• Camarasus skull in the cliff face, rafters on the Green River, McKee Springs petroglyphs

    Dinosaur

    National Monument CO,UT

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  • Portion of Echo Park Closed Due to Mountain Lion Activity

    The closed area includes the group campsite (other campsites remain open), river access area, the adjacent restroom, water spigot and the path following the Green River upstream to its confluence with the Yampa River. A fresh animal kill is in the area.

Trace Fossils

termite trace fossil

These numerous small pits were made by termites gnawing on this dinosaur bone before fossilization. Scale bar is 6 inches.

What is a trace fossil?

Not all fossils are bone or other body parts! A trace fossil is a result of animal activity. For example, a dinosaur footprint or an arthropod burrow would be an example of a trace fossil.

 
Fossilized wood with burrows

The holes in this petrified wood are burrows made by beetles before fossilization. This tells us that some small animal once made its home in the wood. Scale bar is 6 inches.

What makes trace fossils superstars?

Although many different trace fossils are found at Dinosaur, some are exceptional specimens. One of these is a piece of dinosaur limb bone that has been partially chewed by termites. No termite body fossils have been found anywhere in the Morrison Formation, but this trace fossil shows that termites were a member of the Morrison ecosystem at Dinosaur.

Another spectacular trace fossil is a piece of petrified wood chock full of beetle borings. Beetle body fossils have never been found in anywhere of the Morrison Formation. Beetles must have also been present in the Morrison ecosystem at this time to make these marks.

 

Jurassic Fact: Insects are abundant in modern terrestrial ecosystems, yet there have been no confirmed insect body fossils anywhere in the Morrison. Virtually everything we know about Morrison insects comes from trace fossils.

For more information: Visit the Quarry Exhibit Hall where the termite and beetle trace fossils are on display.

Did You Know?

Split Mountain

Split Mountain, the name John Wesley Powell gave to one of the Dinosaur’s most recognizable features, is aptly named: over millions of years, the Green River has carved a canyon into the center of the mountain, splitting it in two.