It's National Fossil Day, a day designated to promote awareness of just how awesome fossils are. More importantly, it's a day when every fossil-loving person with a camera shares the treasures they've found, visited, or admired. Here's the best paleo-eye candy that crossed our path.
Top image: Trilobite from the Silurian Period, 425 million years ago. Credit: Black Country Museums
Fossilized crinoid at a mineral and fossil trade show. Image credit: Cobalt
Fossils are an irreplaceable window into the world past, telling us about creatures that lived and died long ago. They're understandably cool: it's hard not to feel a thrill of excitement over tracing fingers over 190 million year old footprints.
Tracks at Grand Canyon National Park. Image credit: NPS
Yet that lust for geologic and biologic history endangers fossils, creating economic value to compete with scientific value. Attempts to control the fossil trade to preserve our window in the past lead smuggling, document falsification, and a fossil black market.
The problem of fossils disappearing isn't recent or unique. Fossil Cycad National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota was established in 1922, protecting 120 million year old tree trunk fossils of palm-like cycadeoids. It was the third fossil park after the Petrified Forest in 1906 and Dinosaur National Monument in 1915.
But the park didn't have a unified plan on how to manage the fossils, balancing between specimens being removed for research, samples going to museums, or just vanishing. By the 1930s, all surface fossils had been removed, leaving nothing for visitors. By 1957, the park was closed and removed from the system. Now, it's a lesson in the difficulties of balancing conservation, research, and public accessibility.
Fossil Day is a day to recognize the value of fossils, and, just as importantly, the value of protecting fossils. Here are some of the beautiful fossils shared with us today, including many at museums available to you come in, admire, and even study:
Fossilized Laccopteris smithii, a fern from the Late Triassic. Image credit: National Parks Service/Petrified Forest National Park
Do you have any photographs of fossils lost and found? Have you visited any amazing track sites or fossil parks? Do you have a story of a time you stumbled across fossils somewhere unexpected? Have you seen incredible samples in a museum?