BISMARCK Fossils of 60-million-year-old mammals found in North Dakota this past summer will be prepared this winter for research by the North Dakota Geological Survey.
John Hoganson, state paleontologist with the geological survey, said the mammal remains are a very important find and will provide more information about what life was like at that time.
The mammals were found at a dig site near Medora this past summer. They will be prepared in the geological society's Clarence Johnsrud Paleontology Laboratory in the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck.
Submitted Photo --
This photo was taken in June at a public fossil dig site near Medora when mammal fossils were found. The fossils now will be prepared for research this winter in the North Dakota Geological Survey’s Clarence Johnsrud Paleontology Laboratory in the N.D. Heritage Center in Bismarck.
The fossils are of a Titanoides, which is one of the larger mammals that lived in North Dakota about 60 million years ago, Hoganson said. He said the Titanoides was about the size of a black bear.
There was evidence of the Titanoides in previous years at the site near Medora, said Jeff Person, Bismarck, a paleontologist with the N.D. Geological Survey.
The other mammal fossils that were found at the site are teeth of rodent-sized mammals, Hoganson said.
Hoganson said most of the fossils found have been the remains of crocodiles, champsosaurs, turtles, fish and salamanders. "Finding these mammals is really going to help us determine what that area was like," Hoganson said.
They hope to eventually install an exhibit in Medora highlighting the fossils found near there, Hoganson and Person said.
Hoganson said they also have enough information now about that dig site to publish a scientific article on it. He said plans are to return to the site this coming summer.
Some of the other activities of the geological survey's Paleontology include:
Fox Hills fossil fish
On and off for several years, Hoganson and Mark Erickson, a professor at St. Lawrence University at Canton, N.Y., have been working on a project about the fossil fish from the approximately 68-million-year-old Fox Hills Formation
They have completed their research and now will be submitting their completed manuscript about the project to a scientific journal of paleontology for consideration for publication.
The Fox Hills Formation is a formation in eastern North Dakota which was ocean, Hoganson said. He said the Fox Hills Sea existed there while the western part of the state was habitat for dinosaurs.
Hoganson was invited to St. Lawrence University last month to lecture students and the public. He and Erickson also worked on their Fox Hills fossil fish project.
In their manuscript, Hoganson said they describe the fish many species of sharks, stingrays, eagle rays, ratfish, salmon-like fish and many, many different kinds.
"Part of my job is to do the scientific research and publish the research through the scientific journals," Hoganson said. He also writes information for public consumption for the N.D. Department of Mineral Resource's Newsletter. He said the next issue will have an article about the giant squid fossil. There also will be a short article by Hoganson and Person about prehistoric predators.
In October, Hoganson was in Portland, Ore., where he gave a scientific presentation about the giant squid fossil at the Geological Society of America's meeting.
The giant squid fossil was found in northeastern North Dakota at the Pembina Gorge.
"What's interesting about the fossil is what was found was the pen or gladius a hard, support structure that is in the mantle of the squid," Hoganson said. He said the mantle is the bullet-shaped part of body with all the organs, muscles, etc.
"The gladius is over 6 feet long. That means the squid was about 40 feet long that lived in North Dakota 80 million years ago when an ocean was covering the state at the time."
"All that is left is the hard part like the internal shell of the animal," Hoganson said.
"There's speculation these giant squids were eaten by the mosesaur," he said.
Giant squids have been found in Kansas and Manitoba, but the remains found in northeastern N.D. are the only remains of a squid found in the state, Hoganson said.
The North Dakota squid was recently added to the mosasaur exhibit in the Heritage Center.
Razor Jaws show
Hoganson and Person were in a National Geographic Channel show which aired last month.
As part of a series on prehistoric predators, the show they were in was about "Razor Jaws," a large wolf-like animal that lived in North Dakota about 30 million years ago, Hoganson said.
Called the Hyaenodon, it was called "Razor Jaws" in the National Geographic show. Hoganson said the Hyaenodon had remarkable sharp teeth. He said it was one of the main predators in the state 30 million years ago and remains have been found in the Little Badlands in the Dickinson area.
"We have an actual skull in the Heritage Center," he said.
The National Geographic show was filmed in South Dakota. Hoganson and Person went to S.D. for the filming, taking along fossil specimens from North Dakota for the show.
Person said they were actually studying the Dinictis, a saber-toothed cat, which is why they were included in the show. "We have a skull from that with puncture marks believed made by a Hyaenodon," Person said.
Dakota's back home
Dakota, a rare dinosaur from North Dakota, that was displayed at a dinosaur expo in Japan this year, returned home safely this fall, Hoganson said.
Dakota is the name given to the duck-billed dinosaur whose scientific name is Edmontosaurus. Tyler Lyson, of Marmarth, is Dakota's finder and owner.
Hoganson said about 300,000 people saw Dakota at the expo. "It was really the featured fossil in the show. It was a real fossil others were casts of skeletons," he said, adding, "Dakota was a pretty big hit so hopefully, it will attract more visitors here from other places."
Hoganson said they have decided to do more preparations on Dakota's tail before it goes back on exhibit in the Heritage Center. He said plans are to have the arm and tail on display in mid- to late January.
"We will continue to work on the body block, which is a huge block with most of the skeleton," he said. He said that part will take several more months to a year to finish. Three part-time people are working on it.
The more they work on the fossil, moving the rock away, more of the fossilized skin is exposed, Hoganson said. "This emerges like a phoenix out of the rock."