What are we looking for anyway?
We have been digging up bones for over a week now. So, what are we looking for anyway? Broadly speaking, we are looking for archosaurs. Archosauria is a group that includes extinct dinosaurs and crocodilians, but also includes living birds and crocodilians of our world today. More specifically, we are looking for archosaurs from the Triassic. The Triassic is a geological period in history that we recognize as existing approximately 250 to 200 million years ago. The Triassic, along with the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, are all part of a larger segment of history known as the Mesozoic Era. For all you dinosaur lovers, dinosaurs (a sub-group of the larger group known as Archosauria) began to thrive towards the end of this Triassic period.
The photograph below is one of our great finds! This is thought to be the lateral osteoderm spike of Desmatosuchus. In other words, this is the side spike of an ancient and extinct reptile from Triassic times. The image below this photograph is a reconstruction of Desmatosuchus. Take notice of the spikes on each side of the creature. This animal could grow to approximately 16 feet in length and 5 feet in height. Desmatosuchus was not a dinosaur (although closely related), but part of a group known as Aetosauria.
The many fossils being uncovered from this site will have to await study in the lab before any definitive identification and classificaition can occur. This is when our volunteers are especially appreciated! Their time and effort given to prepping these fossils is invaluable and our lab here at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences is dependent on our motivated and dedicated volunteer staff. So, get ready volunteers! We have numerous bags full of fossils and 20-plus jacketed specimens coming your way this very weekend!