The Ghost Ranch bone bed

Red rocks at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico

Red rocks at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.  The oldest exposed rocks (striped gray and red at the cliff base) are the source of the Ghost Ranch fossil beds.

It’s hard to imagine these magnificent mesas as lake or sea bottoms, but the scenery 200 million years ago during the Triassic period at this location looked much different.

coelophysis dinosaurs from the Triassic period

A herd of small carnivorous Coelophysis dinosaurs patrols the shallow lake waters for fish, insects, and other small prey.  Mural at the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History by Karen Carr.

A bonanza of fossilized skeletons of this little dinosaur were discovered on Ghost Ranch property In the 1940s — dozens of immature Coelophysis along with other unique specimens from that period were buried together perhaps as the result of a flash flood.

Coelophysis fossil bone bed

Artist’s rendering of the intact Coelophysis skeletons in the fossil bone bed. From the New Mexico Natural History Museum.

Lake Abiquiu from Ghost Ranch

Rainfall flows quickly down the sides of the mesas, carrying large rocks and debris toward Lake Abiquiu in the distance. The area is prone to such flash floods today, and similar processes may have been responsible for the deposition of Triassic organisms.

Collared lizard

Lizards, like this Collared lizard, and snakes are the primary reptilian predators on the mesas today.

Red rocks at Ghost Ranch

Who knows what other incredible finds remain hidden in the more recent deposits on the vast mesas of the Ghost Ranch and nearby areas.  More recent deposits from the Jurassic period (white sandstone above the red Triassic layer)  have yet to be excavated.

 

One thought on “The Ghost Ranch bone bed

  1. What amazing discoveries from such ancient time periods! If only we knew . . . Reminds me of all the as yet untouched places in Israel – it’s astonishing to actually see evidence of the levels of history in such places.

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