While studying fossil tracks along a stretch of Lake Powell, a field crew recently uncovered a set of prehistoric fossils that are “extremely rare.” The team of paleontologists found a tritylodontid bonebed in the Navajo Sandstone in Utah, a geological formation in the Glen Canyon Group.
According to the National Park Service, it was the first tritylodontid bonebed to be discovered in the area. The discovery included fossilized bones and teeth, which were scarce in the Navajo Sandstone.
The new bonebed will enlighten experts on the fossil history of Lake Powell’s shorelines. Lake Powell is an artificial reservoir along the Colorado River. It runs across Utah and Arizona.
“Studying these fossils will help paleontologists learn more about how early mammal relatives survived the mass extinction at the end of the Triassic Period and diversified during the Jurassic Period,” said the National Park Service.
The unusual find was made in March of 2023. In the bonebed was a group of fossils with bone impressions and fragments of tritylodontid mammaliaforms, herbivorous creatures, and relatives of mammals from the Early Jurassic period, which was approximately 180 million years ago.
The most commonly found fossils from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are the footprints of carnivorous dinosaurs.
Field crews had only 120 days to recover the fossils before the water levels of Lake Powell became too high from the melting snow. Another rare bonebed was found close by in the Kayenta Formation.
Several hundred pounds of rocks with the fossils encased inside were collected and brought to the University of Utah South Jordan Health Center. There, scientists will scan them with X-rays and computerized tomography.
Then, they will be further analyzed at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm. The fossils will become part of the museum collections of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.