Still Life After Death

At the end of the Cretaceous Period, tectonic uplifting and drying created one of the Earth’s most long-lived lake systems, which covered nearly 25,000 square miles.  All of the pieces in this exhibit were quarried from Fossil Lake — one of three distinct bodies of water of the 10 million year old Eocene lake system. The environmental conditions in Fossil Lake created a lagerstätte, or literally a “storage place.” The result is a deposit containing exceptional fossils preserved in extraordinary ways.

The Fossil Lake deposit is synonymous with fish fossils, which are in great abundance. Several aquatic species are on display in this exhibit, including gar fish and crocodiles. While bird fossils are less common than fish found in the deposit, there are more different species of bird found at this locality than fish. Understanding the evolutionary history of birds is challenging, due to the incomplete fossil record. Therefore, a site like Fossil Lake that preserves the ancient bird in nearly pristine condition is invaluable for determining evolutionary relationships. A meticulously frigate bird is also on display in the exhibit. 

Included with permanent exhibit hall admission.

Curator: David Temple

“My ultimate goal in any project is to inspire a love of science,” says David Temple. “Paleontology is a topic that universally gets students excited. It is also multidisciplinary, meaning that virtually all of the sciences contribute to our understanding of the ancient past. So, students are not only excited….


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