After our return from the Grotto and a refreshment break we board the PaintMixer and head to the Koytendag Track Site. The prospector in me could not help but assess the logistics for extended field activities in the region. The valley we drive into is comparatively lush and green, with a readily available water source of a small creek. It is also home to a small village, complete with livestock. Throw in an army tent as a base camp stocked with supplies, the use of a reliable 4WD (or pack animals for a lowered carbon footprint), a local guide and/or interpreter, and add a band of Turkmenistan geology-biology university researchers and students to the palaeontologists and geologists and we would have a fully functioning field expedition. While I appreciate a hot shower and a mattress, give me a tent, a functioning Coleman stove, and a supply of Earl Grey tea and I'll function pretty much anywhere.
|A nice vertical surface, just waiting to have dinosaur tracks found on it!|
We are greeted by another traditional dance performance. Each performance we've seen has been slightly different. Some focus on interactions between young men and women, some focus on young people learning skills from their elders, and some praise the resources of the region and resulting products: rugs, food, and clothing.
|The young ladies' part of the dance...|
|...the young men...|
|...and the married women providing advice.|
|Stairway and interpretive signage for the Koytendag Track Site.|
|The trail up to the Koytendag Track Site. Gorgeous!|
|Possible tracks of Therangospodus.|
|Possible track of Megalosauripus.|
|I tried to find out the names of these three gentlemen, but the language barrier got in the way. They took great effort to show me all the tracks on the surface.|
Trackways are always worth getting excited over: trackways are much better than individual footprints because the information needed for describing dinosaur footprint and locomotion features comes from trackways. Individual tracks are only used if that's all you can get.NOTE: What is an ichnotaxon? Ichnotaxonomy (the study of naming traces) is functionally the same as naming any new fossil. If you find a trackway that looks different than any other tracks described in scientific journals (the journal Ichnos is dedicated to publishing research on traces of anything and everything, from worms to humans), it can be given a unique name. To distinguish a trace name from a physical organism name, the prefix “ichno” is used. So, a new species of dinosaur footprint is not a species but an ichnospecies. New ichnogeneric and ichnospecific names have to be erected following the rules of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Describing a new ichnotaxon from a single footprint is the equivalent of trying to describe a completely new dinosaur from a single bone: it can be done, but you would never stop hoping for the recovery of the rest of the skeleton, and you have to be VERY careful that you’ve examined all other possible explanations for that funky new shape (preservation, age of the animal, ground consistency, non-biologic sources, invertebrate sources, etc.). Back to the journal entry.
|Nicely impressed track of ?Megalosauripus from the covered portion of the track surface.|
|A great effort was taken to remove the spray paint from the Koytendag track surface.|
|Track surface in northeast British Columbia. The message here is quite obvious.|
We spend a few hours at the track site. The site is interesting in of itself, but it also represents the potential for new track site discoveries in the region. Any exposure of this Upper Jurassic deposit should be explored. The rate at which the surface is naturally eroding begs that new sites be found and documented.
All the Expedition members eventually drift down to the reception area at the base of the stairs to the waiting yurt-style tents where lunch was served. This is where my mental capacity begins to drift. I am decidedly not feeling well at this point. I stare at a pear I attempting to eat as though it is the most riveting object on the planet. Don't get me wrong: it was a nice juicy pear, but no piece of fruit should be more interesting than conversations with people who have done international field work. Chris from RSPB is telling a fascinating story about their society’s work in public education on poaching, and he notices my attention wandering to my pear. He jokes about how interesting the local fruits are, and I have to laugh and confess my internal unease. He understands: I’m sure I’m not the first or the last to fall victim to a traveler’s bug.
OK, Dear Readers: this is where you have input on the content of the next post in this series. I promised in my first post that I would keep the TMI content to a bare minimum, and that is a promise I intend to honor. However, the humor potential for the next series of events is high due to the...how shall I say this...embarrassing nature of my developing ailments at this point in the story. Your choice is this:
B) If you can tell it without graphic clinical details, fire away! Thinly veiled hints are more amusing than spelling it out for us. The best humor is subtle.
Which will it be? Cast your votes in the comments section!
Until next time!
UPDATE 24-05-2013: Fixed some formatting issues. Oh, and given that the "Privy Bush" turned out to be one of the most viewed posts (#4 of all time to date), I have to say that knowing readers enjoy this brand of what could be considered off-key humor warms my heart. You're all awesome! I drink a toast of Earl Grey to you!
On a serious science note, Federico Fanti and his colleagues have a paper out in the latest issue of the journal Ichnos entitled "Data on two large dinosaur tracksites from the Upper Jurassic of Eastern Turkmenistan (Central Asia). The citation is below, and follow the link here to the page that has a preview of the article (pay-walled, unfortunately.)
Fanti, Contessi, Nigarov, Esenov, 2013. Data on Two Large Dinosaur Tracksites from the Upper Jurassic of Eastern Turkmenistan (Central Asia). Ichnos 20, 54-71.