Grand Staircase Escalante Partners Supporting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument since 2004

Author Archives: Admin

“Terrible crocodile” unveiled

Editor’s note: Around 350 students from the Tropic area watched raptly on Tuesday (March 8th) as staff from the Monument and the Utah Museum of Natural History unveiled a skull cast of a 75-million-year-old animal known as Deinosuchus , whose name means “terrible crocodile”. A cast of the entire 35-foot-long specimen will be on display in the museum’s new building when it opens in November.

Tropic-area students mob the cast of the Deinosuchus, unveiled in Tropic on March 8. (Photo GSEP.)

Partners Education Coordinator Wade Parsons helped organize and coordinate this event. Here’s Wade’s diary from that morning:

The high school auditorium at Tropic is nearly filled to capacity with area students and adults here to see the Monument’s newest traveling exhibit. This museum-quality display features Deinosuchus, an enormous species of Cretaceous period alligator capable of subduing and dining on the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex. Dr. Alan Titus has just ended his excellent presentation about this awesome creature, and with the help of Mike Getty (collections manager at the Utah Museum of Natural History), lifts the white veil covering Deinosuchus. A loud gasp of amazement rolls across the auditorium as the students comprehend the true size of this creature.

UMNH collections manager Mike Getty unveils the Deinosuchus cast to the crowd. (Photo GSEP.)

Dr. Titus invites the excited students to come to the front of the auditorium to view the alligator up close. Without a moment’s hesitation, the students are on their feet and rushing toward the stage. It is now the ferocious Deinosuchus being mauled by southern Utah school children, whose sense of wonder and imagination have been ignited. The students literally swarm over every inch of its massive, tooth-filled skull.

Hundreds of Tropic-area students clamor to touch the Deinosuchus cast at its unveiling March 8. (Photo GSEP.)

Tropic-area students get a closer look at the Deinosuchus cast at its unveiling March 8. (Photo GSEP.)

Standing next to me is an elementary teacher, smiling as she watches her students placing their heads and arms into the gaping jaws of this ancient predator. The children realize that long ago this enormous reptile swam and hunted in the area where they now live. The teacher expresses her appreciation that  the Monument and  the Partners program brought the exhibits to Tropic and provided this special event for local students. She said,” This will be a day in school the students will remember for the rest of their lives”.

–Wade Parsons, Education Coordinator

The Deinosuchus cast takes a breather at the end of its unveiling event on March 8. (Photo GSEP.)

Read our Winter 2011 newsletter

Our Winter 2011 newsletter is out. Please click the link below to read about:

  • How Partners is aiding efforts to remove Russian olive in the Escalante River watershed
  • Upcoming volunteer projects
  • A recap of a science talk in January that packed the Kanab City Library

Winter 2011 newsletter

Happy reading, and thanks for your interest and support.

–Beth Kampschror, Communications Coordinator

Uranium mining meeting Wednesday! Please attend!

Please attend a public meeting in Fredonia next week and make your voice heard about uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. And if you can’t make the meeting, please comment on the draft environmental impact statement related to that mining.

Grand Canyon National Park

In 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar halted new uranium mining on around 1 million acres of land near Grand Canyon National Park. The temporary moratorium, he said, would allow federal agencies to do an environmental review and decide whether mining claims should be halted for a longer period. (Please click on the following map link to see where those acres are.)

Area map showing affected land outlined in red

That review is now upon us. The Bureau of Land Management has worked up what’s called a draft environmental impact statement and is accepting public comments on the draft until April 4. Here’s what you can do:

* Read the draft statement, and get informed about the four alternatives the federal agencies are considering.
* Attend a BLM meeting on the subject at the Fredonia High School Media Center (221 East Hortt St., Fredonia, AZ) on Wednesday, March 9, at 6 pm.
* Submit public comments on the draft statement. These comments need to be in writing. Please email your comments to NAZproposedwithdrawal@azblm.org, or mail them to:

BLM – Arizona Strip District
345 E. Riverside Dr.
St. George UT 84790

This public comment period isn’t just for our local members. Grand Canyon National Park, just like Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, is public land that belongs to all Americans. Please make your voice heard.

–Noel Poe, President

New dino: Monument’s “monstrous murderer”

A hearty welcome to the new GSENM tyrannosaur that scientists from Carthage College and Brigham Young University named last week!

The Monument (the Kaiparowits Plateau to be specific) has yielded yet another new dinosaur – this one a meat-eater related to the notorious Tyrannosaurus rex. The new name: Teratophoneus curriei. In rough English: “Currie’s monstrous murderer.”

Welcome, murderer! (Photo courtesy of Gaston Design.)

Besides the cool name, what else stands out about this monster? It turns out that the new dinosaur could be a missing link in the evolution of the tyrannosaur family, reports the Smithsonian blog:

Found in the 75-million-year-old rock of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Teratophoneus is known from a partial skull and additional elements from the rest of the skeleton. Its head was short—a departure from the typically long-snouted profiles of other tyrannosaurs—and it was a close relative of the northern forms Daspletosaurus and (pan American forms of) Tyrannosaurus. Based on its anatomy and its geographic place, Teratophoneus appears to be part of a unique radiation of southern tyrannosaurs.

Paleontologists have seen this pattern before. Just last year scientists described two new horned dinosaurs from the same place—Utahceratops and Kosmoceratops—which indicated that dinosaurs in the American Southwest evolved differently from their cousins to the north. There must have been some sort of barrier that kept dinosaur populations separate and caused the northern and southern groups to evolve in distinct ways. The peculiar anatomy of Teratophoneus adds further support to this idea.

The Smithsonian points out that while “monstrous murderer” is a heck of a scary name, the actual animal was no T. rex. Teratophoneus weighed in at just one-tenth the mass of the terrifying, seven-ton Tyrannosaurus.

At any rate, the new name is a much better fit than the one I’d been using for the Monument’s skull cast of the critter. (You might recall seeing the cast at Dr. Kirk Johnson’s fossil talk in Kanab last month.)

Dr. Kirk Johnson, chief curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, getting primeval with Teratophoneus (left) and Diabloceratops (right). (Photo by Beth Kampschror.)

For lack of a better name, or any name at all, I referred to this skull cast — which is a cast of a juvenile — as “Junior.” Hardly a fierce or scary name.

But “monstrous murderer,” well, that’s more like it.

–Beth Kampschror, Communications Coordinator