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Getting A Big Fossil Turtle!

These photos show how one, 13-inch long, fossil turtle was found and dug up in southwestern Wyoming.  This part of Wyoming has rock strata that were deposited by sub-tropical, river fed environments, about 46 million to 48 million years ago during middle Eocene time.  This time is about 18 million years AFTER the dinosaurs went extinct.  Paleontologists like finding mammal, reptile, bird, amphibian, and fish fossils for museums that are doing research on evolution, ancient animals and plants, and environments of long ago.  Museums need fossils that are in good condition and are somewhat complete, so that more can be known about animals and plants of the past.
Click the links below to see the fossil turtle being found, dug up and collected. This fossil turtle specimen is now at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington.

Click the links below to see the fossil turtle being found and collected.  This set of turtle pictures is also presented as a roll-over under the Gallery tab.  Hover your cursor clockwise over the border photos or click individual border photos for description.

01  These rocks in Wyoming are Eocene  age and are about 47 million years old.  Can you find the fossil turtle ?
02  Can you find the fossil turtle in this closer look ?
03  Getting closer…
04  This fossil turtle is exposed right at the surface ! Erosion has uncovered it and not much is broken.
05 The turtle’s shell is almost complete and the broken off pieces have not been lost.  This is good.  Unfortunately, the bones of the head (skull), arms, legs and tail were separated from the shell before fossilization, so these bones are lost.  It is likely that when the turtle died in a river, the water cleared out the  inside of the shell.  
06  The turtle shell is on its back. Let’s take measurements first.
07  Its almost as big as home plate in a softball game.  The bottom shell is facing up.
09  First, let’s collect the loose pieces of fossil turtle shell
10  With a GPS (global positioning system instrument) let’s record the location of this good fossil.  This is done so that the museum can map the fossil location and return to the site to look for more.
11  More aluminum foil is needed.
12  All of the loose pieces are wrapped up in foil.
13  The turtle’s top shell is still firmly attached to the sandstone bedrock.  Let’s gently put a pick hammer into the rock but away from the turtle.
14  All sides need to be worked -  but gently.
15  Patience is important.
16  It’s almost loose!
17 The fossil bone of the turtle shell is free from the bedrock and no more of the turtle broke off.  Gladly, the main part of the turtle shell did not break.  The turtle is heavy but very fragile and could break at any time.
18   Handle with care.
19  Padding will help to keep the fossil from breaking.
20  It’s time to wrap  the turtle to carry it back to the car.
21  More padding
22  More layers of foil
23  More foil
24  Padding, foil and a heavy bag are needed
25 The turtle is  all wrapped up and it’s time to gather up all of the tools.
26.  This fossil turtle is almost 30 pounds of rock and it’s heavy! 

27. This fossil turtle is now at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington, where the broken pieces were glued back on to the shell.  Paleontologists have named this type of turtle: Baena.  Baenid turtles lived in river and lake environments in North America during the Eocene epoch.  Most specimens of Baena were larger, but much less complete than this specimen.