One year ago today, the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology crew at the Florida Museum of Natural History first visited the Montbrook fossil locality.

Fossils on bed of truck with red cloth and tape measurer
First fossils discovered at Montbrook, November 2015.

In August 2015, clay was excavated from a portion of land and transported elsewhere to repair dirt roads. Once enough clay was obtained for this purpose the pit sat untouched for a few months. In early November of 2015, a five-year-old girl and her grandmother were walking around the property looking for chert artifacts. The pair stumbled upon this pit, went into it, and instead of chert they discovered vertebrate fossils.

The Division of Vertebrate Paleontology (VP) Collections Manager, Dr. Richard Hulbert, at the Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) heard of this discovery from a faculty member in the Geological Sciences Department at the University of Florida. On November 10th, 2015, he made contact with the property managers and received an email with this image of the fossils discovered: The fossils portrayed in this image are quite intriguing. There are aquatic and terrestrial species, including pieces of the shells of two types of turtles, Trachemys (slider) and Apalone (soft-shelled turtle), gar fish scales, an alligator osteoderm, and a gomphothere (elephant-relative) metapodial.

Intriguing enough to drive out to the site the next day.

November 11th, 2015: Richard and research assistant, Rachel Narducci, made it to the site in the late afternoon. It looked like this:

Immediately upon entering the pit, they found more Trachemys turtle shell fragments, gar fish scales, and a gomphothere ankle bone at the surface. Richard then dug down and determined that there were in-situ fossils going deeper into the pit. An excavation by FLMNH VP staff began the next day.

November 12th, 2015:

FLMNH VP curator, Dr. Jonathan Bloch, fossil preparator, Jason Bourque, Richard, and Rachel set up a meter square grid over the area and began digging. The orange flags indicate the boundaries of each square.

How many days, of the past 366, have FLMNH staff and volunteers excavated at the site?

150 days! That is 41% of the past year. This value would have been a bit higher, closer to 50%, if we had not been rained out a few days when we were planning on digging.

How many people have worked at the site?

227 staff and volunteers, with more scheduled to dig for the first time in the coming days.

How many fossils have we found?

10,000 identifiable fossils.

How many different species?

Almost 60!

Montbrook faunal list

We would like to say Thank You to the land owner for allowing us to dig and to all of our volunteers and staff who have put in so much time and effort to help make this entire excavation possible!