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Hell Creek, Garfield County, Montana Bones

James Savage

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James Savage

Hello everyone

Below are a few photos that I'd like some IDs on (if possible) from my trip with Paleo Prospectors to Garfield County, Montana back last month.  We were fossil hunting with the ranch owners permission on private land in Hell Creek exposures.

Row 1-Likely theropod/raptor toe bone and two theropod/raptor broken limb bones? 







Row 3-Small bones with odd texture/shape









Row 5-Small broken limb bones?







Row 7-Small crocodilian vert and small fish verts







Thanks for looking.  Feel free to request more photos (clarity, different angles/sides, etc.) if you see something odd or cool.


Also found some nice teeth (likely nanotyrannus, ceratopsian, and gator) and a bunch of other cool bones.  Can't wait to head back with them next year.





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Tidgy's Dad

Nice haul! :)

I can see why you're itching to get back out there again. 


I'm curious as to why you think it's a Nanotyrannus tooth, though? 

Even if the genus does exist at all, which doesn't seem to be generally accepted currently, it is surely dangerous to ascribe all such small teeth to Nanotyrannus? 

And the genus seems to be comparatively rare, hence the lack of study, so it seems likely to me that even if the genus does prove to be valid, a lot of these smaller teeth will be from a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, or somethimg. 


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James Savage

Thank you Tigdy's Dad for viewing and commenting.  I've thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts over the years and have learned a lot from them.

This trip was amazing and am counting down the days till I can go back out west.  My area of the country doesn't have cretaceous exposures, so anything I find is extremely cool to me.


Also, thanks for asking my opinion on the Nano debate.  That was my guess for that tooth based on asking one of the guides and discussions with others on the tour.  It could be T. Rex, Nano, or even Dakota raptor.   Either way it is a very cool theropod tooth and I tried to hedge by bets by saying Likely Nano.  I'm pretty new to this so I could definitely be wrong.  I haven't counted serrations/mm yet and just kind of like not knowing for sure.


There have been probably a million words or more written about the Nano/T Rex debate but here are my amateur's amateur reasons for thinking it is a valid genus and that they were very common then (again I'm a newbie and may very well be wrong).  These are my reasons listed below for siding on the Nano side of the debate.  I could be totally wrong about all of these, so feel free to let me know if any of these are incorrect.  Many people have weighed in on this debate and in my opinion it is just fun to debate anything dino/paleo related.


Nano teeth are slender and pointy and T. Rex teeth are thick and blunt.  It is pretty easy to tell those two apart visually (Dakota raptor and Nano teeth are way more difficult to tell apart-Troodon wrote a great post about this)


The base of nano teeth are pinched and the base of T. Rex teeth are oval


From what I have heard the theropod teeth collected from the Tooth Draw quarry sites are more Nano than T. Rex.  If Nano is just a juvenile T. Rex was that site and many others a nursery or where two predators just feeding at the same site?  I believe in general that Nano teeth (probably including some Dakota raptor or other large raptor teeth) are more commonly found than T Rex


The juvenile T. Rex jaw and teeth found by Paleo Prospectors (I think Troodon showed a picture of a cast of it) looks different from Nano teeth and jaws


There seem to be more Nano teeth on auction sites vs T. Rex teeth


Nano claws are larger than T. Rex claws (based on the Black Hills Institute display)  Did the claws and hand bones get smaller as they aged?


The dentary groove present in Nano jaws that isn't present in T. Rex jaws (based on the Black Hills Institute display)


I'm not sure if the Dueling Dinos theropod is a Nano or small T. Rex.  I know the NC museum is still looking at it and am looking forward to reading the final opinion (I believe they think it is a juvenile T. Rex I think) 


I think there were multiple times where a larger and smaller predator occupied the same ecosystem (modern lion/cheetah, great white shark/mako; megalodon/great white shark, etc.) that were in the same area at the same time competing for food


The main paleontologists on the Nano isn't a valid genus debate that I know of (Jack Horner and Thomas Carr) have said some pretty odd things (I believe, hopefully this doesn't come across as an Ad hominem attack) "T Rex was a scavenger" -obviously many finds of broken T. Rex teeth in healed bones 

Dueling Dino quotes

Horner also has some doubts about the dueling dinosaur fossils themselves.

“I don’t know where they geographically came from; I don’t know where they geologically came from; I don’t know their taphonomy — and, basically, that’s all the information a scientist needs,” Horner said. “There’s none of that. So, from a scientific perspective, it is a useless specimen.”

Science reported that Phipps’ failed attempt to auction the Dueling Dinosaurs in 2013 has made “[m]any paleontologists fear that [he] will sell to a private collector who may not allow detailed scientific study. If that happens, ‘then someone might as well walk up to it with a sledgehammer and turn it to dust,’ says paleontologist Thomas Carr of Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin” (Pringle, 2013).


So, saying a fossil is a useless specimen (Horner) and taking a sledgehammer and turn it to dust (Carr) lead me to doubt everything they say.   They could have said, it would have more value if additional information was recorded during collection, etc., but they chose those exact things to say.   That biases my opinion on their papers (perhaps unfairly).


The main Nano isn't a valid genus paper that I read only compared two specimens I believe and didn't address the points that I listed above (at least I don't remember them doing that).


So, thanks for asking my opinion.  Those are my reasons for thinking Nano is valid and the biases that I have in forming that opinion.  Be happy to be proven wrong as that means I learned something new.


Let me know if you see anything in my photos that may be diagnostic or looks like something ID'd before.  



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