Saturday, June 20, 2015

Of Eagles, Mud, and Doors

Goodbye to Laurie (and Negrita) after she prepared a good breakfast for us, onward and into Utah at slightly over the posted 80 mph speed limit. Only very slightly, though, there was a yellow caution sign warning of an Eagle Crossing. Wait, eagle crossing? Why would it want to cross?

Today's adventure was a visit to the Cleveland-Amory dinosaur excavation site, originally discovered by Western archaeologists in the 1930s. Just like the approach to Chaco Canyon, there were miles of dirt road, few signs, and no cell phone signal to keep Amy the Navigator from giving up. We kept going, though, and reached the small visitor center.

The small center presented the history of the site, and the mystery that has unfolded over years of careful excavation. Dozens of dinosaurs died in the three foot deep mud here leaving intact skeletons -- no sign of combat. Even more interesting, the most common species identified has been the carnivorous predator allosaur, greatly outnumbering the number of prey species herbivores and easily able to escape a few feet of mud ... so what preferentially killed thunder lizards?

Eager as the two interns staffing the center were to answer questions for the few visitors who had successfully reached the site, they had no possibilities to offer. Why did so many dinosaurs come here to die, skeletons intact, and predominately carnivores in three feet of mud? My first thought, toxic substances, had already been thoroughly investigated without finding any evidence, they said. Tess's response: a keg party? No, no beer cans. They admitted that their own debates on the question had been more along the line of acting out "Jurassic Park" scenes for the benefit of the visitor center's small Allosaurus skeleton during their idle hours.

Her second more thoughtful idea as we were driving back over the web of dirt roads toward our campsite at Scofield Reservoir, which she titled "Feed me, Seymour!" -- a meat-eating plant or fungus colony emitting pheromones that attracted carnivores, a good source of concentrated protein, and discouraged herbivores, who would be as likely to eat the plants as the other way around.  Once lured and disabled, the allosaurs could have been drawn into the mud where the colony can feed ... fits all the evidence,  but how can it be tested? Oh, well, it's at least a good idea for a science fiction story.

 Camp fire dinner tonite on a hill above the reservoir, gentle winds blowing through the birch trees. The door to the men's room is jammed, but Tess has agreed to stand guard of us when we use the women's room.

No comments:

Post a Comment