|Oligocene fossils fill this cabinet.|
In this edition of the new feature Science Behind-the-Scenes, meet the Burke's fossil collection and find out the secret of our ugly fossils!
|Our gorgeous Xiphactinus guards the ugly palm.|
As a paleontologist (someone who studies dinosaurs and other prehistoric life), my favorite cabinets are, of course, the ones filled with fossils. And the Burke has a lot of fossils – over 3 million – including plants, animals, invertebrates (like snails), and even fossilized pollen. Only a few of the Burke's fossils are on display because there's just not enough room to show them all. You can visit dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts in the Life and Times exhibit or see fossilized plants and pollen in the Estella Leopold display under the giant Xiphactinus.
|The Ugly Palm|
A great example of this is the fossilized palm plant in the Estella Leopold display. The palm looks like a dark brown bug splat on a grey rock, and it's covered in glue and surrounded by plaster. But this is the first and only palm fossil from the area it was found and it tells us a lot about what that area was like millions of years ago because palm plants need a warm and wet environment to live. Without this ugly fossil, we might not know as much as we do about how the climate in North American has changed over millions of years.
|A drawer full of oreodont teeth.|
And that can tell us all sorts of other things, like how animal communities change, so stay tuned for the Paleoecology edition of Science Behind-the-Scenes! And look for more Science Behind-the-Scenes at the Burke to learn about the mammal, bird, fish, and DNA collections, the collection managers who make research at the Burke possible, and the scientists who use the collections – and what they've discovered.