Rare Jurassic Fossils Found in Receding Lake Powell

Rare Jurassic Fossils Found in Receding Lake Powell

Researchers documenting fossil tracks in March discovered the first tritylodontid fossils ever found in the Navajo Sandstone and rushed to retrieve them before snowmelt replenished Lake Powell.

Lake Powell's fluctuating shoreline has revealed "extremely rare" fossils belonging to a long-extinct mammal relative that roamed North America 180 million years ago.

The bones are the first tritylodontid fossils found in the Navajo Sandstone, a geologic formation of thick layers of sandstone that were formed in now known as the Glen Canyon Group.

Tritylodontids are a group of near-mammalian reptiles that lived during the Triassic (251.9 million to 201.3 million years ago) and Jurassic (201.3 million to 145 million years ago) periods.

These warm-blooded, herbivorous creatures likely co-existed with early mammals for millions of years and survived a mass extinction event at the end of the Triassic.

Different species of tritylodontids ranged in size from rat-sized to wolf-sized.

Exciting for many of us, and the scientists.

"These extremely rare fossils are one of the most important fossil vertebrate discoveries in the United States this year," NPS officials said in a statement.

The paleontologists who found the bones were "in the right place at the right time," the statement said.

They only had 120 days to recover the fossils before water levels once again increased.

They collected hundreds of pounds of rock that encased bones and skeletons, which will be scanned and analyzed before joining the collections of the Prehistoric Museum in Price, Utah.

"Studying these fossils will help paleontologists learn more about how early mammal relatives survived the mass extinction at the end of the Triassic Period," the statement said.

In addition to the tritylodontid fossils, paleontologists also discovered a rare bone bed in the slightly older Kayenta Formation.

This bone sits roughly 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of the Glen Canyon NRA. No further details were given about this discovery.

The discovery of these rare fossils is a testament to the power of nature and the importance of preserving our natural heritage.

Lake Powell's fluctuating water levels have revealed a treasure trove of ancient fossils that are helping scientists to learn more about the past.

As the planet continues to change, it is important to be aware of the impact that we are having on the natural world.

We must take steps to protect our fragile ecosystems and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same wonders that we do today.