Posts Tagged ‘Kansas’

A Rare Find

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My son was stationed at Fort Riley, and took my husband and I fossil hunting in the Niobrara Chalk of Kansas in October of 2003.

The chalk formed from an inland sea that divided North America during the age of dinosaurs.

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This is my husband. We found jaws, teeth and bones either sticking out of the chalk and laying about.

Keith had told me that if I found anything good that was embedded in the chalk, to leave my fossil bag by it, and come and get him. Otherwise I’d never find the fossils again. (Besides, I had no idea how to safely remove fossils from the chalk.)

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Luckily, he told me that, otherwise I definitely wouldn’t have found these 31 vertebrae again. The chalk had eroded down enough to completely separate them from it.

(The biggest one measures an inch in diameter.)

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What makes them so rare is that they’re shark vertebrae.

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 Shark vertebrae are made of cartilage, not bone, and are rarely preserved.


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When I went to find Keith, I found him 15 feet high on a small ledge cutting out a protosphyraena  fin (swordfish). Obviously, I had to wait until he was done.

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Later after cleaning the fossil and reshaping the chalk, he gave it to me on Christmas. The fin measures 11 1/2 inches long. It’s now displayed on a bookcase in my living room.


Anyone wanting more information on the chalk and fossils of Kansas might visit:


 for protosphyraena:


A Fossilized What?

A fossilized what?

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Yes, two fossilized pearls from the Niobrara chalk of western Kansas. My son found them and gave them to me. The small one measures 4 mm diameter and the larger 8 mm.

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Giant clams lived in the inland sea that divided north America during the age of the dinosaurs. They grew to five feet in diameter.

The small one on the right measures 11 x 9 inches and the piece of a larger one 7 x 15 inches.

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Oysters crowded together on the giant clams.

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Fossilized clams and oysters are common. Fossilized pearls are rare.

What A Story

If these fossilized vertebrae could talk ….

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 I found these mosasaur vertebrae in the Niobrara chalk of western Kansas in October 2003.

My oldest son, Keith, was stationed at Fort Riley at the time, and took my husband and I fossil hunting.

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 The Niobrara chalk formed from an inland sea that divided North America during the age of dinosaurs.  Mosasaurs were marine lizards that lived during the late Cretaceous Period. They grew to  59 feet long.

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Mike Everhart joined us for two days and looked over my finds for the trip. Keith had identified these vertebrae for me. Mike told me that a shark bit them off,  and that they were partially digested.

I can’t imagine life in an ancient sea during the time of dinosaurs.

I do know I’d rather visit it in my imagination.


Mike has an extensive website, Oceans of Kansas, and here’s the link to its page on mosasaurs.

!!! News Flash !!!

My oldest son, Keith, called me last night with the best of news —

 Keith found these 8 shark teeth in the Niobrara chalk of western Kansas. (The picture shows different angles of each tooth.)

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 Michael Siberson, a palentologist from Sweden, identified the eight teeth as a new species and named it Cretalamna ewelli after Keith.

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The Niobrara chalk formed from an inland sea that divided North America during the age of dinosaurs. This picture shows Keith in the chalk when my husband and I were there in the fall of 2003. Keith was stationed at Fort Riley for 2 years. He fossil hunted extensively those 2 years and another year after he got out of the Army. (Obviously, he’s fossil hunted since he was young.)

Among his finds were 3 turtles, which are rare. One was the size of a box turtle. He found the oldest true-flight bird of North America — 120 million years old. It was the size of a snipe and still had teeth. Birds evolved from lizards — why the teeth. Earlier birds were gliders and had to run to take flight.

He also found an inch-long armored skull that no one has any idea what it could be.  Michael Siberson also has teeth from another shark Keith found that still hasn’t been identified or named.

Keith has donated fossils to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Riley, Kansas; to the American Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Denver Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonsian in Washington D.C.

Mike Everhart, Keith’s mentor, has published a book, Oceans of Kansas, A Natural History of the Western Interior Sea. He also has an extensive website —

Mike has a lengthy page of Keith’s fossils on his website at   You’ll quickly see that not all shark teeth look like the “typical” shark tooth. Also take note of the second tooth from the bottom on the right — it’s a pedalotus I found. Mike said it was the biggest he’d seen.

  Having a shark named after Keith has reignited his passion for fossil hunting — he’s leaving in a month or so for fossil hunting in Kansas.

P.S. I just found the mystery skull Keith found. Here’s the link.


Not Just Any Petrified Wood

That person in blue sitting HIGH on a roadcut is me in Kansas in October 2003.

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Why, you ask, was I sitting way up there? There was a good reason, otherwise, I for sure wouldn’t risk bodily harm.

My oldest son was in the Army and stationed at Fort Riley. He did extensive fossil hunting while out there. He invited me and my husband out so I could have some of the fun too. My husband wasn’t quite as interested in fossils and did other things.

Keith carefully got me down to our intended destination on the shale road cut. Then he realized he’d forgotten his pick and went on down the hill, as only a coordinated person could (and that a mother couldn’t watch).

 I was afraid to breathe and kept one heel dug in. If I started sliding, there’d be no stopping until I reached the bottom.

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Look close and you will now see

something that shouldn’t be.

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Impressed? I was. This is petrified driftwood, not petrified wood, but petrified driftwood! Keith found it when driving by one day. He saw something dark sticking out with an oxidized rusty stain coming down from it. He climbed up and found the petrified wood.

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This area was under water during the Permian Age 229-251 million years ago. A log/tree floated 400-500 miles out into the sea, sank and became petrified … instead of rotting. The trees at that time were still deciduous, like the tree ferns, and had softer wood that shouldn’t have held together to float that far. It had to then have been buried then by some natural event for it to have petrified.

So, that makes this petrified wood an unique preservation.

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These next 3 pictures are from my fossil collection.

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They contain a lot of iron and are heavy for their size. The black with crystals sparkles more than shows in the picture.

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This is my biggest piece and measures almost 7 inches tall.


I will occasionally post other blogs with fossils from that trip, including ones from the Niobrara Chalk.