“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Abiquiu in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico — The American Mountains (Southwest)

Coelophysis Quarry

— Ghost Ranch —

Coelophysis Quarry Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, April 20, 2014
1. Coelophysis Quarry Marker
Inscription.  In 1881 David Baldwin discovered small fossilized bones on what is now Ghost Ranch. He mailed the bones to paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope in Philadelphia. Cope had been through the area in the late 1870s and had urged Baldwin to explore and see what he could collect. In 1889 Cope named the little dinosaur Coelophysis bauri after Georg Baur, a German morphologist. (Coelophysis means “hollow form,” referring to the lightly constructed bones.)

In June 1947, a field crew led by Edwin H. Colbert from the American Museum of Natural History in New York stopped at Ghost Ranch on their way to Petrified Forest National Monument in Arizona. They knew that Baldwin and other paleontologists had discovered fossils in the area. They soon found fragments of fossilized bone that they recognized were from the small dinosaur, Coelophysis.

Hoping to find a partial skeleton, Colbert and his crew carefully dug into the hillside. Instead of a partial skeleton they found a dense bone bed of hundreds of preserved skeletons. Because the skeletons overlapped each
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other, they had to excavate the fossils in large blocks of rock. They encased 13 blocks in plaster field jackets, each of which contained numerous whole and partial skeletons.

In 1981 and 1982, field crews from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, and other institutions, collected 15 large blocks from the quarry. In 1983 another large block was excavated by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. The last block was excavated in 1985 and is on display at the Ruth Hall Museum at Ghost Ranch.

(sidebar) Did You Know?
• 1976 – Ghost Ranch’s Coelophysis Quarry was designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

• 1981 –The New Mexico State Legislature named Coelophysis the New Mexico State Fossil beating out Brontosaurus.

• 1998 – Coelophysis was the second dinosaur in space when it traveled on NASA's Endeavor Space Shuttle. A Coelophysis skull, quarried at Ghost Ranch, was sent to space by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It left Earth on January 22 and returned on January 31.

(credits) This project was made possible by a grant from the National Park Foundation through the generous support of ARAMARK and the Yawkey Foundation, the Fernandez Pave the Way
Coelophysis Quarry Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, April 20, 2014
2. Coelophysis Quarry Marker
Foundation, and The History Channel. Partners were The Army Corps of Engineers, Ghost Ranch Youth Service Corps, and Willie Picaro. Trail construction was done by the Chimayo Conservation Corps.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Paleontology. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1952.
Location. 36° 20.243′ N, 106° 27.846′ W. Marker is near Abiquiu, New Mexico, in Rio Arriba County. Marker can be reached from U.S. 84 at milepost 225 near Local Road 1708. It is on the Box Canyon Trail. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1709A US 84, Abiquiu NM 87510, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 3 other markers are within 12 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Georgia O’Keeffe (approx. 8.7 miles away); Red Rocks (approx. 8.7 miles away); Abiquiú (approx. 12 miles away).
More about this marker. The marker is on Ghost Ranch’s Box Canyon hiking trail. Park at the Welcome Center to check in and pay admission.
Also see . . .  Wikipedia Entry. “Ghost Ranch was located close to the equator 200 million years ago, and had a warm, monsoon-like climate with heavy seasonal precipitation.

“The multitude of specimens deposited so closely together at Ghost Ranch was probably the result of a flash flood, which swept away a large
Artist Conception of <i>Coelophysis bauri</i> image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jeff Martz, National Park Service artist, 2009
3. Artist Conception of Coelophysis bauri
National Park Service drawing courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
number of Coelophysis and buried them quickly and simultaneously. In fact, it seems that such flooding was commonplace during this period of the Earth’s history and, indeed, the Petrified Forest of nearby Arizona is the result of a preserved log jam of tree trunks that were caught in one such flood. Whitaker quarry at Ghost Ranch is considered a monotaxic site because it features multiple individuals of a single taxon. The quality of preservation and the ontogenic (age) range of the specimens helped make Coelophysis one of the best known of all genera. In 2009, Rinehart et al. noted that in one case the Coelophysis specimens were ‘washed into a topographic low containing a small pond, where they probably drowned and were buried by a sheet flood event from a nearby river.” (Submitted on July 9, 2014.) 
View from the Box Canyon Trail at Ghost Ranch image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, April 20, 2014
4. View from the Box Canyon Trail at Ghost Ranch
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on July 9, 2014, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 868 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on July 9, 2014, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Apr. 23, 2024