Saskatchewan continues to be a hotbed of remarkable fossil finds and this summer didn't disappoint.
Grasslands National Park East Block played host to the most recent haul, with around 60 participants partaking in Fossil Fever that unearthed a large soft-shelled turtle and bones from a Triceratops.
Both creatures were found in the Frenchman Formation which is exposed throughout parts of Southwestern Saskatchewan. The formation represents the last 200,000 years of the Cretaceous period, just before dinosaurs went extinct.
"[It's] the same rock layer that's produced stuff like Scotty the T Rex around Eastend," explained Ryan McKellar, the curator of paleontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. "It's also exposed within the National Parks as well. Some of the badlands exposures there are a little bit more extensive, so we tend to go hunting there but also around the Eastend area as well."
The turtle, McKellar believes is an Axestemys, was first spotted in June when they were preparing the dig site for Fossil Fever. Only a few inches of the shell were uncovered leaving the bulk of the work for the five-day event that welcomed volunteers from the general public and some paleontologist students from across Saskatchewan.
"One of the members of the public found a skull from a turtle the size of a fist," he explained. "The public got to help expose part of the surface of the shell.
"This is one of the few cases we've got a turtle that is articulated, so there is a lot of the bones are all together in the same spot in the shell. The shell itself is about two and a half feet across."
Next up for the two highlighted finds from the Fossil Fever is for them to be prepared for Dinovember hosted by the Royal Saskatchewan Museum this fall. Then, McKellar will know if the turtle is in fact an Axestemys.
Two areas of the southwest will continue to be scouted for fossils going forward. The Eastend and Shaunavon areas will be explored by the University of Regina's Geology Field School students. And the Fossil Fever will forge on at Grasslands National Park.
However, the public can play a big part in the discovery and is encouraged to.
"We rely really heavily on local ranchers and landowners letting us know where specimens are," he said. "If anyone sees material, they'd like us to investigate please reach out to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum... We'd love to work with people to study a wider range of sights in the coming summers."
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