STL Science Center

STL Science Center

04 December 2012

Early Morning From My Burrow

It is a bit chilly in my house. Kansas wind blows out the pilot light on our heating unit (it has a gas shut off so that is not a worry) on such a regular basis that we do not even really use the heater; whomever built a house in Kansas with a pilot light under the house with an opening that does not shield the wind is no genius anyhow. Instead we have cheap but efficient space heaters and warm blankets. I am okay with this system and it allows me, this morning, to simulate typing in a burrow, or a blanket fortress, whichever you prefer (it's about 50F in the house, we are not freezing ourselves to death or anything). The burrows in question this week, not mine, have been studied fairly extensively, as we would expect with such a rare and amazing find. The initial discovery paper is  online free and everyone should at least skim it. It is available thanks to the Proceedings of the Royal Society and the authors. Additionally, David Varrichio, who was lead author on the original paper, has gone on to work with D. Cary Woodruff to model the creation of the fossilized burrow using PVC and sediment experiments with comparably sized rabbit skeletons to simulate the three Oryctodromeus discovered in the burrow. Their results are not available free via the Geological Society, but KU's Palaios has posted  the abstract online. You really have to love the image that came from this experiment that I found though:
Modeling a dinosaur den: a half-size PVC model of a Oryctodromeus burrow used to tests scenarios for how they became preserved. From Woodruff and Varricchio, 2011.
Now, granted I cannot say that the image is the best one from this modeling experiment, it certainly does a good job of showing how much work must have gone in to designing and conducting the modeling experiment. It also renews the sadness of the fate of the three skeletons trapped in the burrow and fossilized.

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