Big Squid Hunt: Monsters of Manitoba
Our hunt for big Cretaceous squid pens has led us north to Morden, Manitoba, home of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Center and other gigantically giant sea monsters. We were warned not to ask our botfly question at the border. We didn’t ask so, we still don’t know the answer, but they did allow Dan and I into Canada. Upon arriving at the Discovery Center we were greeted with “are you the squid people?” Imagining ourselves to be the living embodiments of Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons, we of course said “yes” and I regretted not having brought my rubber finger tentacle to shake hands with. We were also asked if “we’d met Bruce yet?” We hadn’t, but we soon did. Bruce is a 40-foot-long mosasaur that was collected decades ago and is on display at the center. That is one heck of a mosasaur!
Having met Bruce, it was time to get Kraken! Or to at least be awed by the number of fossil squid pens they had graciously laid out on the table for us to sample. Squid pens, lots and lots of squid pens. I like squid pens and I really like that they were willing to let me take chunks of these pens back to North Carolina for destructive sampling. Yes, folks as much as I like looking for and at squid pens, I like destroying them even more. That’s the project, search and destroy. We have a good reason for doing this. We want to know what minerals they are made of, but search and destroy sounds much more exciting.
After being suitably overwhelmed and somewhat befuddled as to where to start with the sampling of all those pens, we opted instead to head to the field and to delay thinking about it until later. Ah…the field, first stop something our guides lovingly call the ditch site and by golly that’s an apt name for it. It’s a large culvert where they are taking the public to help them dig out…you guessed it … another mosasaur and some bird bones. Did I mention mosasaurs were very popular in the Cretaceous? Mostly we were at this sight to learn some stratigraphy or to put it simply to learn the different names of the layers.
Next stop a road cut where they had recently found some squid pens and where they have bones of a big fish (Xiphactinus). Got Kraken? At this site we actually did find some small fragments of squid pens, which we dutifully bagged and tagged for future destruction.
The rest of the morning was spent driving around to other sites looking at stratigraphy, talking squid and learning the local history of Morden. Wasn’t until early afternoon that we came across a fossil of something I have never seen before. No one in the group has a clue what it is. So we bagged and tagged it. If you’d like to take a guess at what it might be, please leave a comment.
After a day of visiting various field sites and having had limited success at finding squid pens, we arrived safely back at the center with only two flat tires … oops. We spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the next day sampling all those pens on the table. In all, I now have 22 pieces of squid to destroy from four different stratigraphic units; “Oh Canada!”
We have another half day in the field collecting matrix from three more squid sites then start the long drive to Kansas. See you there!