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Marmarth Research Foundation: In the Hell Creek Formation of North Dakota

Marmarth Research Foundation

In the Hell Creek formation of North Dakota

Palatobaena cohen
Turtle Graveyard Excavation, 2006
Hell Creek Formation

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Palatobaena cohen

Future Excavation Plans

During the spring of 2008 a track-hoe and bobcat will remove the majority of the overburden from the Turtle Graveyard. This will open up a large amount of bone layer for volunteers to excavate and map. The stratigraphic data and skeletal remains collected during the 2008 year will provide a clearer picture of the taphonomy of the site and will hopefully yield material from more new taxa. All of the material collected will be used by Tyler Lyson for his Ph.D. thesis.

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Turtle Graveyard

Hell Creek Formation

The Turtle Graveyard is the worlds most important fossil turtle site. It is a very rich site where we have uncovered over 75 baenid turtle shells, many baenid skulls and postcranial material, as well as partial skeletons of plastomenid turtles and flat rays. The MRF director, Tyler Lyson, has been collecting this site for 9 years and is currently describing two new taxa found at the locality. The site has also yielded material from Trionychid turtle shells and skulls, some crocodile material, and a few therapod bones. The Turtle Graveyard is a favorite among volunteers because of its close proximity to a road (about 15 meters), soft sandy matrix, and most importantly, the shade tarp that is put up every year!

The sedimentology, close association, but differential preservation of the skeletons, and number of large logs found at the site indicates a taphonomic history in which pool of standing water or slow moving stream dried up during a drought, killing the trapped turtles and rays. The turtles were subsequently buried during a debris-type flow such as a high velocity flood event.