New Mygatt-Moore quarry research leads to prehistoric climate finds

Local paleontologist and professor Dr. Julia McHugh authors new study

PEERJ

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IMAGE: DECOMPOSITION OF DINOSAURIAN REMAINS INFERRED BY INVERTEBRATE TRACES ON VERTEBRATE BONE REVEAL NEW INSIGHTS INTO LATE JURASSIC ECOLOGY, DECAY, AND CLIMATE IN WESTERN COLORADO view more CREDIT: BRIAN ENGH

Wednesday, July 14th Fruita, Colorado

Top predators dinosaurs like the Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus devouring dinosaur remains isn’t all that surprising, but the smaller creatures feasting on dinosaur remains may just give us a more complete picture of what life was like at Mygatt-Moore Quarry outside Fruita, Colorado 152 million years ago. A new study out in PeerJ on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 authored by Museums of Western Colorado’s Paleontologist Dr. Julia McHugh, looks at the insect species who feasted on decaying dinosaurs back in the Jurassic period.

Researchers Dr. Julia McHugh (Museums of Western Colorado, Colorado Mesa University), Dr. Stephanie K. Drumheller (University of Tennessee), Anja Riedel (Colorado Mesa University), and Miriam Kane (Colorado Mesa University) examined more than 2,300 fossil bones over a two-year study and found over 400 traces left by insects and snails, a surprisingly high number. The marks researchers found on the fossils also came from at least six different invertebrates. These findings are a huge step to understanding the long-lost paleo diversity, and paleo climate of the Jurassic period.

It also gave researchers a better understanding of just how stinky the Jurassic period was too. The abundance of traces meant that the dinosaur carcasses must have been unburied for a long time – 5 months to 6 years or more according to this new study. “Large carcasses take a long time to decompose. The smell from a dead mouse in your basement is bad enough, but then imagine that mouse was a 65-foot long animal! The stench of rotting meat would have been a magnet for carrion insects and other scavengers,” Dr. McHugh explains.

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For more information visit: http://www.museumofwesternco.com/

Additional information will be available on the Museums social media channels – Instagram: @museumsofwesternco Facebook: @crossorchards Twitter: @museumsofwc You Tube: Museums of Western Colorado

About: Museums of Western Colorado encompass the Dinosaur Journey Museum, Museum of the West, and Cross Orchards historic site. The Museums of Western Colorado inspires and connects our community by championing the scientific and cultural heritage of the Colorado Plateau.

Artwork: Illustration by Brian Engh, dontmesswithdinosaurs.com

Full paper link: https://peerj.com/articles/9510/

About: PeerJ is an Open Access publisher of seven peer-reviewed journals covering biology, environmental sciences, computer sciences, and chemistry. With an emphasis on high-quality and efficient peer review, PeerJ‘s mission is to help the world efficiently publish its knowledge. All works published by PeerJ are Open Access and published using a Creative Commons license (CC-BY 4.0). PeerJ is based in San Diego, CA and the UK and can be accessed at peerj.com?

PeerJ – the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences is the peer-reviewed journal for Biology, Medicine and Environmental Sciences. PeerJ has recently added 15 areas in environmental science subject areas, including Natural Resource Management, Climate Change Biology, and Environmental Impacts. peerj.com/environmental-sciences

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33 thoughts on “New Mygatt-Moore quarry research leads to prehistoric climate finds

  1. “Top predators dinosaurs like the Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus devouring dinosaur remains isn’t all that surprising, but the smaller creatures feasting on dinosaur remains may just give us a more complete picture of what life was like at Mygatt-Moore Quarry outside Fruita, Colorado 152 million years ago.”

    Strangely I had assumed that was the norm. That once a creature died it became a food source.

    • Or, the reason a creature died was because it couldn’t prevent from becoming a food source.

  2. “May just give us a more complete picture of what life was like …152 million yeas ago” Yeah, sure – archaeology isn’t an exact science, is it?

  3. One word: Ants.
    The soft tissues get devoured pretty quick by ants and maggots.
    To me I wonder where the ants were in that picture. In today’s world, they don’t last that long because of ants in every biome I can imagine.
    https://youtu.be/R3Mt2E1M6dU

    And another,
    https://youtu.be/_62o686eRTs

    But… if the ants are kept away, the fly larvae have a feast.
    Time lapse deer carcass taken apart by maggots.
    https://youtu.be/9twFI210maw

    So they are studying the large bones of the skeleton left behind for years.

  4. Interesting report on the environment of Late Jurassic dinosaurs. I have walked through the preserved environmental record of the Jurassic through Cretaceous, in the Neuquen Basin of Argentina (OK, looking for copper and uranium in sandstones, there was a lot!), and the biodiversity of both flora and fauna was amazing. The environment was, especially in Cretaceous, arid countryside but with rivers and localized trees and grass along their course. Fossilized dinosaur bones, both herbivores and carnosaurs, were abundant where there were also fossilized trees and bushes, and the most fossil-rich environment was a flood overbank facies. I saw a preserved circular, one meter across, collection of rib fragments, with rounded teeth marks at the ends, looked like the remains of a barbecued rib feast with bad eating manners. Stay sane and safe.

    • As I recall from my old paleontology courses, true grasses didn’t appear until the Miocene.

      • Now known to have been around since the Cretaceous. Previously thought the Paleocene or Eocene, but phytoliths have been found in nonavian dino coprolites.

  5. “The stench of rotting meat …”
    That stench to most is the sweet aroma of food for others who feast on carrion. It is all a matter of what one is used to.

  6. Interesting, i had a doctors app’t in fruits yesterday and hiked Dinosaur Hill as I got there too early for my app’t. Looks like great fossil country. Mostly I’ve been rock hounding in the 10k foot range in west central Colorado. Lots of seabed remains, bones and shells.

  7. Or, the reason a creature died was because it couldn’t prevent from becoming a food source.

    • Same old story for millions of years- the one at the back of the herd or the one separated from the herd becomes the dinner of a bigger, badder meat eating dinosaur.

      The exact same scenario still applies to day in any predatory situation.

  8. I have a fond memory of working as a volunteer assistant for a USGS geologist around the Ruby Mtns. of eastern Nevada. A geology major with extensive experience camping and backpacking, I couldn’t be a paid assistant because my uncle was a USGS geologist as well. We had access to a ranch west of the range and proceeded through several gates to an area my boss wanted to study. Walking about we came across a large charcoal grey boulder sitting alone with a beautiful cross-section of an ammonite or nautiloid type shell exposed on the top in white calcite crystals (slightly metamorphosed.) I wanted so badly to put that rock in my pack and take it home with me; it probably didn’t weigh much more than 3,000 or 4,000 pounds!
    The veins of exposed garnets we saw up in the Rubys were pretty amazing, too! Geology is cool, and paleontology ain’t bad either!

  9. Ever smelt a decomposing whale? Downwind you will know of its presence literally miles away.

      • Thanks Jeff,
        That put a smile on my face 🙂
        Peopled dealing with a bad smell, using half a ton of dynamite was only ever going to end up with them covered in sh.** .

        • You’re welcome, I think.

          The people of the area recently voted to name a local park or beach after the incident.

  10. “It also gave researchers a better understanding of just how stinky the Jurassic period was too. The abundance of traces meant that the dinosaur carcasses must have been unburied for a long time – 5 months to 6 years or more according to this new study. “Large carcasses take a long time to decompose. The smell from a dead mouse in your basement is bad enough, but then imagine that mouse was a 65-foot long animal! The stench of rotting meat would have been a magnet for carrion insects and other scavengers,” Dr. McHugh explains.”

    “The abundance of traces meant”?
    How does that work scientifically? Abundance? Means?

    “Large carcasses take a long time to decompose”?
    • A) No chit Sherlock.

    • B) How many large carcasses did you actually watch and time?
    Large carcasses where hungry scavengers are abundant disappear surprisingly quick. Unlike relatively sterile environments, e.g. Polar areas, suburbs and cities.

    “It also gave researchers a better understanding of just how stinky the Jurassic period was too.”?
    And that metric is determined, how?

    Did the apparently civilized researchers journey to other countries and standards of living? Not likely, they decided all of this from their sterile environments.

  11. I don’t have to imagine the stench.

    I used to ride along a 10km portion of the Golden Highway near Singleton NSW on a motorbike.

    Summertime was challenging with the combination of a dead kangaroo (hit by cars) every 50m or so and 35 degree temps.

    Its surprising how long you can hold your breath.

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