Corral Bluffs Field Notes and News

2021 was a big year for the Colorado Springs Research project! Our team spent 40 days in the field, published three peer-reviewed scientific papers, submitted three additional scientific papers, participated in a French documentary that will air Spring of 2022, provided a field experience for 10 interns, and collected hundreds of new fossils.

Notes from the Field

Publication News

Our team published three peer-reviewed scientific papers in 2021! 

The first paper describes a new species of fossil soft-shelled turtle that Dr. Lyson found at Corral Bluffs in 2016. We named the species after Dr. Walter Joyce, a preeminent paleontologist who studies fossil turtles. The holotype specimen is on display in the After the Asteroid exhibit and is part of the large mural in the exhibit! Read the paper here.

The second paper describes a new species of fossil turtle that volunteer Sharon Milito found at Corral Bluffs in 2019. We named the species after Stephen and Mary Lynne Kneller in recognition of all of their support for Cretaceous/Paleogene research! The holotype specimen is on display in the After the Asteroid exhibit. 

The third paper was led by Dr. David Krause who described the cranial anatomy of the bizarre multituberculate Taeniolabis (see image below) that will be published later this year in the Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 

Our paper in Science magazine continues to have a huge impact. A modified version of one of our figures (see below) from that paper has already been included in three books (one textbook on dinosaurs (Dinosaurs: A concise natural history) and two popular books: one on meteorites (Colliding Worldsand another on the evolution of rainforests! (Jungle: How tropical forests shaped the world -and us)) 

Our Science paper has been cited 55 times by other scientific articles and we expect this number to grow rapidly in the coming years.  

Research updates and news from our collaborators

  • Many fossils from this discovery are now the focus of numerous undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students’ research. Several Colorado Springs focused talks led by students were presented at this year's Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting.
    • Mariah Green (photo above) worked on Colorado Springs fossil material for her Master’s thesis at the University of Colorado Boulder. She successfully defended her thesis in March!
  • Dr. Holger Petermann is wrapping up his 2-year postdoctoral fellowship and just submitted his first peer-reviewed paper focused on the fossils from Corral Bluffs that uses squished fossil turtles to help determine the maximum burial depth of the fossils.  
  • Dr. Gussie MacCracken (former Snowmastodon Project intern) received a prestigious two-year NSF postdoctoral fellowship to study the insect/plant associations from Corral Bluffs. She joined the team on June 14, 2021.
  • Dr. Luke Weaver received a prestigious two-year NSF postdoctoral fellowship to study the driver(s) of mammalian evolution after the K/Pg mass extinction. Dr. Weaver’s project will focus on the mammals discovered in the Denver Basin, particularly Colorado Springs. Dr. Weaver joined the team in September, 2021.
  • We collaborated with a large team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh to look at the origin and diversification of the mammal brain, one of the defining features of placental mammals. The team just submitted a paper to a high-profile scientific journal. Fingers crossed it’ll get accepted!
  • Lindsay Dougan, Digital Research Laboratory manager, and Holger Petermann, Postdoctoral Scholar, continue to analyze and prepare the CT datasets for publication.
  • We used a high-resolution micro Computed Tomography scanner to scan over 25 fossils from Corral Bluffs. These data provide access to important anatomical elements such as the brain and inner ears.

Fossil Preparation and CT Scans

In 2021 we prepared ~20 concretions revealing complete skulls/elements inside. The Digital Prep Lab scanned 12 vertebrate and 6 plant fossils.

Outreach

We worked with a French filmmaker on a documentary “Stronger than dinosaurs? The Flowers facing the last mast extinction”, which will be aired in the spring of 2022 on France 5 Television.  

Many of the fossils from Corral Bluffs remain on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in the After the Asteroid: Earth’s Comeback Story exhibit. 

Several of the fossils were also on display in the traveling exhibit Sue: The T. Rex Experience.  

Staff

Tyler R. Lyson, PhD

Associate Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology

Natalie Toth, MS

Chief Preparator

Salvador Bastien

Fossil Preparator

Lindsay Gaona Dougan, MS

Digital Research Lab Technician

Holger Petermann, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

James Hagadorn, PhD

Tim & Kathryn Ryan Curator of Geology

Libby Couch

Business Support Specialist III

Back To Top