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Fossils were discovered near the end of the 2009 Field Season, eroding from rock along an existing exposure. Covered in dense shale and selenite crystals, identification was impossible at the time of discovery. During the following winter, CFDC scientists cleaned the fossils in the lab and discovered that they consisted of two large jaw sections belonging to the giant Cretaceous fish Xiphactinus, along with a nearly complete mosasaur flipper. Could this fish have possibly choked while trying to eat a mosasaur? Did the Xiphactinus and mosasaur die together while fighting? Would there still be more fossils in the site?
The 2010 Field Season opened with revisiting the site and immediately observing new large fish fossils freshly eroding from the same deposit. With the help of a backhoe, approximately 15 feet of overburden consisting of surface vegetation and rock was removed, leaving between 4 and 5 feet of rock above the main fossil layer. The final 4 or 5 feet would need to be removed by manpower so as to not disturb the fossils with the larger backhoe. The Fossil Crew immediately went to work removing overburden and soon arrived at the fossil layer. Over the next few months, the fossils of both the small mosasaur and the larger Xiphactinus were uncovered, gridded, mapped, and excavated. The discovery attracted the attention of the media as many newspapers and television crews visited the site, with a special visit by the Discovery Channels “Daily Planet” film crew.
Throughout the excavation of the fossils, many observations were recorded and samples were collected from the quarry. Today, the fossils are being carefully removed from their field jackets and tediously cleaned and restored as CFDC paleontologists study the specimens in great detail.
The same questions remain: Why were these two large marine organisms preserved together? Were they fighting, was one scavenging the other, were they simply deposited together by chance? Our scientists are carefully studying the fossils, the detailed field notes, and geological information in order to reconstruct this scene and answer these questions.
Paleoecology, Paleogeography, and Biostratigraphy of the Gammon Ferruginous Member
Fossil excavation at one our sites during the 2010 and 2011 Field Seasons have revealed a unique rock matrix known to geologists as the Gammon Ferruginous Member of the Pierre Shale. Removal of overburden at the dig site revealed an extremely localized and seemingly complete occurrence of the Gammon Ferruginous Member, situated conformably between the chalky unit of the Boyne Member of the Carlile Formation and the black, carbonaceous shale and bentonite beds of the Pembina Member of the Pierre Shale. Careful scientific documentation of the site geology is an essential part of any paleontological excavation, and our tedious observations in this quarry continued to provide new data throughout both the 2010 and 2011 Field Seasons. Studying this information, CFDC scientists are now putting together an exciting, new, and dynamic picture of the Western Interior Seaway that covered Manitoba during the Cretaceous Period.
Having recently completed Phase II of III, this research involves geological analysis of multiple bentonite samples from some of our primary field locations. Bentonite horizons are being recorded in their precise stratigraphic horizon and palynoloy laboratory analysis of the samples over a wide geographic area will provide for unit correlation using ArcGIS software. The data sets into Manitoba geology will further assist CFDC scientists with being able to more precisely pinpoint the various geological strata and fossil horizons within the Pembina Member of the Pierre Shale, and the fossils which come from these units as well.