Fossil day offers peek at past

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David Minton/DRC
People visit with exhibitors during North Texas Fossil Day at the University of North Texas on Wednesday.
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Fossils, meteorites and archeological discoveries took center stage Wednesday as part of North Texas Fossil Day at the University of North Texas.

The Environmental Education, Science and Technology Building held exhibits from the Dallas Paleontological Society, the Heard Museum, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and donations to the university. Attendees were able to see and in some cases touch the items, keys to learning about the area’s history.

“The fossils give us a history,” said George Maxey, a UNT senior lecturer and event organizer.

Maxey noted one display case that contained the huge footprint of a hadrosaur, a duck-billed dinosaur from the Cretaceous period.

“The creature that made these tracks walked where we are today,” he said. “We can see the idea that our world changes. We tend to think it shouldn’t.”

In addition to the dinosaur and fish fossils on display, Maxey said the event offered other marine creatures, fossilized wood, a recently discovered saber tooth cat, a number of shark tooth exhibits, a table where members of the Dallas Paleontological Society could identify archeological finds and a children’s fossil dig.

Maxey said the event was spurring a great deal of interest. Students as well as families looked over the exhibit pieces and engaged in discussions with the representatives of the museums they came from.

“We get a lot of students asking questions. Since we only have parts and pieces, they want to know the rest. It’s like pieces of a puzzle,” Maxey said.

He said that speculation about what the rest of a given creature looks like — how tall it was, how big — helps fuel the conversation and continued interest in the fossils. Maxey said that he had even received some calls from Denton residents who were interested in donating bones they had found to the university.

Some of the local discoveries at the event included the skull fossil of an Enchodus fish and the lower jaw fossil of a Saurodon fish, discovered this past summer by a Prosper resident while digging a swimming pool, and a 250-pound fossil of the head of an Xiphactinus audex fish discovered in 2010 in Aubrey.

Hannah Moots, lead educator for paleontology and earth science programs at the Perot Museum, said fossils tell researchers not only about the animals but also about environments and ecosystems.

At the Perot Museum’s table, Moots rattled off details about the skull, toe claw and jaw pieces on display.

One of her favorite nuggets of information to share was about the Dallas area millions of years ago.

“We know Dallas and the whole metroplex and most of Texas was under water during the Cretaceous period.” she said. “The fossils are telling us not only about animals but the history of the Earth.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is blewis@dentonrc.com .

 

 


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