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Liam and the Flosaraphtor

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When I was learning to drive, my father used to sneak out to our beige '67 Volkswagen and put a folded dollar bill in the receiving end of the seat belt. It was like a little reward for buckling up, and it worked. The whole system fell apart when my brother figured it out and raided the seat belt for date money.

In this age of plug-in fun, where most kids' favorite places to play are near an outlet, I like to emulate my father. Maybe it's Cheezits and chocolate as a surprise in a backpack, or a monarch caterpillar of your very own to feed, watch, and wonder at.

But I digress. Back to the mystery claw...There was only one thing to do about it. We knew just who to turn to: to our friend Boneman, an artist who re-imagines and reconstructs extinct creatures for a living. And who also has a Boston terrier pup from Chet's breeder. Coincidence? I do not think so.

Dear Mr. Mohn,

what the heck is this? i saw a video all about dinosaurs. And i saw a flosaraphtors tooth/claw And it looks just like a tooth. Don't know what it is. And i found it in a stream (near where we live in Ohio) under a flat rock. Thank you!

- Liam

this is me finding it....
and this is me showing it to Margret.Hi Liam:

Now that really is a mystery! As far as I know, the fossil bearing matrix in Ohio is millions of years older than the oldest known dromaeosaur (droh-meh-o-sahr) fossil (the dinosaur family to which the Mongolian species Velociraptor and the North American species, Deinonychus (dy-non-ick-us) belong to).

That certainly looks like a dromaeosaur claw though. It may be that it is what paleontologists call an erratic fossil. Erratics are fossils that have been transported beyond the place where the original animal died, was buried and became fossilized. There are various agents of transport, ranging from animals that may pick something up and carry it for some distance to landslides, floods, glaciers and continental drift. I live in southeastern NJ, which is relatively young in geological terms, having been formed within the last million years and we really don't have any rocks that formed here and so no really old fossils. But I do occasionally find fossils of very ancient cup corals and crinoids which were transported from upstate New York by glaciers and rivers and then deposited here.

Dromaeosaurs are currently known from Western North America, Mongolia, China and South America. There are some other fossils which may be dromaeosaurs that have been found on other continents, but these are very fragmentary remains, just a few bones, which makes it hard to make a positive identification. The oldest known specimens are about 120 million years old, though there are some indications that they may have first appeared about 160 million years ago. Some dromaeosaur species survived until the end of the age of dinosaurs, about 65 million years ago.

Your claw appears to look like and be about the right size as those of the North American species, Deinonychus, which is known from Montana and a few other Western states. Deinonychus means terrible claw. You may have seen the movie Jurassic Park, which featured an animal that the movie's paleontologist called Velociraptor. As you may know, sometimes Hollywood plays fast and loose with the truth. The real Velociraptor is nowhere near as tall as the Jurassic Park raptors. Specimens have been found that are seven feet long, but only about three and a half feet tall and quite slender. The JP raptors are closer in size and shape to Deinonychus. There are specimens of Deinonychus that were four and half feet tall and nearly twelve feet long. There are other dromaeosaur species which appear to have been far larger. Utahraptor, which is only known from a few scattered bones, may have been twenty five feet long and six to eight feet high.

You've made a really neat find! I hope you enjoy it and that you continue to investigate the mystery of how it came to be in Ohio!
I can assure you that he enjoys it, Mr. Mohn.

It will be a puzzle, and an inspiration, for years to come.There is mystery beneath still waters, outside where so many children now rarely go. In the muck and the gravel, something wonderful may wait.

Many thanks to Bruce Mohn for his knowledge, expertise and skill.


I'm so glad YOU found it Liam!
What a wonderful treasure.

Is it possible that this erratic fossil might have been transported a tad more recently, the transporting agent being a loving animal who carried it a long distance?

Such animals have been known to occur in the vicinity of Duck Creek, and they are nothing if not erratic.

Is it possible there may be some paleontologist types at one of the Ohio universities who would be interested in this find, or even in having a closer look at Duck Creek?

If your travels take you to Bozeman, Montana, you should compare his find with the superb Deinonychus specimens and dioramas on display at the Museum of the Rockies.

It must have been wonderful to see the expression on Liam's face as he discovered his fossil under a rock. What wonders wait for children as they explore outdoors.

I would have loved to see your face, too, Julie--as I'm sure you were as happy to see him find treasure as he was to find it!

Oh, you are indeed a five-star mother. What a wonderful story!

WOW! That is just so darn cool Liam! Lucky you to turn over that ONE particular rock! Cherish it forever. :c)

Liam, your curious nature sent you there. Always remember that and never stop observing and searching. Congratulations on a wonderful find. Wow.

Thanks to Boneman for his knowledge and assistance!

I am kicking myself for not commenting yesterday. When I saw the claw, I said 'hey! that looks like a velociraptor claw, like in Jurassic Park!" But then I googled velociraptor claw and realized they looked nothing like this one, so I just deleted my comment without posting.

Turns out - I was kind of right. It *is* like the 'velociraptor' claw from Jurassic Park - just not the right dinosaur in reality.

Very, very cool find. ;-)

Liam and Julie,
continue to explore and enjoy the great outdoors!

Nothing like a good find to fuel a curious young mind.
Way to go--young explorer Liam!
Way to go--home schooling mom Julie.

I wish I had known dino remains were in Duck Creek as I drove over it the other day. I woulda stopped, man.

Good job, Liam!
(and Julie)

A boy can dream can't he? I used to dig toward China with the same aspirations. I was never so lucky to find a Deinonychus claw. Although I did pluck a nice arrowhead out of the tunnel to China dirt.

It's not how the thing was transported, but in whose hands it now rests (and whose imagination it now fires) that really counts.

Right on, Catbird!

Congratulations Liam, that is a great find.
Julie I'm proud to know you and your family. Too many parents let the tv do the baby sittting/ education instead of being involved.

That's AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

You are a cool mom, Julie Z. That made me all emotional thinking of how this all came about. Very creative and touching.

Sweet! How exciting for you and your young paleontologist! We're off to a 1600 acre boy scout camp for the weekend with our family - not a play station in sight. I hope my middle school stepsons don't require too much time to 'unplug' :)

This makes me miss my boy...

Thanks for retelling this so wonderfully, J.

Something similar once happened to my children.
It involved a meteor strike in their back yard.
They still talk about it with wonder.

Sheeshhhhhhhhhhhhh...and you don't call yourself a homeschooler?

I'd call you the best kind of home schooler!!!

i think it is awesome that this man took the time to write such a wonderful reply to your son! liam must be so excited--not just to find such a cool thing--but to be taken seriously and incouraged in his explorations and curiosity. how wonderful that you knew someone who would be so responsive and quick, too! liam will remember this all his life.

Super cool ~ thanks for sharing :-)

SWEET! Both you and Liam's find.

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