Thursday, June 30, 2011

Everhart's plesiosaur femur

One of the most fascinating things about the Kansas Outback is the ancient wildlife.  I was recently fortunate to spend a day with Mike Everhart, author of Oceans of Kansas, and Adjunct Curator of Paleontology at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays.  Mike and I explored the Kiowa shale of south-central Kansas.  This part of the shale is in what is known as the lower Cretaceous.  Back then, waaaaaaaay back then about 100 million years ago, Kansas was covered by a sea.  And in that sea was a wealth of animal life.  This part of the sea was shallow and, therefore, had lots of clams, oysters, snails and many other invertebrates common to shallower waters.  But, occasionally, a shark or plesiosaur swam into the shallows.  We were on the hunt for these vertebrates as well as some ammonites, spiral-shaped shells which looked similar to the modern day Nautilus in our current oceans.  We scored on a plesiosaur femur and two vertebrae.   Mike explained this is probably a rear flipper femur from a short-necked plesiosaur. The wildlife of the Kansas Outback is fascinating, both current day and of the pre-historic past!  Learn more about the ancient wildlife of Kansas by googling Oceans of Kansas.

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