When you visit Petrified Forest National Park (PEFO) you can not only see an amazing landscape, you can also see and learn about some of the scientific processes that are ongoing at the Park. PEFO has two fossil preparation labs where paleontological specimens are prepared for research and education: a Museum Demonstration Lab with public viewing and a Research Lab for the preparation of fossils for ongoing research.
You can speak with paleontologists Phil Varela and Diana Boudreau at the Demonstration Lab as they remove fossil materials from their surrounding matrix. The lab is open five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, and is located in the Painted Desert Community Complex.
One of the fascinating fossils being currently prepared is a small reptile known as an azendohsaur. This reptile lived in the Late Triassic Period, about 220 million years ago, and is similar to Azendohsaurus specimens previously found in Morocco and Madagascar.
Azendohsaurus has been described as “a reptile estimated to be roughly two to three meters (6.6–9.8 ft.) long. It had a small, box-shaped head with a short snout on a long neck that was raised above the shoulders.”
Differences with the Azendohsaurs found in Madagascar indicate that the Petrified Forest azendohsaur may be a separate, yet unnamed, species. According to Petrified Forest Paleontologist, Adam Marsh, based on the number of fibulae that have so far been recovered, there are at least eight individuals of the new azendohsaur in the PEFO collection. No single fully articulated individual azendohsaur has yet been found at PEFO.