I have been slowly working on the last of the "Bernie Blocks" at OMSI. There have been two toothy surprises recently. One is apparently the tooth of a Phytosaur. These animals closely resembled modern crocodiles through convergent evolution. They are common in New Mexico but this is the first evidence of them from Oregon.
Here is a reconstruction of what a Phytosaur may have looked like (courtesy of Dr Jeff Martin, NPS, Petrified Forest NM)
Here is what our tooth looked like (in life it's about 3cm long):
It is very nicely preserved with the original concavity at the root intact. I think it's a shed tooth. Maybe some of the other unknown bones we found may be Phytosaur scutes as well, though poorly preserved.
In addition to the Phytosaur tooth, there is another jaw fragment with teeth. This one, funny enough, was set aside as it was broken lengthwise along a thin section so it looked exactly like a split rib. Since we've got lots of ribs, I didn't put a priority on working on it. But Surprise! it turned out to be a very important jaw fragment - Dr. Pat Druckenmiller at the UAF thinks it is a Dentary, the front end of the lower jaw! Since we didn't have that before, it's really great - and it's almost the last thing I'll ever prepare! Life sure likes a big joke once in a while.
I don't know what other studies will be done on this specimen in the future, but it's sure been a great time! G Carr