Fossiling at Toadstool Geologic Park
Nebraska National Forest, Nebraska, 2010
By Barbara Beasley, Paleontologist
Eight new Pitsters joined us for this PIT project. At the beginning of the week, Brent Breithaupt, BLM Paleontologist, and Dr. Mike Leite, Paleontologist at Chadron State University came out and helped us expose and document the Toadstool Fossil Trackway. Volunteers swept, cut weeds, and removed washed in sediments from the sandstone. These trackways document actual animal behavior, which is very different than the information we can get from skeletal fossils. There were tracks of two types of rhinos (Hyrachodon and Subhyrachodon), at least one large pig (Archaetherium), a "saber-toothed" cat, and numerous birds. We also noted evidence of some invertebrates, such as traces of worm burrows and even a crayfish burrow!
After documenting the tracks, we began looking for fossils. We found fossils of a dozen tortoises, two rhinos (one included the skull), an Archaetherium skeleton (we still have the skull to remove), and numerous other skeletal parts of critters. These latter fossils included jaws of oreodonts (a sheep-sized animal somewhat akin to a cow), small deer, and numerous snails (there are 3 types of these snails preserved at Toadstool); two I had never seen before! Pat M. likes the micro stuff! She scoured the surface and found teeth of squirrels, rodents, gophers, and also found snake and fish vertebrae! A rather diverse fauna - very exciting!