. I will always take a bone, even more so one that can be identified.


I decided to focus on one particular area, I started to look at the rocks and noted the soil. In one area, about the size of a car, I found matching soil from the three preservation types that I have found attached to the bones. So while not definitive, it is definitely a clue as to where this dino may have been hiding prior to the Deathdozer incident. And also a huge help that the best preserved vertebrae was found directly uphill from said area.


With my newfound theory in hand, I decided to slow WAY down and look hard in this general area. While no new dino fossils were found I was rewarded with both my first tooth of the site and a first for me, a Crocodile tooth. While the statistics and odds point it to being most likely belonging to Woodbinesuchus, nothing definitive can be said as of yet. After that I packed it up and headed on home to continue to drool all over my finds. A few days later on New Years day, after several nights of cleaning out the pad face and the channel on the vertebrae, I was finally able to apply some PaleoBond stabilizer to it and dance around the house holding my new treasure. While I may have looked insane to those driving by seeing me do a jig in the front yard with what appeared to be a rock in my hand, I couldn't be more excited about the new addition to the collection.



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Nice find, congrats once again! I'd be interested in seeing the croc tooth, whether its an in situ shot or at home. 

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Your persistence is an inspiration.  So too is that vertebra.  Congratulations, you have certainly earned your spoils.



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