Tanytrachelos is a long-necked reptile that was related to the perhaps better-known nine-foot (up to three meter) long Tanystropheus, also known for its very long neck. They belong to the Protosauria, a suborder of aquatic and terrestrial reptiles. As a contribution to efforts to create a family tree for all protosaurs, a Virginia Tech graduate student is taking advantage of the plentiful and nearby collection of Tanytrachelos fossils to study their preservation and population dynamics.
Michelle Casey of Elk River, Minn., a master's degree student in geosciences at Virginia Tech, will present her findings at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting in Denver Nov. 3-6 and at the Geological Society of America 116th annual meeting Nov. 7-10, also in Denver.
All but one of the fossils of the small aquatic reptile are from the Solite Quarry, located on the Virginia-North Carolina border not too far from the museum in Martinsville, Va. and all specimens are currently accessible through the Martinsville museum.
The quarry reveals the late Triassic Cow Branch Formation. The location was a rift basin lake, one of a series of lakes from South Carolina to New Jersey that formed inland when the European continent pulled away from the American continent, forming the Atlantic Ocean.
"Working with Tanys is cool because you find a lot of them still articulated the pieces of bone are still put together," said Casey. "They must have been buried really fast or left completely undisturbed after they died."