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UNT shines light on fossils next week


In the past two years, a resident’s evening walk along a dry creek bed and the digging of a backyard swimming pool led to discoveries of fossils of predatory fish species that once lived in coastal waters that covered parts of the North Texas region.

The fossils of these creatures, who lived between 65 million and 100 million years ago, will be among specimens on display on Wednesday, Oct. 17, during UNT’s North Texas Fossil Day, which will also feature experts at a fossil identification table.

The event is UNT’s observance of National Fossil Day.

Activities are scheduled from 1 to 9 p.m. on the first floor of UNT’s Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building, 1704 W. Mulberry St. at Avenue C. Admission is free.

North Texas Fossil Day will include exhibits of fossils, meteorites and other archaeological discoveries, including the skull fossil of an Enchodus, a fish with protruding front fangs known as the “saber-toothed herring,” and the lower jaw fossil of a Saurodon, a thin fish with a spear-like snout. Both fossils were discovered this past July on the property of Prosper resident Pat Jones during the digging of a backyard swimming pool, and are estimated to be between 85 and 90 million years old.

The Enchodus and Saurodon fossils will be unveiled to the public for the first time on North Texas Fossil Day. They will join a 250-pound fossil of the head of an Xiphactinus audex fish, and a fossil of the right flipper of the creature, which lived between 100 million and 65 million years ago. Discovered in late 2010 by Denton County resident Paul Jones and his daughter Maggie, the Xiphactinus fossils have been on display on the first floor of the EESAT Building since April.

Other displays include skulls of early human species discovered by geography professor Reid Ferring and UNT graduate students at an archaeological site in Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia; meteorites; dinosaur tracks uncovered from Grapevine Lake; and teeth from a Megalodon, an extinct shark species. At another exhibit table, a staff member from the Heard Natural Science Museum in McKinney will demonstrate the cleaning of a fossil.

From 3 to 9 p.m., visitors to North Texas Fossil Day can have their archaeological specimens identified by members of the Dallas Paleontological Society. George Maxey, a UNT lecturer in geography and the education director for the society, has been identifying specimens in the university’s Meteorite, Rock, Mineral and Fossil Identification Lab since it opened in 2010, and identified the Xiphactinus, Enchodus and Saurodon fossils.

North Texas Fossil Day will also have presentations on the Arlington Archaeosaur Site in northern Arlington, the largest current excavation site in the U.S.; meteorites and the demise of dinosaurs; and fossils commonly found in Texas, among others. Children may dig for their own mock fossils from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., and UNT’s Sky Theater in the EESAT Building will show Dinosaur Passage to Pangea at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. and In Search of Megalodon at 4 p.m.

For more information on North Texas Fossil Day, call the UNT Department of Geography at 940-565-2091 or UNT’s Elm Fork Education Center at 940-565-4912.