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Digging The Texas Red Beds- More On The Eryops Site!


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Ok, so I've been doing some thinking about the Eryops site I found on my dig this past week with The Whiteside Museum in Seymour, Texas... I know... I'm obsessed... but I just can't help it! I keep thinking, “What is going on here?!?!?!" We have a red sandstone layer on top of the hillsides. Above that we are finding our favorite plant-eating reptile of the Permian the Edaphosaurus, which makes perfect sense because they preferred the banks of stream channels. Below the sandstone we are finding our shark teeth and shark spines. Now below that, have we possibly found a whole layer of Eryops??? Hmmm...... It's possible! We are finding Eryops teeth and bone fragments at about the same level below the sandstone on several of the hillsides. Now we have found a possible Eryops skeleton on a hillside at the same level we are finding the bone fragments and teeth on the other hillsides. So let's think about these primitive Permian amphibians a bit... These guys lived along stream channels. They had bulky bodies, so they were slow moving on land. In the water they had buoyancy to help them out, so they were most likely able to move a little faster there. Their flat skull with eyes and nostrils on top of their heads meant that they probably hunted like our modern crocs do today. They would float just below the surface of the water and wait for fish to swim by so he could snap them up. The Eryops had no chewing motion in their jaw structure so they would swallow prey whole. His palatal teeth helped hold onto his prey while he tossed it around to swallow it. The Eryops was also a p-r-e-t-t-y big guy for his time. He grew to be about 5' long and weighed close to 200 pounds, so that put him near the top of the Permian food chain. Remember... I said NEAR the top of the food chain. The Eryops would have been no match for the flesh eating Dimetrodon. We haven't seen any evidence of this happening at the site though. In fact we've seen almost no Dimetrodon at all, except for one small tooth. So that begs the question... What about in the water? Could the Eryops have been SHARK BAIT!?!?!? Not sure, but it's certainly possible... I've attached a picture of a piece of Eryops rib bone below that looks a bit suspicious. A fossil buddy of mine, TroyB who is a scale, sharklage, and coprolite fanatic thinks the bone could have bite marks on it. If you look closely at the picture there are some streaks that run through the bone that look like this Eryops could have had a run-in with a shark, but the jury is still out. We are not 100% convinced yet. We'll just have to wait and see what other evidence we can turn up. Chris Flis aka. Dinodigger, had a suggestion on what else it could be. I just can't remember what he said. Maybe he'll weigh-in and let us know. Another cool thing you'll notice about this rib bone is there's an Eryops tooth in the matrix around the rib! We have found OODLES of shed Eryops teeth while digging at this site. You'll also notice that this bone is fairly clean, which is exciting. Quite a bit of the bone we have been finding is coated in a bubbly matrix that we will have to carefully take off with the air scribe, which means LOTS more time and work. I've also included some pictures of the site before we found the Eryops skull and then one after we found the skull. We had to jacket the skull and tarp the site due to the coming rains. Yikes! Between the rain and the local Javelina residents it's been a little tricky protecting the site. Apparently the roots I left in the ground from all the cactus I dug up created a bit of a "Hog Heaven". Who would have thought that cactus root is a hog delicacy in the Texas Red Beds?!?! Duh! It's juicy and has no thorns! We learn something everyday folks! Anyway, there is some really interesting stuff going on here! I can't wait to get back and see what else we will find. I'll keep you posted!

Best,

Leigh post-5721-0-36637100-1411236586_thumb.jpgpost-5721-0-26990400-1411236620_thumb.jpgpost-5721-0-17874500-1411236699_thumb.jpgpost-5721-0-15262200-1411236720_thumb.jpg

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Awesome!! I cant wait to see updates!

More pics of finds please. :D

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Oh, how I envy your opportunity to get Permian dirt under your fingernails, and tease out the answers to questions unknown!

If I were just 20 years younger....

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Yup yup the Daphy and Eryops beds are proving to be pretty scientifically important. Its a goldmine for the early story of the reptiles and amphibians. The description of the beds is pretty spot on. It also follows some lower formation trends on Edaphosaur and Eryops sites: daphys preferring the areas on the fringe of slow moving channels. Red sandstone cap below is a great marker for the swampy systems that are habited by the eryopids.

The markings on the bones are interesting. Pretty sure they are caused by either an invertebrate; beetles and whatnot, or by roots. The caliche rind on the daphy bones represent a soil level. Carcasses were clearly lying on the permian soil bed for years decaying. Roots and small munching invertebrates most likely the culprit for the etchings. Not definitive markings by sharks, which look like scrapes instead of squiggles...

Will post some photos later,

Chris

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Hope to read more enthusiastic descriptions like this one! Sounds exciting working with dinodigger! Welcome to the forum, by the way!

Edited by Ludwigia
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There will be more pictures to follow later, but here is a link that has a few more that I didn't include...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/20876387@N08/sets/72157647429169058/

Thanks! I'm keen to follow this dig vicariously; it includes two of my favorite words: "Texas", and "Permian". :D

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Thanks! I'm keen to follow this dig vicariously; it includes two of my favorite words: "Texas", and "Permian". :D

Agreed!

Permian vert stuff is so interesting to me.

Thanks for the link.

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