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Big Squid Hunt: Get Kraken!

June 29, 2012

Temperatures in Raleigh are about to top the one hundred degree mark and I’ve bought some new underwear. This can only mean… It’s fossil squid hunting season! Time to get Kraken! Tis the season once again to hop into Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (pronounced way-back) Machine, also known as Dan’s car, and to travel back in time ~80 million years to the Late Cretaceous. This year’s squid hunt will take us into the field in North Dakota, Manitoba, Kansas, and into the paleontology collections at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Squid migrate and so will we.

Photo of the present day ocean of Kansas

Standing a top the ancient seafloor in Kansas, looking out at what was once the Western Interior Seaway

If you’ve been paying attention in biology and geography class, you might think I’m crazy… buying new underwear to look for squid on dry land. Not the ideal environment for squid and “seriously Trish …wouldn’t a harpoon be more effective than new underwear?”

Photo of a Mosasaur skeleton

Mosasaur skeleton on display in the Sternberg Museum, Kansas. Photo by Dan Lawver

But remember we’ve set WABAC Machine to the Late Cretaceous. A time when global temperatures were much higher, the polar ice caps had melted and sea level had risen considerably. All the places we’re going were underwater back then, part of the Western Interior Seaway which extended from Mexico into Canada and effectively cut the continent in two.

The Western Interior Seaway was prime real estate for big squid, mosasaurs, big toothy fish, large clams, and oysters. Who knows what we’ll find in our travels? Jules Verne’s imagination had nothing on the Cretaceous.

Photo of Xiphactinus fish model

Model of Xiphactinus, a Late Cretaceous fish, on display in the Sternberg Museum, Kansas. Photo by Dan Lawver

See, I’m not completely nuts and as for the underwear….

My research associate, Dan Lawver, and I will be in the field for almost two and a half weeks looking for pens of the big Cretaceous squid Tusoteuthis. This will require having lots of underwear and as the seaway is now dry land, we’ll be using rock hammers and picks; a harpoon is really unnecessary.

Photo of the pen of Tusotheuthis, a  late Cretaceous squid

Pen of Tusoteuthis, a Late Cretaceous squid, on display in the Sternberg Museum, Kansas. Photo by Dan Lawver

Along the way we’ll meet up with colleagues from the North Dakota Geological Survey, The Canadian Fossil Discovery Center, The Sternberg Museum and University of Colorado, Boulder. All have graciously volunteered to help us with our squid hunt and all already have squid pens we can borrow for our research should the squid not want to be found in the field.

Dan and I will be blogging from each of our field sites, to let you know how the squid hunt is going, what other sea monsters we find in our travels and whether or not we have to stop to buy more underwear. Look for our blogs beginning around July 10th.

Photo of our field area in Kansas

Field Area in Kansas

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2012 12:34 pm

    Reblogged this on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs and commented:

    By Trish Weaver

  2. Joe Brown permalink
    October 29, 2015 12:03 pm

    Hi, Trish.
    You still blogging..especially about squids??

    I volunteer at CFDC and have found some great giant squids recently (3) including one very nice one from Snow Valley where you took samples.
    It has both sides from a split shale..about 2 feet long or so.
    I would like to keep in touch.
    regards, Joe.

    • Trish Weaver permalink
      October 29, 2015 2:41 pm

      Hi Joe,
      This sounds interesting. I haven’t been blogging much or even working with squid lately, but I’d like to hear more. Please contact me via my email:

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