08.17.2015

Answer Monday

Today we return to last Friday’s particularly colorful specimen.

 

 

This is silica field wood from Arizona dating from the Triassic; about 180 million years old. The species it came from is widely known as Araucarioxylon arizonica, although there is some debate whether this classification actually contains multiple species. These ancient trees are thought to have grown up to sixty meters in height, with diameters up to three meters. Take a look at where this forest stood today:

 

 

Hard to imagine how different it must have been! But I suspect you may have visited this place: It’s Petrified Forest National Park. This is a particularly interesting national park to view today and in old photographs.

 

 

As you see, it used to be full of fossils—one reason the area was turned into a national park. But these unique fossils are so colorful and attractive, even national park status hasn't protected them from "collectors". My grandfather visited this place as a young man. He took my father when he was a boy, and my father took our family to visit it when I was a child. My father said that there were far fewer fossils there; his father said that many fossils had been poached between the 1920s and 1960s.

The park is still a beautiful place, but it's worth remembering the importance of preserving these rare sites. Taking just one piece, for yourself, because you’re really interested in it and so you deserve it, contributes meaningfully to the decline of these special places.

On an upbeat note, John Macdonell was the winner this week. Congratulations and thanks for playing! If you have a fossil you want to share, send your pictures to me at schoerning at ncse.com.