top of page

Our Permian Research

If you listen closely to the wind blowing over the rust red rocks of Baylor County, you might hear the prehistoric world whisper her secrets. She tells tales of magnificent beasts with razor sharp teeth and beautiful sails rising from their scaly backs. Seymour and Baylor County is the best place in the world to study the fossil remains of Lower Permian reptiles and amphibians. The term Permian refers to the age of the red rocks and soil you see exposed on the surface of the earth near Seymour, which date back to more than 287 million years ago. The first scientists to collect fossils near Seymour include the legendary Edward Drinker Cope, Jacob Boll, and Charles Sternberg, as far back as the mid 1870's. Cope would describe for the first time the iconic finback, Dimetrodon in 1878, as well as the enormous amphibian, Eryops. In 1887, Sternberg would discover the first specimen of Seymouria, an enigmatic fossil resembling both reptiles and amphibians. The world famous Craddock Ranch, located just outside of Seymour was discovered by Lawrence Baker in 1909, and is home to the greatest Lower Permian bone bed in the world. Discovered in 1910, the famous Smithsonian Dimetrodon is one of the most complete specimens of its type. Currently, the Whiteside Museum of Natural History operates on numerous ranches, including the Craddock, in pursuit of the incredible wealth of Paleontological knowledge available as close as two miles away.

The Discovery of Kennesaw

WMNH paleontologists discovered the “Kennesaw” Bone Bed on September 24, 2016. The site contains multiple layers of skeletons including thousands of isolated bones. The deposit is a result of an ancient ecosystem formed by a pond that was once part of a large river. The layers represent wet and dry seasons which attracted Dimetrodon and other animals to live, reproduce, and die naturally at this site. 


Bonnie was Discovered

Bonnie was Discovered on October 22nd, 2016. As more of Bonnie’s bones were uncovered, it was quickly realized that  Bonnie was an articulated Dimetrodon skeleton. Chris and Holly began by putting plaster on top of the specimen with a foil barrier, then dug a trench around the skeleton. Multiple layers of plaster were added to the block in ensure its strength.


Bonnie Comes Home

Once the Bonnie block was flipped using a tractor, it was dragged up the hill and loaded on a trailer.


Fun Fact!

The Bonnie jacket weighed 6,000 pounds!


Preparing Bonnie

When we got Bonnie back to the museum, we started prepping the skeleton in the fossil preparation lab. We began by removing all the dirt from the surface of the block to expose the skeleton. We then used acetone and Q-Tips to clean the dirt off the bones. Next, we used foil to create a barrier before using clay to hold the bones in place; that way they are preserved in the same position they were found in. Finally, on June 8, 2019, Bonnie was put on display for all to see. 


How Complete is Bonnie?

Bonnie is one of the most complete Dimetrodon skeletons ever discovered and includes many elements that are not typically found. The tail, for example is rare; scavengers tend to target the parts of the body with the most meat and muscle, such as the tail. One of the most important aspects of Bonnie is the articulation. In other words, her skeleton is still together as it was during her life. For a 290 million-year skeleton to be found this way says a lot about the fossilization process. For the body to be preserved, Bonnie was most likely buried by sediments a very short time after her death. As a result, scavengers did not have enough time to disarticulate and deflesh her body. 

bonnie skeeee.png

Why do Paleontologists like to dig in Seymour?

  • Seymour, Texas is the best place on earth to find fossils of early amphibians and reptiles.

  • The fossils are 290 million years old and pre-date Dinosaurs by more than 40 million years!

  • During the Permian, land-ecosystems are being dominated for the first time by vertebrates, which are animals with backbones.

  • The fossil record of early Permian vertebrate animals is better in Seymour than anywhere else because of the abundance, diversity, and preservation of the fossils.

  • The dry climate of north Texas, the minerals in the soils which help the fossilization process, and the dense red clays near Seymour are a few of the variables that promote fossilization and preservation of the ancient organisms found by paleontologists.

the Dimetrodon

Michael the Dimetrodon is heavily scavenged. Only the vertebrae, a few ribs, and fin spines remain as fossilized bones. The sequence of vertebrae preserved here begins just after the hips, heading towards the skull. In concert with the other skeletons displayed here, scavengers have removed all parts of the body that have dense muscle. This includes the tail, hips, legs, arms, neck, and shoulders. The most fragile bones in the body are in the skull;  these typically do not survive fossilization or are poorly preserved.

Michael the dimetrodon.jpg

the Dimetrodon

Guillory the Dimetrodon is a small to medium size animal. Scavengers have completely removed any traces of the skull, neck, limb bones, hips, and tail. One of Guillory’s shoulder blades, the scapula, is remarkably preserved. The top of the scapular blade has a tooth mark left by the scavengers, most likely from another Dimetrodon. (Look for the red arrow pointing at the tooth mark). Guillory also has a well-preserved rib cage. All the ribs are oriented and stacked in the same direction. This tells us the carcass was being oriented by a slow current of water. Think about how a deer carcass may be scavenged today. If the carcass is near a river or small body of water, a little bit of water covering the body has the ability to orient the light bones.

IMG_2900 copy.HEIC

the Dimetrodon

Abby the Dimetrodon was discovered by Holly Simon in 2016. Abby's skeleton is disarticulated, meaning the bones are no longer in a life position. They have been pulled apart by scavengers after death. The bones with the most muscle are understandably absent, such as the legs and tail where the densest muscles in the body are found. These are the parts that get scavenged first. Find the puncture wound on Abby's skull from another Dimetrodon.

bottom of page