Monday, April 19, 2010
Dinosaur National Monument - Fossil Side
So the cool quarry visitors center was closed due to the unstable hillside. Instead, we walked around the park looking for fossils, after being shown what to look for in the rocks by a ranger. We saw giant tails still intact, lots of little scraps of bone, and this femur bone of a cephalopod dinosaur. Cool!
Along the walk there was an area of fine shale rock littered with fishy remains. Here, Cam is holding a section of fish scales still glittery. Once exposed, they don't last very long.
We dropped by a temporary visitors center to get Cam's National Park Passport Cancellation stamp (a new obsession of his...groan) and hold a few fossils. Here, we show where on the body each one belongs: a stegosaurus spike, an imprint of dino skin, and a vertebrae.
We hiked through the rest of the canyon in the afternoon. Petroglyphs (ancient graffiti) could be found all over the high stone walls. Experts say that there is no way to interpret the drawings of these paleoindians because they and their language are extinct. I, however, found these historical snapshots self explanatory.
See that guy directly above me in the stone (I'm mimicking his position to help you identify him. He is obviously an alien, a powerful one, with a huge torso and little legs. He explains that he is from a far away galaxy (look to the galaxy spiral in the upper left corner; this symbol next to this guy is in many of the other petroglyph sites as well.) He and his alien people are fascinated by earth's animal life (the goat next to him), the pleasant-looking humans (see the normal non-alien looking guy?), the unique horticulture (see the potted plant on the far left), and the pretty sunshine of this planet that make it all possible (see the sunshine next to the plant).
Everything was great until the big alien guy got jealous of our planet and the peaceful desert paleoindians and decided to "probe" everyone and everything to find out what made them different. The photo below (again, I pose in the position of the offender to help you identify him) shows a warrior and/or alien scientist going forward with his multi-pronged nasal probe. OUCHY! It was a dark time in human history! Other nearby petroglyphs show how this lead to the peoples' eventual extinction and a the desert being taken over by giant lizards (as often happens when human are not around to interfere.) Sadly, there is not enough room on this page to show the rest of these panels.
In the evening, we went through a fabulous natural history museum. It showed tons of fossils, and explained the geology of the Utah area.
My favorite discovery in the whole museum was this little 'side note' next to a stegosaurus skeleton. Here is a hip bone with a mysterious cavity in it. Scientists believe that this may have been a separate brain in the lower half of the body. As explained on other labels, the dino brain was so small and far from the heart that they wondered how it got enough blood to function. Solution: butt-brain. I think this is something missing from our evolution... I know several people who could really benefit from this additional organ! Can you imagine: "Hey Sonya, why are you drinking out of the toilet after I told you not to three times already? I think it's time to turn on your butt-brain today, sweety..."