Michael A. Firman
Mongolia - Dinosaurs

The Dinosaurs

Here are various pictures of fossils found at the Bayan Zag (the Flaming Cliffs) or the Tugrigiin Shiree. Most of the fossils were found by our party. I have included a few pictures of outstanding fossils found by previous groups which are now in the lab at the Museum of Natural History in Ulaanbaatar. All fossils found by our party were sent to the Museum of Natural History in Ulaanbaatar and are the property of the Mongolian government.

This beautiful fossil was found in the Tugrigiin Shiree by a previous group and is currently in Dr. Barsbold's lab being preped. The little critters must have been buried shortly after they hatched and seem to be crawling out of the nest (all in the same direction!).

A Nest of Protoceratops

Ed Fox stumbled across some bone shards that he thought looked interesting and began to clean around some that were protruding from the sandstone (in the Tugrigiin Shiree). It soon became apparent that there was more to this than just some shards. Here is a complete Protoceratops (at this point) skull exposed. It turned out to be a complete articulated skeleton of a medium sized Proto. The animal was in a squatting position with it's nose pointed straight up at the sky and it's front claws grasping up as thought it were climbing. Perhaps it was buried by a collapsing sand dune and attempted to dig its way out.

Protoceratops (the tip of the iceberg)
The Beast in It's Full Glory (photo by Trixie Anders)

Below is a photo of Jim and Carlos examining a Pinacosaurus skull (at Bayan Zag). I was trying to clean around a semi-exposed bone when Michael came up the hill to see what I was doing. On the way up he said that there was a lot of bone just lying around on the ground. I turned around and, sure enough, it was all over the place. We then saw what we thought were two badly weathered and encrusted Protoceratops skulls (one little and one large). We called Jim, Albert, and Carlos over and, after a little thought, Jim took the two "Proto" skulls and put them together into a single Pinacosaurus skull. At that point, Jim commented: "That's what we brought the paleontologists along for!"

Pinacosaurus Skull (photo by Brude Mortensen)
Another Shot of the Pinacosaurus Skull

On the second to the last day in the Tugrigiin Shiree, Al, Carlos, Bruce, and George were wandering in one of the many narrow sandstone canyons and saw this just sitting there embedded in the rock. There are so many specimens of Protoceratops at the Museum lab in UB that, unless there is something very special about the fossil, they don't particularly want them dug up and shipped back. This one stayed in place.

A Very Nice Protoceratops Skull(Photo by Bruce Mortensen)
Another Picture of this Skull

Here are the claws of a Velociraptor our party found on the first day out in the Bayan Zag.

Velociraptor Claws

Bruce, the birder that he is, while walking along the upper ridge of the Bayan Zag saw these protruding out of the sandstone. The half of the nest that was buried in the hillside proved to be very difficult to extract.

Oviraptor Nest (Photo by Bruce Mortensen)

While searching around at the Tugrigiin Shiree my wife and I found an area where there were many different dinosaur teeth. These were mostly Protoceratops teeth but we did stumble across a few Velociraptor (or some other small Theropod) teeth. The large tooth at the top (the pen is in the photo for scale), however, is a Tyrannosaurid tooth of some kind, probably a Tarbosaur (which is the Asian version of a T.Rex). It was also in the same location. Jim made the statement that they (the Tyrannosaurids) were around this area but they just didn't seem to die at it.

A Tarbosaur Tooth and Two Raptor Teeth

Not all the finds we made were large animals or even Dinosaurs for that matter. Here is a tiny fossil lizard skull (found in the very first hours that we were in the Bayan Zag by Badral). These smaller animals tend to be more important finds (to the scientists) than many of the larger dinosaur fossils. They fill in some of the information gaps existing in the fossil records for this period. Plant fossils would have been even more important since there is so little record of the flora of the late Cretaceous in this area.

A Small Lizard Skull (Photo by Bruce Mortensen)