The Peabody Finds a Poposaurus
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Preprator Vicki Fitzgerald and Curator Jacques Gauthier examine the Poposaurus specimen still in its plaster casing.

 

While working in Utah in the summer of 2003, the Yale Peabody Museum’s Divison of Vertebrate Paleontology field team collected what could be the most complete remains ever found of the extremely rare Poposaurus, dating from approximately 220 million years ago. Poposaurus is a representative from a fleet-footed, land-dwelling, side line in crocodile evolution that could easily have preyed on dinosaurs, and certainly challenged them as the top carnivores of their day.

The skeleton is perfectly articulated, preserved from near the shoulders down to the tip of the tail, including complete hind limbs and at least some forelimb bones, with bits and pieces of the rest of the skeleton lying nearby. “This marvelous fossil vastly improves our understanding of the evolution of a very poorly known cursorial and terrestrial side branch of the crocodile line,” comments Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology Jacques Gauthier. “When one thinks of today’s lumbering amphibious crocodiles, these beasts seem all the more striking for having independently evolved a surprising range of morphological novelties seen otherwise only in carnivorous dinosaurs.”

Today, the Peabody’s Office of External Relations is actively raising funds to support the preparation of the skeleton by the Museum’s Vertebrate Paleontology Lab, which will eventually be mounted and displayed as a new exhibit in the Great Hall of Dinosaurs.

If you would like to sponsor this project, contact Director of External Relations Eliza J. Cleveland at 203.432.3452 or peabody.development@yale.edu.

 

The excavation site in Utah.

 

At the dawn of the Age of Dinosaurs, some 248 million years ago, there were two great dynasties of “Ruling Reptiles” (archosaurs): the crocodile line and the dinosaur–bird line. At that time dinosaurs faced a formidable challenge for land supremacy from their closest evolutionary cousins on the crocodile branch of the archosaur family tree. Paleontologists have long been fascinated by this exciting period in earth history, which marks the first appearance of recognizably “modern” examples of the major groups of egg-laying land vertebrates—the precursors of today’s mammals, turtles, lizards, crocodiles and birds.

To learn more about this great transition from “archaic” Paleozoic animals to “modern” Mesozoic faunas, the Peabody’s Division of Vertebrate Paleontology and graduate students from Yale’s Department of Geology and Geophysics have spent several years collecting fossils in the Late Triassic Chinle Formation within Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

If you would like to sponsor this project, contact Director of External Relations Eliza J. Cleveland at 203.432.3452 or peabody.development@yale.edu.

The field team preparing to remove the Poposaurus fossils.

 

Today’s fieldwork and research builds on this great legacy. These exciting finds from southern Utah indicate the presence of some very important fossils in the Triassic beds of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Indeed, beneath Poposaurus we found the remains of another, as yet unidentified, specimen.

If you would like to sponsor this project, contact Director of External Relations Eliza J. Cleveland at 203.432.3452 or peabody.development@yale.edu

Yale Geology and Geophysics graduate students Alana Kawakami, Brian Andres and Matt Benoit at the Poposaurus site in Utah.

 

Today’s fieldwork and research builds on this great legacy. These exciting finds from southern Utah indicate the presence of some very important fossils in the Triassic beds of the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument. Indeed, beneath Poposaurus we found the remains of another, as yet unidentified, specimen.

If you would like to sponsor this project, contact Director of External Relations Eliza J. Cleveland at 203.432.3452 or peabody.development@yale.edu.

Vicki Fitzgerald (on left) and Lab volunteer Joe Nochera cutting open another plaster jacket.

 

Such finds enable paleontologists to understand more fully the evolution and biodiversity of Late Triassic reptiles, including the early dinosaurs, as well as the faunal distribution and paleoecology of these animals across the western United States.

If you would like to sponsor this project, contact Director of External Relations Eliza J. Cleveland at 203.432.3452 or peabody.development@yale.edu.

Vicki Fitzgerald (on left) and Lab volunteer Joe Nochera cutting open another plaster jacket.

 

Such finds enable paleontologists to understand more fully the evolution and biodiversity of Late Triassic reptiles, including the early dinosaurs, as well as the faunal distribution and paleoecology of these animals across the western United States.

If you would like to sponsor this project, contact Director of External Relations Eliza J. Cleveland at 203.432.3452 or peabody.development@yale.edu.