What makes Earth unique among known planets is that it supports life.
Innumerable species have flourished across our oceans and lands masses. However, there have been periods when mass extinction took place, killing from 50 to 95 percent of the existing life and wiping out entire species. Such events took place over thousands or even millions of years, and it also took millions of years before new life forms flourished once again.
On display in the Museum are examples from at least five of the major extinction periods.
The Ordovician-Silurian extinction was the first identifiable extinction period in the Earth’s history, occurring around 440 million years ago. Decreases in earth’s temperature took out many marine life forms. Others were the victims of glacier formation that led to reduced sea levels. Then, climate trends reversed during the Silurian period.
Many species that survived the cold weren’t able to adapt and rising waters took many more. It is estimated that 75 percent of all life on earth was wiped out.
The Devonian Extinction period occurred about 360 million years ago and was the least severe of the five periods. Still, because it appears sedimentation wiped out much of the food supply and about 80 percent of the species that had evolved during the period were gone by the end of it.
About 245 million years ago the Permian Triassic Extinction period evolved. 95 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of all land based organisms had been wiped out by the end of the Permian period.
50 million years later, the Triassic period ended and the Jurassic period, the stuff of Hollywood movies, began. Researchers maintain that environmental factors during the end of the Triassic period was the key event that allowed dinosaurs to become Earth’s dominant land animal. Scientist believe volcanic activities associated with the rise and shifting of the supercontinent Pangea – where eastern North America met northwestern Africa – were responsible for this episode.
Large amounts of carbon dioxide gasses were emitted from the volcanoes, causing global warming and the oceans to be filled with toxic acids.
The fifth extinction event was the Cretaceous–Tertiary Period, which occurred just 66 million years ago. This extinction event was responsible for eliminating approximately 80 percent of all species living on earth.
This included nearly all the dinosaurs and many marine invertebrates like the famous Megalodon Shark. It is believed a large asteroid or asteroids hit the earth blocking the sunlight thereby killing most of the vegetation.
In addition to other fossils you may have seen when visiting your museum, there are four new additions. Dr. James Low has generously loaned us a Trilobite fossil as well as the casting of the claw of a Theropod Raptor. Another neighbor has gifted the museum a piece of the egg from which a Raptor was born along with a piece of fossilized Coprolite.
So, where do our newly arrived fossil friends fit into the history of earth?
Trilobites – Trilobites were a very diverse family of marine bottom feeders and are closely related to today’s spiders and scorpions.
They first appeared in the fossil record during the Cambrian period about 525 million years ago. They survived two extinction periods, but finally succumbed during the Permian period.
Trilobites were one of the Mother Nature’s most successful early efforts and were perhaps the first to have sight. Their eyes were atop their flat body which allowed them to fully view their environment.
Trilobites had a hard calcium outer shell that also served to protect them and made for perfect fossils. Your museum has several trilobites, but the one on loan from Dr. Low is particularly impressive.
You’ll love seeing the claw impression of our Therapod Raptor. The word Raptor is Latin for “abductor.”
Theropod comes from a combination of Greek words for “beast” and “foot or claw.” The foot print is a casting of the left rear claw of the Raptor who crossed over a wet clay area in what is today New Jersey. As you will see, this killer was aptly named.
The footprint dates to the Jurassic period and is about 250 million years old.
Recently added to our collection is of a portion of the birth egg of an Oviraptor. Commonly called “Egg Snatchers,” their name translates to “Egg Stealing Lizard,” although they were actually a feathered bird.
They would have been easy to spot because of their short, beaked, parrot-like skulls, often with a bony skull cap. Our egg shell is about 70,000,000 years old.
Both of our Raptor fossils are relatives of today’s hawks, eagles, and falcons and vultures – really any meat eating bird with claws that are used to tear with.
The last item donated to the museum is a piece of Coprolite – aka Dinosaur Poop! The dropping on display is over 150 million years old and comes from a fossil deposit formation in southern Utah.
Like any fossil, our Coprolite has picked up the colors of the minerals that enveloped it over millions of years.
We’re pulling together all our fossils and putting them on a display table as you enter the museum.
We hope you will stop by shortly to see them all. From a 525 million year old Trilobite to a 12,000 year old Buffalo skull we know you will enjoy this exhibition.
The museum, located at 300 S. Bolton is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.