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Turtle From The Oligocene, Ne

Texas Fossil Hound

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It has been a while since the DPS hunt in the Chadron and Brule of Nebraska back in May of this year, but I am finally getting to prep a turtle I dug out of a high cliff wall. I had to cut footholds to get to the white object protruding from the cliff. Hoping for a skull of some Oligocene mammal, I discovered a turtle (Stylemys Nebrascensis) with about an inch of the carapace visible. Thinking I might be looking at a full turtle, I decided to extract it. After 2 hours of digging, glueing and wrapping, I slid back down and tucked him into my pack. Once home, he went into the queue for prep.

So now I am working on him and I thought I would share the results so far. I know it is not a 100% complete turtle, but I am having fun extracting, cleaning and re-assembling. My wife affectionately has dubbed him "Puzzle Turtle". The shell is proving to be fragile, because the pieces are extracted and cleaned in sections.


View of the plastron (bottom) of Puzzle Turtle as found and wrapped. To stabilize, I first dug around the fossil, pedestalled the best I could at that height, saturated the find with Elmers glue/water solution. Then carefully wrapped the top in layers of aluminum foil, rolled him out, poured in more glue/water and wrapped more foil before packing out.


This is a view of one plastron section prior to cleaning.


Same plastron section starting to be visible.


The carapace side of the same section. I know after looking at these that there are a few sections missing, but I think it is 90% or more there.


Same carapace section after cleaning the surface.


Still a long way to go. The carapace remaining to be worked.


Note that inside the matrix of the turtle, there are more shell segments I decided to extract.

To be continued...


Edited by Texas Fossil Hound

"Silence is Golden, but duct tape is Silver."

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...more progress.


Here is what the 2 major sections of the carapace look like together. The section on the left is not yet cleaned.


The progress of cleaning the other side of the carapace. This one is proving to be difficult due to how fragile the sections are.


This is how it is today. I am still extracting matrix from the center, but the pieces are all gluing together pretty well. I am waiting to glue everything together until I can finish fit-checking all the pieces. Unfortunately the turtle was compressed before it finished fossilizing and not all the pieces are fitting together smoothly. Its not bad, but being off a little causes differences at juctures in the fossil.


It is coming along nicely! I will post more as I continue to make progress.


"Silence is Golden, but duct tape is Silver."

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I wouldnt even know it was a turtle looking at the first pics lol but that is a very nice job so far, waitng for the end results of the turtle :0)




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I agree some members when they said: it did not seem a turtle, but astonishing material.

Hello and best wishes from France!

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cool. we grabbed a couple turtles of our own last week.


Daniel A. Wöhr aus Südtexas

"To the motivated go the spoils."

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Nice Jon, glad I finally get to see it. Hearing all the stories about that lady you helped with the rhino skull was interesting :)

Edited by CreekCrawler
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Nice job in keeping it all together in what sounds like a tough extraction. You're obviously a very patient person being able to reassemble it. I gave up on trying to reassemble the turtle that I found. It crumbled out of the jacket when I tried to flip it.

I'm sure we're all looking forward to the finished project. Keep us posted along the way.

Southeast Missouri

(formerly Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX)


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