Wednesday, 8 October 2008: 2:20 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 310CF
In the late 1800s, Como Bluff (a prominent anticline in southeastern Wyoming) was found to contain abundant, Late Jurassic vertebrate remains. Workers associated with the transcontinental railroad stumbled upon large "Megatherium” bones just south of Lake Como, where hordes of little “devil-fish” (i.e, tiger salamanders) currently live. These discoveries in the Morrison Formation led to numerous quarries containing the remains of many important dinosaurs. In particular, Quarries #11, #12, and #13 were loaded with Stegosaurus remains and the first spikes (creatively described as "devil's tails”) of this dinosaur were found. The Como Bluff area contained the greatest accumulation of Stegosaurus fossils known and helped thrust this uniquely shaped dinosaur into the public eye. As William Harlow Reed and Arthur Lakes primarily led work at these quarries for Yale's Othniel Charles Marsh, excellent field notes, letters, and sketches, still exist associated with the quarrying operations. This information allows us to paint a vivid picture of dinosaur collecting in the 1800s. Field records describe the harsh winter conditions, especially during the excavation of many of the important Stegosaurus specimens (i.e., S. duplex, S. ungulatus, S. stenops, and S. sulcatus) in 1879 and 1880. Because of the uniqueness of Stegosaurus and other dinosaurs at Como Bluff, Marsh instructed his workers to continue excavations throughout the frigid, wind-swept, winter months. Work under these arduous conditions resulting in the classic painting by Lakes entitled the “Pleasures of Science,“ depicting workers struggling to remove the remains of S. ungulatus in the deep, precarious, water-filled trench of Quarry #12. Interestingly, Reed's final, major dinosaur discovery of his fabled career was a partial Stegosaurus skeleton found near Alcova, Wyoming in 1908. Although similar in size to other Stegosaurus species, S. longispinus had the longest “devil's tail” ever found, with one spike estimated to be 985 mm long.