Receding Lake Powell Reveals ‘Extraordinarily Uncommon’ Fossils

The receding waters of Lake Powell have revealed some extraordinarily uncommon fossils from the Jurassic interval.

Paleontologists had been documenting fossil tracks within the Glen Canyon Nationwide Recreation Space in Utah once they got here throughout a bonebed containing fossils of a tritylodontid—an extinct mammal-like reptile that lived 180 million years in the past.

The fossils, which embody bones and tooth, are extraordinarily uncommon and the primary tritylodontid bonebed to be present in Utah’s Navajo Sandstone, a geological formation within the Glen Canyon, the Nationwide Park Service studies.

These fossils are among the most vital found in america this yr—not simply because they offer researchers perception into the species however as a result of they make clear the historical past of Lake Powell’s altering shorelines.

The bonebed was beforehand submerged by Lake Powell, which, as a consequence of extended drought within the space, has seen declining water ranges in recent times.

Paleontologists discovered the fossils in March. They occurred to be in “the proper place on the proper time,” the NPS stated, earlier than a report quantity of snowmelt flooded the lake, making it not possible to entry. Lake Powell is replenished seasonally by snowmelt flowing down from the encircling mountains by way of the Colorado River. Whereas river flows have been low for a few years, this yr noticed a report quantity of snowmelt that gathered by way of a very moist winter.

This meant that paleontologists had a really quick period of time to recuperate the fossils earlier than they might be fully submerged as soon as once more.

“Learning these fossils will assist paleontologists be taught extra about how early mammal kin survived the mass extinction on the finish of the Triassic Interval and diversified by way of the Jurassic Interval,” the NPS stated.

A number of hundred kilos of rocks containing the fossils have been faraway from the positioning and brought to labs for extra analysis.

The fossils will develop into a part of the Glen Canyon NRA museum assortment to be housed on the Prehistoric Museum in Value, Utah.

Lake Powell is surrounded by big geological formations that comprise many extra uncovered fossils.

An artists impression reveals an Early Jurassic scene from the Navajo Sandstone desert preserved at Glen Canyon NRA. Fossils from the time interval have been present in Lake Powell.
Brian Engh/NPS

“Essentially the most well-known and considerable fossils recognized from Glen Canyon NRA are the footprints of meat-eating dinosaurs within the Glen Canyon Group,” the NPS stated in a press release. “This sequence of sedimentary rocks, named after their exposures alongside the canyon itself, have been laid down by rivers, lakes, streams and deserts from the Late Triassic Epoch by way of the Early Jurassic Epoch. One of many largest mass extinctions in Earth’s historical past occurred throughout this era.”

Whereas the drought within the southwestern United States poses many issues over a water scarcity, the receding water ranges in some reservoirs and lakes have revealed some fascinating findings.

The declining water ranges of neighboring Lake Mead, situated in Nevada and Arizona, have revealed a mess of shipwrecks and artifacts.

This has additionally occurred in different areas of the U.S. which might be experiencing dry situations.

Dinosaur footprints from tens of millions of years in the past have been revealed within the midst of a extreme drought in Texas final yr.

The footprints have been found within the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose when the Paluxy River’s water ranges decreased amid extreme temperatures.

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