Miocene Alligator Skull
Some of you may remember the report I posted from our Florida dive trip back in 2006. I had spent a few days diving with Jerry in the Santa Fe River and had recovered part of a fossil alligator skull.
Me working the bottom of the Santa Fe River looking for fossil bones.
The area where the alligator skull was found.
I was in an area that was covered with sand, I noticed a piece of fossil turtle shell poking out of the sand and plucked it out to get a better look. I fanned away the sand and silt to observe many more fossils. As I removed more of the sand, more bones appeared, many alligator armour scutes, teeth and other collectible fossils were there and I knew I had hit on a hot spot that had not been worked by other divers. I conducted two dives at this location and loaded my bag with great finds. At the end of the day I showed my finds to Jerry and we decided to hit this location the next day.
The following day we were back at the location and again we were finding an unusual amount of great material for a fairly small area. We were only working in around 10-15 feet of water which gave us plenty of bottom time. I was staying on the bottom around two hours and twenty minutes each dive at three dives a day, that's seven hours underwater!
On the second dive of the day I had worked the bottom down to the clay layer and decided to stick my hand in and see if there was anything in the clay. About a foot down, I felt something hard and pulled it out of the muck, it was a section of jawbone with teeth. I examined it underwater and determined it was a section of alligator jaw. I stuck my hand in again and pulled out more bone pieces and teeth. I continued to remove the fossils from the clay for the duration of that dive, when I surfaced, I changed my tank and put some gallon ziplock bags in my goodie bag and went back down. For the next two hours I pulled out bone fragments, teeth and scutes from what appeared to be one gator specimen. I lined the ziplock bags on the bottom next to me and filled them up.
The alligator bones just after I brought them up from the Santa Fe River.
The bones at home drying in 2006.
These are the smaller pieces that I am still slowly piecing together.
When I first tried to put the skull back together, I pieced as much together as I could, then placed the parts where I thought they should go on a mounting board. It worked ok, but it never looked quite right, I eventually took the mount apart and boxed it up for re-assembly later.
At the Grassy Creek show in 2008 I bought this boiled alligator skull to use as a template to rebuild my fossil. This skull is from about a 10-12 foot gator. I had taken the teeth and jaw of my fossil to a herpetologist to get an idea of the size of my gator, he said from looking at the teeth etc, it was in the 20-22 foot range when alive, I decided to mount the new skull on a board and then build my fossil around it, this would give me room for the larger size of my skull and I could use the new skull as a base to attach the fossil parts to.
Using the complete skull as a guide I was able to locate the correct placing for all the fossil pieces I had put together.