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Natural Cross Champsosaur Centrum

Natural Cross Champsosaur Centrum
Natural Cross Champsosaur Centrum

Natural Cross Champsosaur Centrum

Wonderful Naturally derived cross. An animal version of the “fairy stone”, a mineral which exhibit this natural cross. The Mineral Staurolite is the famous one as a natural cross former. The interpenetrating crystals making the multicultural symbol. Here, a now extinct animal making crosses. More or less a small croc donated one of his vertebra to the ranch fossil collection. I walk by, dig a hole and pick it up… There are in excess of 10K fossils in the pile currently. This a good palm sized vertebra. is the dorsal side. That is the spinal canal with the flexible backbone providing channel for side to side bending. Thus the hourglass shape. Commonly I find isolated disarticulated vertebra from this 6 foot long creature .

The end of the Cretaceous was a rough killing many groups of creatures. Champsosaur lived on past that punctuated extinction event. It’s a terrible index fossil lol. Birds were the only dinosaurs that survived the mass extinction that occurred right at 66 million years ago. 75 percent of all marine fauna died during this extinction. We Paleontologists suppose that an equal amount of terrestrial species failed to survive the event.

Covered in Upper Cretaceous Sands, our ranch has quite a few fossil sites. 25 microsites and one bone bed have been discovered. I even found about 20 percent of one particular Triceratops on an adjacent property. It’s not just dinosaurs. Creatures you would naturally associate with terrestrial river deposits….. Amphibian, Reptilian, Dinosaurian, Mammalian, Avian, Stingrays (fresh water), Tuna (fresh water), Molluscs, gastropods, snakes and fish fossils are all found. Leaf /vegetation found in these rocks are often carbon film but are present in the shales. The literature about these formations is extensive.

Location: Horn Sieve Beds, Hell Creek/Lance Formation: Uppermost Cretaceous, Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Natural Cross Champsosaur Centrum

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T-rex Hell Creek Formation

T-rex Hell Creek Formation
T-rex Hell Creek Formation

T-rex Hell Creek Formation

It’s not a claw, it’s a tooth. This chomper was a round bone crushing tooth from a good sized predator. Call, name it what you will, Nano-tyrannus, Tyrannosaur rex or some other superceeded/argued label. This is RIGHT out of the outcrop. The tool was used to remove it. A Master Mechanic wood awl. Still wet the fossil is. The white lines are chemical etching on the pretty much original enamel of rootlets. Plants reach a long ways down with their small roots. This fossil was located 6 feet below grade of the original slope.

Sized to fit into the palm of your hand, the awl is a good scale. This is a good sized tooth. I have found them larger than this. It’s always hard to stop and remember to get a photo while your dancing up and down like a little girl having pulled one of these bad boys out.

Basically if you find one of these, you might as well go home that day because there is no way your going to improve on that statistically. Only a few of these a busy year of digging come out. T-rex teeth are less rare than many other fossils I have found. It seems that everybody want’s to own rex teeth but don’t care so much about say a toe bone from the same animal. There are LOTS of T-rex teeth in a mouth but only a few toe bones. Market pressures are amazing things. Just for the record I have never sold a fossil and never will. We are not taking reservations and have a waiting list a mile long so please don’t ask. Sorry. The fossils are going to a museum eventually.

Note: Collecting vertebrate fossils is only possible on deeded private land. The land owner owns the fossils unless they say otherwise in writing. The Bureau of Land Management has extensive rules to follow on federal land. No where are vertebrate fossils of any kind allowed to be disturbed on fed, state or reservation territory.

I have a masters degree in a Paleontologically related field. (Biostratigraphy, Paleo related topic). I’ve been digging Cretaceous fossil here for 18 years now.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. Hell Creek/Lance Formation (Horn Sieve Beds).

Title: T-rex Hell Creek Formation

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Triceratops Toes Composite

Triceratops Toes Composite
Triceratops Toes Composite

Triceratops Toes Composite (Real Wildlife)….

There are 19 bones in the toes of “Triceratops horridus” . These toe bones are each a separate animals contribution to this composite assemblage. All approximately the right sized toe bones properly place to assemble those toes to scale. Our Ranch sits entirely with the Dinosaur Fossil rich Hell Creek/ Lance Formation at the surface. The 66 million year old/Cretaceous Terrestrial Sandstone Formation is not abundantly fossiliferous but I’m sure there are several animals around here. The trick is seeing them through the rock. Each and every bone I find promotes an adrenaline filled EUREKA moment. I’ve been a student of paleontology since I was 5 years old with my first EUREKA moment. 🤔🤣

Each one of these individual bones was a separate excavation at different times and 3D place in the outcrop. None of these belong to the same Triceratops. It took a few years and a little work to gather the bits and pieces for this assemblage. Several of the pieces show repair, a few are as found broken/cracked. Stabilized all with a diluted superglue compound. (Paleobond or Starbond). Soaking into the porous bone, the capillary action wicks the thin cyanoacryilate stabilizing the fossil. Deposition occurred long before the Big Horn Mountains rose from the earth. 130 miles to their west. The River that transported these bones also carried sand from Mountains long gone now. Mountains come, and mountains return to the sea as sand carried down by the river.

The hooves/claws/fingertips are the RARE bones but I indicate that just “plain old” Triceratops toe bones don’t grow on trees anymore lololol. Particularly pretty well preserved ones. This particular fossil site providing these is a wonderful place. 📸

Table below is an Eocene lake bed from Kemmerer. The whole table has several fossil fish on it but that’s not the focus for this post. You can see a partial on the lower left corner and a tail on the far right. The white spots are cuprolites. For a Scale I used an 18 inch ruler. The table weighs about 400 pounds. It rolls well on it’s side though. 🤣👀

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Formation: Hell Creek/ Lance Fm: Cretaceous Terrestrial RIver Sands and Mudtsones: Horn Sieve Beds, Coll: Frank Bliss.

Title: Triceratops Toes Composite

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Triceratops Toe Fossil

Triceratops Toe Fossil
Triceratops Toe Fossil

Triceratops Toe Fossil

I believe this is a Triceratops Toe (nail)… It’s known as a Pez Ungual to be precise.

The difference between Hadrosaur Dinosaurs (Duck Bills) and Triceratops (Three Horn) is a matter of opinion i believe lol. Wider like this is probably Triceratops. Longer thinner versions of the same bone I usually attribute to either Hadrosaur or PachyCephalosaur (Bone Head with Spikes). . These three and others had hoofs very similar in general shape. The larger ones are probably all Triceratops as they constitute over 50 percent of the fossil record of the Hell Creek Formations. Hadrosaurs only were about 25 percent of the herd.

It’s like the bone that is under your fingernail. Except the cuticle/nail covered it like a horn. The holes and grooves are all venous processes and nerve pathway/holes for those to base around the blood rich toe tips.

Hadrosaurs and Triceratops were both the “cattle” of their day. All the Raptors accounted for less that 5 percent of the fossil record. I have found a dozen of these over 20 years. River transport beat up most… . Often someone chewing/breaking dinged them.. Random breaking in the outcrop is also selective against these being preserved. This particular one is essentially perfect, no glue needed. This needs a serious session under an miniature sandblaster using sodium bicarbonate to blast away the sand on the surface.

Formation: Hell Creek / Lance Cretaceous Terrestrial River / Lake sediments at the end of the reign of the dinosaurs. Circa 66 million years ago.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands. 3:1 Triptych

Title: Triceratops Toe Fossil

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Dinosaur Horns Assortment

Dinosaur Horns Assortment
Dinosaur Horns Assortment

Dinosaur Horns Assortment

These are nose horns from various Triceratops with perhaps a dermal scute from Ankylosaur in the front row that looks like Apollo 11 re-entry capsule.

Each horn has it’s story regarding how I found it, the “Eureka” moment, the rush of adrenaline. I have only prepped the rear one. As they were found, the remaining stay. Restoration occurred on the BIG horn in the rear. It was in 80 separate pieces when I found it.. Restored to “pretty cool” condition. I’ll post it later. The best one is the smallest on up front row. It’s an amazing fossil.

Paleontological Musings:

Triceratops horns are like cattle horns in that they take on many different shapes even within the same group. These are all from the same bone bed I call “Horn Sieve Beds” as they have given up over 30 of them to me.

Hell Creek/Lance Formations are the Cretaceous River Sands/muds is where the last of the dinosaurs hung out. Both formations cover our ranch. We span the MT/WY state line. There the Formations change names formally. Same rocks, different name.🤣

I got my masters degree around most things Paleo-Environmental……. I might have been one of the first Pale-environmentalist ever minted lolol. There is another that will read this I graduated with. Hi Dave!

So, paleo-topography when this dinosaur roamed was a broad equatorial coastal plain sloping like the piedmont of North Carolina east facing toward the then interior sea way stretching from the current Gulf of Mexico across the continent to Canada.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Dinosaur Horns Assortment

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Dinosaur by Frank Bliss

Dinosaur by Frank Bliss
Dinosaur by Frank Bliss

Dinosaur by Frank Bliss

I only get 4 words for a title in the software I use to compose these narratives. This title is much better/shorter than “Underside of Unknown Dinosaur’s Skull showing the Foramen Magnum”. That hole on the right side of the skulls bottom is the opening into the brain case. That is the size of the nerve cord of the neck of this creature. OK, it’s not the whole dinosaur, just a partial skull lol. Alternative title: 2 Boneheads…

The Cretaceous Hell Creek Sandstones that blanket our ranch has a host of different fossils that are coaxed out of the rock under my gentle tool work. I use a wood awl and some paint brushes most of the time to do this kind of recovery. The sandstone is not terribly hard /”indurated” ( your google word). It generally crumbles under the pick leaving the bone unsupported. It’s a good thing superglue is available by the pint. We use thinned super-glues liberally to soak into the bone and stabilize it.

I’ve shown this skull bottom to several full time dinosaur people and they have no idea either. Everybody knows them from the face/top, not from underneath the skull lolol. I would have to show this to a technician that has happened to do work on this particular animal to key/ID this. More than that I’m not willing to say. Someone whispered T-rex but I’m not a believer. It doesn’t remind me of raptor bone which is usually quite “spongy” with large vacuoles in the bone marrow. I’m not seeing it here. It’s not bird like that I can see. Someone out there may know??

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana).

Title: Dinosaur by Frank Bliss

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Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation

Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation
Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation

Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation (Tough Long Read)

There might be a few words to google here. My apologies ⚒⚒⚒. Geology has it’s nomenclatural requirements. To put all this in the big picture is the tough part.

Our Ranch by coincidence 🤔 is located upon a 700 feet thickness of Sandstone. It has exposures of the famous Hell Creek/Lance Formation (Cretaceous Period) The Uppermost Cretaceous was a period of life on a coastal plain similar topographically to the piedmont of North Carolina. Locally the climate was pretty lush, warm and wet. Meandering Huge Rivers choked with Sand / silt worn off the rapidly eroding mountains to the (current) west. The land lay of different orientation that currently.

North America appears to have been rotated 90 degrees west of how it’s positioned currently. Located around the equator with plate tectonics moving/rotating the continent to it’s current position over the intervening 66 million years. T-rex, Triceratops, Duckbills, ankylosaurs, all those dinosaurs kids know the names of lived here. Here one died…

This is higher up rock section toward the top of the Hell Creek formation not long before the massive “Bolide” (google this) struck the earth. Chicxulub Mexico sits on that big impact area. punctuated the extinction process already underway at the end of the Cretaceous. Big 80 percent of all species Extinction events. Extinction ultimately is initiated by a populations inability to reproduce .

There was a pizza oven effect from the radiant heat from all that Bolide ejecta re-entering the atmosphere. That effect didn’t help anything that wasn’t underground or in the water (mammals) as 20 percent of species survived this age. There is a discussion that dinosaur and other groups were waining in density/diversity near the actual time of the Bolide ended the age of Dinosaurs. Dinosaurs as a group died off but avian dinosaurs did not. (Birds are dinosaurs more or less just short tail and teeth). Eventually the environmental effects killed off the food web in the ocean too. Bad time on the planet for most.

SO:

This sediment is called Bentonite. Wyoming sells LOTS of Bentonite. Cooking it turns it white. Lots of industrial uses. Dave Love (a famous Wyoming Geologist) famously wrote/said: “Wyoming is a wonderful State, we can sell our dirt”. 🤘👀⚒ Bentonite is a clay rich volcanic ash as this is a lake deposit. This rib belonged to an animal that floated into a body of water. Spreading of this carcass did occur and one rib bone excavated was vertical as someone stepped on it and pushed it into the mud on edge. I found a raptor tooth mixed in the mud with this 20 percent Triceratops carcass. (It was Dromeosaur richardoestesia )

Above the Triceratops rib is it’s upside down fragment of pelvis. Another rib hides in the upper right corner of the frame. This was one of the smaller ribs collected on a smaller Tric. The little bottles are full of thin superglue which we consume by the pint. We have the tip off the end of it …. A rib like this will come out in 30 pieces and reassembled back at the ranch headquarters.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Triceratops Dinosaur Rib Excavation

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Triceratops Horn and Frank Bliss

Triceratops Horn and Frank Bliss
Triceratops Horn and Frank Bliss

Triceratops Horn and Frank Bliss

Happy New Years Day. I don’t take many Selfies. Maybe 5 or 6 a year. I just thought I’d be a scale for this brow horn from a rather large Triceratops horridus. Triceratops is the Wyoming State fossil but I bet a few more have been found in Montana. This one was pretty much right on the border give or take a few hundred feet.

Obviously the horn is missing the tip with was either “broomed” prior to the animals death or damaged during river transport. The Hell Creek/Lance formation covers our ranch entirely. Unfortunately for the fossil collector in me, most of that is covered by grass. The initial discovery fossil from the site this horn came from was literally sitting in the grass. Located on a shallow hillside, this site has given me over 30 Triceratops Horns, dozens of teeth, toes, claws, spines, scutes and other wise a pile of pretty well preserved dinosaurian bones.

Take my work on this being a horn, somebody out there will think it’s a limb bone missing the condyle end. Nope. It’s a horn. I’ve collected over a dozen just like it. It’s the 3-D nature of the fossil that gives it away. Horns have very characteristic surfaces and this one has veinous grooves with the proper interior of a horn. Shape is Seldom the defining characteristic of a fossil. There are many rocks that look like fossils (pseudofossils) but aren’t. This is a 66 million year old horn from a big Tric. I also have over a dozen nose horns. Thus naming my bone quarry the “Horn Sieve Site”.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Triceratops Horn and Frank Bliss

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Cretaceous Ankylosaurus Armor/ Scutes

Cretaceous Ankylosaurus Armor/ Scutes
Cretaceous Ankylosaurus Armor/ Scutes

Cretaceous Ankylosaurus Armor/ Scutes

Kinda looks like just rocks don’t they? “Leaverites” Knowledge is power I point out.

Dinosaurs often had chunks of bone growing on their skin to act as armor. “Osteoderms” are commonly known as Scutes. Many creatures have them. Crocs and Alligators come to mind. Skin surrounded these bony armor chunks They fit tightly in a network of armor to protect the turtle shaped dinosaur with the clubbed /spiked tail from bites. These are remarkably rare. I’ve found these three in 20 years. I’ve found way more T-rex teeth for example and they aren’t exactly growing on trees up here lolol. Ankylosaurs were 20 feet long and 5 foot high at the hips.

Out of curiousity I looked up some pricing on similar items on the commercial market (I have NEVER sold and never will sell a fossil). The smaller one would be in the 500 dollar range and the larger in the 1000 dollar range. I knew they were uncommon but I didn’t know there was a demand for them. Ankylosarids are rare in the upper Cretaceous. Again, they are NOT for sale. They are in the ranch collection of over 10K fossils at this point.

Disclaimer: The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch is 99 percent private land. Deeded ground is the only place it is illegal to collect ANY vertebrate material (if it had a backbone, leave it alone) on public land. BLM, state and Tribal land is off limits. See a turtle shell, leave it lay. On government ground, artifacts from humans are also best left alone. They can definitely get you in big trouble. Invertebrate fossils and wood are a different story. I suggest the Bureau of Land Managements website for further information.

Our ranch is completely covered by the Cretaceous Hell Creek/Lance Formation. Problem is, there is a lot of grass here too lolol.

Location: Cretaceous Hell Creek Lance Formation, Horn Sieve Bed, Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands Coll: Frank Bliss
Title:Cretaceous Ankylosaurus Armor/ Scutes

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Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations
Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

This is a view of a nice tooth on it’s inside concave edge showing clearly the serrations on the edge of the raptor tooth. The serrations weren’t used so much to cut meat but to hold onto meat bitten into. Thusly “ripping” muscle with the neck muscles and the teeth holding on. Rough way to catch fast food. This 66 million year old or so chomper in the mouth of a 8 foot high dinosaur that resembled a bird with teeth and a tail. Most of the rest of the bone structure are very similar to modern birds. The lighter lines on the darker enamel is where capillary roots have chemically etched the tooth’s enamel. This was found close enough to the surface for root action to effect the surface. Another possible explanation is stomach acid has etched the surface of the tooth.

I really enjoy finding nice dinosaur teeth here in the Cretaceous Hell Creek Sands that blanket this ranch. OF the 5 square miles of land we own, MAYBE one acre has fossils on it and there are 25 places that add up to that acre. We do have one bone bed for larger material but this came out of a sandy pit I dug by hand. I find “microsites” sticking in the exposed hillsides that are indeed fossilferous.

Anything that was alive with “hard parts” at the time in the dinosaurs environment is also possible to find. The rivers current sorted fossils by shape weight and size. Thusly concentrating fossils in one spot where the river dropped them. Microsites usually mean small teeth but this honker is an inch and a half long. The glass is 3/16 plate (blue line). That is a glass shelf in my lit display case.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands (Wyotana)

Title: Dinosaur Dromaeosaur Tooth Serrations

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Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe

Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe
Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe

Dinosaur: Pachycephalosaur Phalange… Hoof/Toe (Real Big Wyoming Critters lolol).

I have read that Pachycephalosaur fossils of any kind constitute only about 1 percent of the fossil record. This toe nail’s journey started 66 million years ago in a sand choked river flowing to the eastern sea. The Hell Creek/Lance Formations (uppermost Cretaceous) is a terrestrial deposit consisting of 700 feet of sand. We have the upper 3 or 4 hundred feet of the formation exposed on our ranch. Of course we are a grassy ranch so somewhere under that grass is a REALLY NICE fossil but I can’t see it. I might have driven over the complete t-rex a hundred times and would have no idea. 

I have found 25 micro-sites…sand deposits of coarsely sorted sands mixed with small fossils. Many teeth, small bones, fragments of almost anything alive in the environment besides dinosaurs.. Even occasional really nice claws come out of the micro-sites. 1 amazing bone bed exists on my ranch that I’ve located. I have mined that location for 17 years now. I call it the “Horn Sieve bed because of the 30 (ish) triceratops horns that have come out of the dig over the years. The dense bone and hydrodynamic shape combined for more of those to drop out of the rivers current at my particular “bend in the river”. The current dropped here and dropped all that dense bone on the river bed. The light stuff kept on going down river. 

Most Hell Creek Bone that I’ve collected has been transported by river systems. Often soon to be fossils were buried and re-excavated several times as the big rivers swept back and forth on the alluvial plain. Lots to know about dinosaur and paleoenvironment lolo. 

Title: Pachycephalosaur Phalange: Hoof/Toe

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Fossil Leaf UV Light

Fossil Leaf UV Light
Fossil Leaf UV Light

Fossil Leaf UV Light

I found this fossil leaf (Poplar??) about 8 miles north of Dubois Wyoming in the TeePee Trail Shale Formation. (Paleogene 65-22 mya). After researching the literature for a likely location for an outcrop, went out exploring. It didn’t take me long to find an outcrop of the shale which can be split with hammers easily. After a few hours of splitting shale, this and many other fossils came out. For a scale, the photo covers an area about 5 inches across/high.

I used high intensity UV light as the only light source here to bring out subtle details in the veins of the leaves. I look at pretty much everything under UV as you just never know what it’s going to do. Here it brought out details you just can’t see in white light. This UV light is so bright, I have to wear special sunglasses to use it. It’s a good way to sunburn your retinas if you don’t do this right lolol.

There is no law against collecting plant fossils on BLM or state land so have at it folks. I think there is some limitations on using heavy equipment though lol. Only shovels, picks and hand tools. See the BLM website for details if you plan on collecting anything from federal or state property. Private property only has rules the land owner imposes. Land owners own the fossils unless you have specific OK to take them and preferably in writing.

Location: currently residing at: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Fossil Leaf UV Light

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Chicken From Hell Tooth

Chicken From Hell Tooth
Chicken From Hell Tooth

OK, it’s not a Chicken from Hell tooth, it’s a Paronychodon sp. (Larson 2008) tooth from the Hell Creek/Lance formation. From my “backyard” The scale is in inches.

Paronychodon besides being rediculous to spell, is relatively hard to find fossil dinosaur tooth. You’ve heard as “Rare as Hensteeth” before? Payonychodon was an Avian Dinosaur…a bird with teeth, claws and a tail with feathers covering it’s body. Sort of a big turkey with inch long teeth/tail. I’m thinking they wouldn’t be a good addition to the modern turkey. Anyone that hasn’t seen human habituated turkeys interacting with UPS drivers (for instance) doesn’t have access to youtube lolol. Some wonderful videos are out there with turkeys chasing just about everything. So just add some teeth to the equation….great lololol. 😂

There is a rumor that dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous. Let me clarify that a bit.. Most dinosuar died during that punctuated extinction event. The ones that are still flying around us survived the extinction obviously. A quick comparison of T-rex anatomy and any modern bird will show MANY similarities in bone structure, utilization of lightly built mostly hollow bones for weight savings while maintaining strength. The comparisons can keep coming. Just look at any modern bird toe bone and compare it to a t-rex toe bone. Except for size….they are about the same design built by the same engineer.

This little tooth belonged to a flying, fighting carnivorous meat eater with a bad attitude. The only fast food on the menu was the stuff that got away. No 7-11 on the corner in the Cretaceous up here on the Montana/Wyoming border.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Site 9 by my field notebook. Surface. Cretaceous, HellCreek/Lance formation. Pretty much on the border of Montana/Wyoming.

Title: Chicken from Hell Tooth

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Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal

Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal
Dinosaur Vertebra Nerve Canal

Looking through a Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal in this “Centrum” (vertebra without it’s external processes)

I saw this centrum sitting about in my outdoor rock pile lightly frosted and saw the possibilities lol. The top view is something that not many have seen. The hole is big enough to get your thumb in.

This vertebra was from the lower back area of a Hadrosaur (duckbill) dinosaur. It was found sitting on the surface in the grass at one of my sites. Sometimes all I have to do is walk around and pick stuff up lol. The neural canal was the first information super-highway. Long before fiber optics lolol.

Cretaceous Dinosaurs here in “Cretaceous Country.” Jurassic Park is way older. The End of the Cretaceous was the end of the rule of the dinosaurs over the earth. Those rocks are exposed here on ranch… The Hell Creek/Lance formations here are upper most Cretaceous sands deposited by huge sweeping rivers choked with sand. Bones were like wood then (and as big as branches mostly). Lots of small fossils too are present. Fossils of anything else that was in and around the water are discoverable along with the dinosaur stuff.

Everybody came down to drink sooner or later and was predated. The bones eventually got into the water and covered by fine grained sands and muds pretty quickly. The rivers were dumping sands by the boatload so the soon to be fossil got covered deeply quickly.

The missing processes are a result of being transported by the rivers. Any particular bone might have been buried, then re-excavated by the rivers moving back and forth meandering across the lands. We were just slightly north of the equator at the time. The continent was rotated about 90 degrees from how it is now.

Rule 1 of geology: Processes we observe today, were the same as in the past and will be in the future. Seems logical but some argue with this for what ever reason. I’m good with that.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Dinosaur Vertebral Neural Canal

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Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil

Triceratops Toe "Phalanx" Fossil

Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil sees the first light of day in “Some Time” 😜

The latest Cretaceous Age here on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch was a time of fine grained sediment accumulation deposited from huge rivers. These rivers were sweeping back and forth across the landscape choked by the sand and finer grained sediment load they carried. Sand sized material was the rule for these rivers ability/capacity to carry things down river. This Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil survived it’s transport from the distant past to the present under my gentle brush.

With the exception of isolated small scale deposits like this, the Hell Creek/Lance Formation is largely barren of fossils. In 5.5 square miles of HellCreek/Lance formation on my ranch, only about an acre can be called ‘fossilferous”. That acre is the total of 25 smaller locations (microsites) and a bone bed Triceratops Toe “Phalanx” Fossil sits here “In situ”. (In place in the undesturbed bedrock).

This fossil is positioned in the outcrop deeper than you might suspect. Your looking at a toe bone physiologically behind a claw/nail. it is 4 more inches deeper into the outcrop so this is the top 2 inches of the bone exposed. Triceratops had big toes lolol. It’s deeper than it is long. I like to take photos of fossils in the outcrop as it’s sort of the “Eureka”/adrenaline rush moment.

Geologic Musings on this ranches “Dirt”:

Geologists consider the Cretaceous to have ended 66 million years ago. This toe bone has literally not seen the light of day in that unfathomable period of time. The sediment it is in, is a mix of sand, clay with chunky chunks (up to 2 feet) of torn up river bottom clays. The ripped up chunks of clay were rounded by bounding down a river/transport. There is a 2 foot thick or so blue clay pure of any fossil or other detritus directly under this 3 foot thick channel. That above that clay is a channel packed with chunks of clay/mud from upstream. . A mix of at least 3 different mud chunks from various sources nearby. I’ve seen chunks of mud angular like they got torn up 50 feet up stream. So this is a “channel” I’ve been following that tapers on either side that filled up with ripped up chunks of upstream river bottom mixed with a variety of bones from who ever was walking around at the time.

The bones were dropped here for me to find because the river waters slowed enough in this location to drop them out of suspension here mixed in among chunks of mud. The spaces between the “Cobbles of mud” are filled with sandy material that “Sifted in” from the flowing water. This is classic river sedimentation/deposit stuff. That is where you find the little fossils too. Sands mixed with smaller rounded pebbles of river bottom clay. It’s all part of the “Bed load” of a river and what is in it depends on river current velocity… (followed by a really long discussion lolol). IF the river is fast enough to move

Location: Bliss Dinoaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana.

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Triceratops Pelvis With Tendons

Triceratops Pelvis With Tendons
Triceratops Pelvis With Tendons

Pelvis, Tendons for the tail of a Triceratops “In Situ” (In Place)

This Triceratops Pelvis with Tendons (ossified tendons) adjacent just left from the ligature supporting those massive heavy tails. Here is shown exposed from one of our “digs” up here. This animal was around 20 percent there with 80 percent missing as it were. More still of this animal may be at the site. It’s probably about 1 inch below or deeper into the hill than where we stopped digging. 🤣

Tools and Location:

Tools of the trade are brushes, Wood Awls, Superglue and of course shovels and wheelbarrows. Named the Triceratops “Doug” after the rancher that gave me permission to hunt on his ground (this is about 1/2 mile off my ranch so this was legally his fossil). The land owner owns the fossil unless you have been told otherwise as is the law with fossil remains generally. Very close to the Montana Wyoming border, this is Lance/HellCreek Formation. This is a dinosaur bone from the end of the rule of dinosaurs. Uppermost Cretaceous with perhaps 200 feet of Hell Creek/Lance Fm above this before everything when BOOM. Hell Creek/Lance is about 700 feet thick sandstone/shale sequence. It’s all river/lake sedimentation.

I first started this excavation in 2006 when I found a partial brow horn from a triceratops walking this hillside. . It was all by itself down hill from the side about 30 meters. It even a little right of the final location for this Triceratops carcass. This threw me off for a day or so finding the actual fossil bearing sediment. (It was a big hillside). Fossils laying on the surface came from somewhere. Usually either right where they initially found are OR somewhere up hill of which this one was steep and big. It could have come from ANYWHERE up slope. (That Discovery piece is a wonderful fossil too). The site was finished 3 years ago now soon after this was removed. .

Remember it is illegal to collect vertebrate fossils from State, Federal or Tribal Land. Only private deeded land is OK to collect from/on. You want written permission from Tribal land management and only state authorized digging can occur on state ground. BLM is a tougher nut to crack so generally if you find a vertebrate bone of any significance on a piece of federal/state ground, leave it there. Don’t neglect a report it to the local field office of the BLM. (not that “Brontosaurus Lives Don’t Matter” but I refer here to the Bureau of Land Management lolol). It’s best to have fossil agreements in writing. Just my 2 cents. I point you to the BLM website for more specific instruction on the law as I’m not a lawyer.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Triceratops Vertebra with Processes

Triceratops Vertebra with Processes
Triceratops Vertebra with Processes

While finding a Cretaceous age Triceratops Vertebra with Processes still attached is possible, it doesn’t happen very often with an isolated fossil not attached to another bone.

Geologic Musings:

I spent many years working on determining paleo-environments. It the environment of deposition that produced rock deposits. This can be determined from any number of clues left in the rocks. (Wrote a Masters thesis on this). I am biostratigraphically and sedimentologically very aware of how this Triceratops vertebra with processes got to be here…cer. There are many indications to what was going on during it’s deposition. This Bentonitic Clay rich Mud was on the edge of a lake. This deposit consisted of what was then Volcanic Ash as a “dump” was washed into the lake hydraulically. That washed in volcanic “mud” made a “deltaic” intrusion into the much larger lake.

This particular bed of sediment I have traced over about 2 square miles. I loose visual on the bed as it disappears either underground or has been removed by erosion. So this was a pretty big lake and a big delta deposit into that lake. Represented is not a high energy Splay deposit that might exist next to a big natural river levy (highest things on the landscape probably). It’s not high energy like a splay proven from the lack of larger chunks of plant matter….

There were BIG rivers sweeping back then. Sweeping back and forth carrying LOTS of sand during this time in Wyoming/Montana. The sand was mixed along with this finer material (clays) by the boat load and dumping it. Low energy let the fine clays settle out (like in lakes). Otherwise the clays (size term just like sand) would stay in suspension in agitated water. This had to be a calm environment like a lake. Most of my Hell Creek Fossils are found in RIver NOT lake deposits by the way lol.

Considerations:

That volcanic ash was altered over the 66 million intervening years into “Bentonite” which is an incomplete description of the sediment. Bentonite is just ONE Clay mineral that is represented here. Dozens of clay minerals are in this mix. Digging in this stuff is like pushing a wood awl through very thick hard modeling clay. Sometimes you can get it in a few inches, others just a quarter of an inch. You stick and pluck the awl and slowly clear off sediment to facilitate this treasures removal. It’s all very moist and most of the fossils have a white crust around them. They usually clean up beautifully brown.

Overview

Maybe 20 percent of this Triceratops was recovered nearby this isolated Triceratops vertebra with processes. We finally all gave up looking for more of the carcass. It could be 1 inch down and we wouldn’t know it lolol. It’s bones were obviously scattered/fed on and stepped on after it floated into the lake at least once. I noted that ALMOST all the bone fossils in this deposit were laying flat horizontal to the lake bottom. One rib was obviously stepped on as it was broken in half with 1/2 of it being vertical. It was pushed down into the mud by someone walking over. I’ve found coprolites (fossil poop) here too. This would be indicating that active feeding and pooping was happening for a while. Also found a smaller raptor tooth in the mix. (Dromaeosaur richaroestacia. (sic).

The soft organic rich mud covering the fossil was rich in small fragments macerated plant matter. This is an obvious lake deposit covering several square miles at a minimum. The energy was very low here. Calm water, no doubt shallow as the wading dinosaurs confirm. There was not a lot of topography on the Hell Creek Formations mostly sandy river deposits on a broad sweeping plane. Much of a rib cage was recovered along with a scapula and several other very nice fossils from this animal. I found this site by tracing a big chunk of Triceratops Brow Horn back up hill to where it came from. Took a few looks lol.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Triceratops Vertebra with Processes

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Dinosaur Tail Vertebra “In situ”

Fossil Tail Vertebra "In situ" in Hell Creek Formation
Fossil Tail Vertebra "In situ" in Hell Creek Formation

Geologic Musings: This Dinosaur Tail Vertebra “In situ” (in the rock) was taken on an outcrop of Hell Creek Formation we at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch have been working for well over a decade. This small Tail Vertebra from a Dinosaurian got itself a photo. It was experiencing the first light from the sun in some time you might say and had a hankerin’ for a little “limelight”. Here’s some old “wildlife” from the Wyotana borderlands. 🤔

I’m not sure of the name of the previous owner but it sure cleaned up nicely when all that white crust (which is commonly around fossils up here being sort of a chemical reaction area with ground water fluids bearing alternative minerals with them. A reaction rind so to speak. When cleaned with a tooth brush and water, the real bone structure is visible. It’s not crocodile for sure. I know what it’s not….

Paleontological Stuff:

Hell Creek/Lance Formations are the Cretaceous River Sands/muds the dinosaurs hung out on. Our Ranch is covered with both formations across the MT/WY state line where the Formations change names formally. Same rocks, different name.🤣

I got my masters degree on all things Paleo-Environmental……..I was one one of the first Pale-environmentalist ever minted lolol. There is another that will read this I graduated with. Hi Dave!

So, paleo-topography when this dinosaur roamed was a broad equitorial coastal plain sloping like the piedmont of North Carolina east facing toward the then interior sea way Stretching from the current Gulf of Mexico across the continent to Canada.

Facies: (good google word with geology attached) At the same time in adjacent locations there were the land sandy deposition, the Beach Sand (you know with the little umbrellas mixed in with the sands) and the Marine Sediments were to the east with Cephalopods, Marine Dinosaurs and a host of deeper water fossils.
My ranch and most of the eastern parts of MT/WY/CO gets it’s water from those beach sands (Fox Hill Formation) which is UNDER the Hell Creek/Lance that eventually built OVER the older beach as the growing land filled up the interior sea. That terrestrial riverine environment is at the surface now with younger sediments removed. We do find some sand blasted petrified wood that are residual in the surface sediments that have been removed relics all. The Hell Creek Lance sands all came from now gone large mountain range to the west of the current location of the BigHorn Mountain.. Those missing mountains provided the Sands for the Dinosaurs to walk on.

Huge Rivers the size of the Missouri swept back and forth across the land choked in sand. Many times fossils were moved and buried several times by the meandering occasionally flooding rivers of the Cretaceous Hell Creek Plain. This sediment was laid down at the end of the age of Dinosaurs with T-rex and Triceratops being key players…. .

There is a reason we are Called the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Location: Montana/Wyoming borderlands.

Dinosaur Tail Vertebra “In situ”

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T-rex’s Middle Toe Bone…just before the Killing Claw!

T-rex's Middle Toe Bone...just before the Killing Claw!
T-rex's Middle Toe Bone...just before the Killing Claw!

There is a reason we are called the “Bliss Dinosaur Ranch. T-rex’s Middle Toe Bone, Just before the HIGHLY desirable killing claw is a rare bone being on 2 per T-rex. The T-rex’s only constitute 2 percent of the fossil volume found in the Hell Creek Formation. This is about 1/400th of the volume of a t-rex’s skeletons proportionality so 1/400th of 2 percent.

Here the bone is still moist and has sand all over it from it’s excavation from a burial of 66 million years or more. . It was quite perfect (still is), needed NO superglue to hold it together or repair it in any way. (way unusual)
It is also rare for a river water deposited bone to be “perfect” after being washed unknown miles down an ancient river, buried, washed away in a scour or channel change, rinse and repeat for 3 million years of this sand being dumped by huge rivers from the highlands to the west of here transported by water and left here for me to dig in.. I earned a Masters Degree along the way in a related geologic field to Paleontology and have been a geologist/paelontologist since I was 5 years old.
It was no coincidence I moved to this spot 20 years ago. The geologic maps said this ranch was covered in younger rocks than the dinosaurs. I knew they were wrong when I asked the guy who dug all the wells in the area how far down it was to Fox Hill formation which is the local aquifer (he had worked in the area of our ranch) where everyone around here gets their water. Hell Creek is 700 feet thick. Fox Hill is the Beach Sand that the DInosaurs walked on and is stratigraphically lower/under the terrestrial Hell Creek DInosaur Bearing sand. 700 feet of Hell Creek minus 500 feet to Fox Hill made me suspect there was at least 200 feet of Hell Creek fossiliferous (possibly) layers on the surface. I was right and it was a few years before I figured out where 25 micro-sites and a bone quarry were . I also located a partial triceratops on a neighboring ranch. There are a few other spots I know of…🤔

There are in excess of 10K fossils in the ranch collection currently. Before you ask, I do not nor ever will sell fossils. They will go as a collection to a museum some day.

FYI, it is illegal to collect vertebrate remains on public/BLM/State/Indian land. Leave them be. You can only legally collect such fossils from private deeded land. So before you look, ask the landowner for permission…preferably written and no I don’t have people randomly come up here to look around on their own. No horn collectors, no hunters please. This is a private ranch.

The Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Killing Raptor Claw from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch

Killing Raptor Claw from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch
Killing Raptor Claw from the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch

This 3 inch killing claw from a good sized Raptorian Dinosaur found here on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch by me back in 2005. I was digging in an outcrop of Hell Creek Formation here on ranch (private deeded land) and his fell out into my grubby sandblasted hands. These don’t drop out of the rock every day I point out. Only one found in 18 years of working the rocks…I’m still looking for the 10 inch one.

We are covered in Hell Creek Sands. I’m a retired guy/geologist with a paleontologic graduate degree who eventually bought a ranch that only I knew had dinosaur fossil on it. I didn’t know where they were but I knew they were here. …..As soon as the water well people told me that Fox Hill sandstone (the aquifer ) was 500 feet below the surface, I knew as a paleo interested geolgist that the 700 foot thick sequence of the dinosaur fossil bearing Hell Creek Formation would be at the surface. The USGS geologic maps of the area disagreed with me. They were wrong lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Nanotyranus

Nanotyranus
Nanotyranus

This is the smaller of the two “larger teeth… Nanotyranus…. (LOOOONG discussions but probably a small T-rex…..)

I’m heading up the hill….See the east horizon….. I’ll be back around 7ish…