A cross section of the Willow Creek anticline with enlargements of the two strips where the eight original nests were

Of the paleontological digs in the world, where dinosaur eggshell would be a wonderfully rare find. At the Willow Creek anticline, eggshell crumbs were the most common variety of fossil. After the dig got going, we would often give dinosaur eggshell away to visitors as fossil souvenirs. What distinguished a nest from a simple concentration of eggshell was first of all that demarcation between the green and red mudstone showing that a hollow bowl had been dug in which to deposit eggs, and second...

Looking For Babies

Augusta Choteau Fossils

In the winter of 1978, I was working as a preparator at Princeton University. Preparators aren't professors or curators, and under normal circumstances they have next to no chance of becoming professors or curators. Usually you find them in the dusty, windowless basements that more often than not pass for laboratories in paleontology. In the summer they do go along on expeditions, hunting for fossils in the badlands of Montana, or Colorado, or Mongolia. But then, come September, somebody has to...

Info

We find the third maiasaur nesting ground at Egg Gulch. July, August. We take another 50 tons of rock off Egg Mountain, and we continue to remove fossils from different parts of the big bone bed. September 14. At the very end of the season we find Egg Island, another colonial nesting ground of Orodromeus makelai. In one of the two clutches. on the surface, are 19 fossilized dinosaur embryos, the first ever found. 1984. We take another 30 tons off Egg Mountain. The completed excavation...

Egg Mountain

Hypsilophodontid

Geologically temporary rises, ridges and arroyos. We have only one slope of this hill left, however, so it does not qualify as an anticline. It's called a monocline. This feature is in the same two square miles in which we made all our finds on the Peebles ranch, and it dates from the same time period, so we usually described the whole dig as the Willow Creek anticline. On the surface, covering the monocline, is a small, round-topped hill. We found this hill in 1979 during the first field...

Haute Bones

Plexiform Bone

Paleontology is always divided into two seasons. The first is the field season, a time of exploration and discovery, in which you carry your tents with you and search for fossils. Then, at a different pace, is the laboratory season, a time for reflection and study, a season characterized by the tedium of preparation and reconstruction, by the working out of puzzles, the construction of theories and interpretations. The two are inseparable. Without the discoveries, there's nothing to think...

A topographical map of the Willow Creek anticline and nearby area shows the surface distribution of the digs various

Maiasaura Skull

It has a population of only about 2,000 people, but it looks bigger because it serves a large surrounding area of ranches and farms. During the time Bob and I were waiting for the Brandvolds to get us permission to dig, we explored all that Choteau had to offer, pretty quickly. One of the spots that was of particular interest to us was a rock shop and tourist museum in town it's now owned by the Brandvolds that had gems, Indian artifacts, and dinosaur fossils. There was a young woman working at...

The Herd

Only in our first year did we camp by the Teton River and drive to the Peebles ranch. In 1980, courtesy of the Peebles family, we moved to a spot right on their ranch, smack dab in the middle of the anticline. It was also in 1980 that the National Science Foundation took over the funding from Princeton and our grants began to grow steadily. More money meant a larger crew, more finds and more evidence of how rich the site was, thus better grant applications and still more money. More money also...

Field Chronology

Bob Makela and I stop at the Brandvolds' rock shop in Bynum, Montana, where we are shown some small bones that turn out to be very rare fossils of baby dinosaurs. Late July, early August. Bob and I collect from the surface of the site on the Peebles ranch and dig up the first nest of baby dinosaurs ever found, as well as an adult skull discovered by the Brandvolds. The state of the baby bones indicates that these young stayed in the nest for some time and were cared for by adults. We...

Notes And References

Schlaikjer, The Structure and Relationships of Protoceratops, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences XL 3 1940 133-266. P. Dodson, Taxonomic Implications of Relative Growth in Lambeosaurine Hadro-saurs, Systematic Zoology 2A 1975 37-54. 2. C. M. Sternberg, A Juvenile Hadrosaur from the Oldman Formation of Alberta, National Museum of Canada Bulletin 136 1955 120-122. 3. M. M. Chow, Notes on the Late Cretaceous Dinosaurian Remains and the Fossil Eggs from Laiyang...

The First Nest

With a coffee can's worth of baby dinosaurs in hand, I called Don Baird at Princeton. I was on my vacation, after all, and I was due back at the university in a few days. Don extended my vacation and wired me 500 for expenses. Suddenly, instead of a preparator on a holiday, I was the principal investigator on a funded paleontological expedition a small expedition, two guys in a van, but an expedition nonetheless. The first thing Bob and I did was to go with the Brandvolds to the spot where...

Nesting In Colonies

Anticline Syncline Monocline

I've delayed long enough in introducing the Willow Creek anticline. So far, I've said only that we found the babies on the Peebles ranch in the Two Medicine formation. Well, within a geological formation the rock beds are often bent into twists, hills, valleys and folds, and the vocabulary of geology has numerous terms to categorize these structures or features. One of these terms is anticline. The geological feature in which we found the first nest is an anticline named in traditional fashion...

Babies Everywhere

We spent six full seasons at the Willow Creek anticline, from 1979 through 1984. Then the Peebles family decided they wanted to trade in the land on which we'd found the fossils. Because the site was something Montana was proud of, particularly since the fossils and reconstructions were staying in Bozeman, the Peebles hoped to give the state the fossil-ridden badlands in return for a larger amount of good pasture land. I don't quite know the reasoning behind the desire for the swap, except that...

Acknowledgments

THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED to Bob Makela, a best friend for 20 years. He always managed to invent a way carefully to pry loose from the rocks the specimens or data I needed, and he was devoted to finding new ways to disseminate scientific information to children of all ages. Bob died in 1987 while working in the field, but his encouragement to others and his determination won't be forgotten. He was a truly exceptional man, and his memory remains with everyone who knew him. There are a lot of other...

The Good Mother Lizard

If we are to understand who this good mother lizard was, what she looked like, where she came from, the first thing to be said is that she was a duck-billed dinosaur. It seems only right, in view of the meaning of Maiasaura, to use the feminine pronoun. But then that raises more questions than it answers. Who were the duckbills Where did they come from Where does Maiasaura fit among the duckbills Where do the duckbills fit among the dinosaurs Perhaps it's best to start with the dinosaurs...