Afield in Oklahoma

June 25, 2018

Clouds over Black Mesa.

Baby spadefoot toad, with my index finger for scale.

Someone was here before us. Even though Black Mesa is best known for its Morrison exposures and giant Jurassic dinosaurs, there are Triassic rocks here, too, which have produced both body fossils and tracks, including these.

Seen but not photographed today:

  • a group of pronghorn by the side of the road, with two babies;
  • a deer that ran across the road right in front of our vehicle;
  • a wild turkey foraging in the ditch next to the road;
  • a few jackrabbits, and more cottontails than you can shake a stick at;
  • loads of prairie dogs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch a thunderstorm.

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6 Responses to “Afield in Oklahoma”

  1. Dale mcinnes Says:

    Why do you get to have all the fun ??

  2. Matt Wedel Says:

    Ha! I ask myself that question a lot.

    In the case of fieldwork, I pay the piper the other 49 weeks of the year. It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that I do all that other stuff so that I can do this 2-3 weeks each year.

    And I’ve been absurdly fortunate, that the people I needed were there when I needed them – even though I didn’t know it at the time.

  3. Brad Lichtenstein Says:

    Like! Hope the storm was …loud and/or bright yet safe. I miss San Antonio’s intra-cloud lightning displays, fwiw.


  4. Fantastic! Would those footprints be from a Coelophysis-like critter? I’m shamefully ignorant of ichnology.

    I hear Oklahoma’s got some Permian beds too, have you had a chance to visit those?

    N.B. Your toadlet is not a spadefoot but a bufonid. The pupils are a giveaway – spadefoots (spadefeet?) have vertically elliptical pupils.

  5. Matt Wedel Says:

    I assume the Triassic tracks are from some basal theropod, but given how horked basal dinosaur phylogeny is right now, who knows. Not a prosauropod, anyway.

    Oklahoma has a crapload of Permian. My first dig, way back in high school, was to a Permian locality. I don’t remember what we got – whatever it was, it didn’t stick in my mind. That was just a day trip.

    I have also collected some bits of a Carboniferous tetrapod from an Oklahoma roadcut. That was very exciting – it’s by far the oldest vertebrate I’ve collected myself.

    Thanks for the heads up on the toad – I did not know that. Today we saw deer, turkeys, and rabbits again, plus a big garter snake in a creek, who had presumably been getting fat and happy eating baby toads. The coolest wildlife moment of the day was watching a meadowlark chase a crow 4 or 5 times larger than it was. The chase went on for a while and the meadowlark used its superior maneuverability to stay above the crow, where it delivered repeated attacks down on the crow’s head.


  6. Color me envious. It’s a long drive for me to find anything but rugose corals, bryozoans, brachiopods, and echinoderms. I’ve never found a vertebrate fossil, and hardly any arthropods…

    Watching mobbing is always fun. Around here I usually see mockingbirds going after crows. Crows themselves will do the same thing to hawks. And just about any bird will torment an owl that’s out in the open by day.


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