The Norman Transcript

Education

September 21, 2013

Sam Noble Museum hosts fossil lecture, hunt

NORMAN — Adults with magnifying glasses in their hands and curiosity in their hearts imagined themselves as paleontologists Thursday night while examining fossils millions of years old. The Sam Noble Museum of Natural History kicked off Part 1 of its fossil field trip for adults with a lecture by Steve Westrop, curator of invertebrate paleontology, and a close-up look at a variety of fossils.

Part 2 of the fossil field trip will take place today with a trip to White Mound in Murray County and the chance to find and collect fossils.

During the lecture, Westrop saidd White Mound would have looked a lot differently during the Devonian Period, some 390 million years ago, and that it would have been completely underwater.

“The whole state (of Oklahoma) would have been underwater and in the southern hemisphere, which is why you’ll find so many invertebrate fossils,” Westrop said.

Invertebrates make up about 97 percent of the world’s animals and are much more common fossils than vertebrate fossils like that of the dinosaurs. Westrop said several different types of invertebrates are common at White Mound, including trilobites, brachiopods and solitary and colonial corals. Invertebrates less common to the area include bivalves, whose modern relative is the sea urchin, and cephalopods, like the nautilus.

With so many invertebrates up for grabs, adult fossil hunters may have a hard time deciding which ones they want to focus on, while other participants already know.

“I came last year and got a pretty good trilobite, but this year I have my heart set on a crinoid,” said Melissa Kesler, Midwest City resident.

Paleontologists and University of Oklahoma geology students have been coming to White Mound since 1909. It is one of the best known fossil collecting locations in the United States.

“People have collected fossils at White Mound for about a century,” Westrop said.

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