Steve McGregor, UTD, (972) 883-2293, [email protected]
Educators, Students To Go 'Shark Hunting' in W. Texas
'Spectacular Fossil' is U. T. Dallas Group's Prey
RICHARDSON, Texas (April 8, 2003) - Next weekend, Homer Montgomery and a group of 35 colleagues, friends and acquaintances plan to spend a few days shark hunting near the West Texas town of Terlingua.
Never mind that there's no significant body of water, other than the Rio Grande, anywhere near that dusty burg located near Big Bend National Park and best known for its annual chili cook-off competition. The group's prey will be the fossilized remains of a shark that used to call that area home when it was covered by a sea some 85 or 90 million years ago.
Montgomery, an assistant professor of science education at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), will be joined by several dozen UTD students, faculty and staff, as well as a contingent of 10 science teachers from the Plano, Texas, Independent School District. They plan to excavate a one-meter-by-two-meter section of the shark fossil, encase it in plaster and trundle it off to a newly opened local museum that houses artifacts from the Big Bend country.
Time permitting, the group may also attempt to unearth the nearby skull of a mosasaur, a large predatory marine reptile which Montgomery described as "ominous, with lots of scary teeth."
But the trophy will be the shark, which Montgomery called "really special."
"Sharks are cartilaginous and, thus, do not preserve well - mostly you only find teeth. Soft tissue almost never is preserved," he said. "In this case, we have fossilized skin and cartilage, a spectacular fossil."
"This should be a lot of fun and more than a little interesting scientifically," he added.
The shark and mosasaur fossils were discovered on private land by a local resident named Ken Barnes, whom Montgomery calls an "accomplished fossil hunter and self-taught paleontologist." Barnes also operates the local museum, which will display the fossils after they are prepared.
Montgomery is no stranger to the Big Bend region nor to fossils. Two years ago, he helped lead a team of students and other experts from UTD and the Dallas Museum of Natural History to the region to excavate the neck of one of the largest dinosaurs ever found in Texas.
That fossil was so large - each vertebrae weighed nearly 10,000 pounds - that it had to be airlifted by helicopter from the remote desert excavation site in Big Bend National Park.
Montgomery, a paleontologist, teaches courses at UTD on dinosaurs, marine science and evolution. He also conducts field trips to sites in Texas, in other states and in other countries in support of these and other courses.
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