by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation
Today is the first official National Fossil Day. Organized by the National Parks Service and the American Geological Institute, National Fossil Day was created to,
promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values.
Fossils, the petrified, preserved remains of plants, animals and other organisms, tell us what the world was like throughout deep time – the estimated 3.5 billion years that life has existed on Earth. You’d be surprised what can become a fossil: bone, tracks, impressions, burrows, eggshells, and even poop! The oldest fossils paleontologists know of so far are bacteria, fossilized mats of cyanobacteria called stromatolites – 3.4 billion years old. We even have fossilized stromatolites here in northern Colorado. Not quite as old, but just as cool. Fossils are the story of life recorded in the Earth, and if that’s not a reason to celebrate with a dinosaur cupcake, what is?
How else can you celebrate National Fossil Day? Here are some ideas:
Places to Visit
In Colorado, there are plenty of places to go and see fossils, including:
- Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
- Black Canyon of the GunnisonNational Park
- Colorado National Monument
- Curecanti National Recreation Area
- Dinosaur National Monument
- Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
- Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Yucca House National Monument
If you can’t travel all the way to a park, stop by a natural history and/or science museum. The Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center has a great fossil exhibit for children, and just wait until you see the exhibit in our new museum!
And if you don’t live in Colorado, no problem! There are 230 Fossils Parks run by the NPS – chances are there’s one not too far from you.
Books to Read
There are hundreds of books on fossils; here are just a few of the good ones. Be sure to check your local library for more.
- Fossils, by David Ward
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Fossils, by Ida Thompson
- Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip, by Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll
- Digging Up Dinosaurs, by Aliki
- The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World, by Shelley Emling
- Raptors, Fossils, Fins and Fangs: A Prehistoric Creature Feature, by Ray Troll and Bradford Matsen
- Fossil Legends of the First Americas, by Adrienne Mayor
- Stately Fossils: A Comprehensive Look at State Fossils and Other Official Fossils, by Stephen Brusatte
For some Colorado-specific fossil books, try reading:
- Ancient Denvers: Scenes from the Past 300 Million Years of the Colorado Front Range, by Kirk Johnson
- Colorado Rockhounding: A Guide to Minerals, Gemstones and Fossils, by Stephen M. Voynick
- Fossils of Florissant, by Herbert W. Meyer
- Life in Stone: Fossils of the Colorado Plateau, by Christa Sadler
What would be your perfect way to enjoy National Fossil Day?