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ETRW 2017

week 1 (February 4th – 11th)

The Eric the Red West 2017 field season began on Saturday 4th February. It will run for three weeks, finishing on the 25th February. Each week, approximately 30 volunteers will excavate a long, narrow band of fossiliferous rock at the Eric the Red West site on the Otway Coast, south-west of Melbourne, close to the Cape Otway lighthouse.

At the end of the first week, 197 fossil bones were catalogued, which is a good result considering that part of one day was lost when a thunder storm rolled in. The volunteers are used to getting wet, but when lightning is introduced to metal excavation tools it is a wise decision to leave the beach. Part of the first week was also dedicated to the removal of an area of sandstone overburden. As the excavators follow the fossil layer northwards the overlying sandstone must be removed to gain access to the fossils. This task is laborious and time consuming but has to be done to allow the excavators to reach the fossil layer.

A number of dinosaur bones were recovered in the first week, including a few nice vertebrae (image 01) and a haemal arch or chevron (image 02), which is a long narrow bone that hangs down between two tail vertebrae and provides extra support for muscles and ligaments. An illustration of the tail vertebrae with associated chevrons can be found in Galton’s monograph on Hypsilophodon foxii, a small ornithopod dinosaur from the Isle of Wight (image 03).

A nice fish jaw (image 04) was recovered as well as a possible ornithopod dinosaur tooth (image 05). These are just a small sample of the fossil bones found during the first week of the dig. The intrepid band of Dinosaur Dreamers (image 06) obviously enjoyed themselves as can be seen in their smiling faces on the Dinosaur Dreaming blog (www.dinodreaming.blogspot.com.au).

Here’s hoping that the volunteers in weeks two and three have as much fun and success as the first week. A full report on the rest of the dig will be posted in early March so stay tuned.

1. Cross section through a small dinosaur vertebra. Photographer Wendy White
2. Cross-section through dinosaur chevron bone. Photographer Wendy White.
3. Galton illustration showing chevron bone (lower left) and position in tail.
4. Fish jaw showing row of alveoli along the top where the teeth would have been. Photographer Wendy White
5. Cross-section through a possible ornithopod tooth. Photographer Wendy White
6. ETRW 2017 week 1 crew. Photographer Wendy White


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Image #1 Cross section through a small dinosaur vertebra. Photographer Wendy White


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Image #2 Cross-section through dinosaur chevron bone. Photographer Wendy White


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Image #3 Galton illustration showing chevron bone (lower left) and position in tail


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Image #4 Fish jaw showing row of alveoli along the top where the teeth would have been. Photographer Wendy White


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Image #5 Cross-section through a possible ornithopod tooth. Photographer Wendy White


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Image #6 ETRW 2017 week 1 crew. Photographer Wendy White