Kansas designates two official state fossils

Wed, 04/09/2014

Contact

Jen Humphrey
KU Natural History Museum
785-864-2344

LAWRENCE — As anyone who has attended Kansas public schools can attest, the Western Meadowlark is the state bird, and the Wild Native Sunflower is its official state flower. Now they can add two signature Kansas fossil animals to the list of exemplary animals and plants that represent the state – one, an extinct reptile that swam the oceans that covered Kansas 85 million years ago, and one that soared the skies above the ocean.

A new law, signed by Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday, designates Tylosaurus, a giant mosasaur, as the Kansas marine fossil, and Pteranodon, a winged pterosaur, as the Kansas flight fossil.

Geological deposits in Kansas provide among the most complete, fossilized skeletons of both Tylosaurus and Pteranodon, both found at the KU Natural History Museum, the Fort Hays State University Sternberg Museum of Natural History, and other major museums nationally and internationally.

“What dinosaurs are to Wyoming and Montana, mosasaurs and pterosaurs are to Kansas,” said Leonard Krishtalka, director of the KU Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum. “For scientists and the public at large, Tylosaurus and Pteranodon represent Kansas science and paleontology worldwide better than any other fossil animal.”

Reese Barrick, director of the Sternberg museum, said that the law was important recognition of the state’s fossil heritage and that many of the state’s spectacular fossils are exhibited in museums around the world.

Although Tylosaurus and Pteranodon lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, neither of these extinct animals are dinosaurs.

Tylosaurus was a giant predatory lizard-like denizen of the sea that grew to lengths of about 45 feet and was the top predator of the oceans of that time. Although Tylosaurus is now known from many other places around the world, the most complete specimens have been recovered from the chalk beds in western Kansas that were deposited by the ancient ocean.

Pteranodon is a genus of extinct, giant flying reptile called pterosaurs that lived on the cliffs and coastal areas beside the oceans covering Kansas during the Late Cretaceous, and fed on fish and other marine life.

For those looking for examples of these fossils in Lawrence, the KU Natural History Museum’s lobby features one of the largest mosasaurs ever found, a Tylosaurus excavated near Scott City.  On the third floor of the museum, the newly renovated Pteranodon exhibit reveals the full wingspan of the animal.

In Hays, the Sternberg museum features both the type specimen of Pteranodon sternbergi and a complete Tylosaurus collected and mounted by George Sternberg in its Cretaceous fossil gallery.  Life-sized models of these Creatures are also prominent in their Cretaceous dioramas.



KU in the news
Christian Science MonitorThu, 08/21/2014
Columbia Journalism ReviewThu, 08/21/2014
Can a new species of frog have a doppelgänger? KU researchers say yes. Learn more about the discovery here: http://bit.ly/XHT3H3 Tags: #KUdiscoveries #KUresearch #KUstudents #Frog #LookAlike

Rrrroar! #KUresearch proved the Tyrannosaurus rex was a predator. http://t.co/8V5XazL0FI #KUfacts #KUdiscoveries #dinosaurs
Poet offers insights to Jayhawk experience through wordplay "Welcome to KU. Where questions rest, in stacks of answers from the past. …" Listen to Topher Enneking, a spoken word poet and former KU football player, as he weaves the experience of KU and its traditions through this storytelling and wordplay performance. Learn more about KU traditions at http://www.ku.edu/about/traditions/. Welcome to KU. Where questions rest in stacks of answers from the past. Where dreams crawl out of bed And learn to walk Uphill both ways. Where freshmen stand on stilts And hang from the rafters, While the wheat waves In a fieldhouse Where the Phog rolls in Helping us to see Through the past into the future. Haunting hosts giving handouts in a heritage Too heavy to grasp til you add to it. So it may be born anew, Allowing our boots to stand in the ash of oppression’s hate But shine bright as the sun While war cries of warriors past Ring in our ears long after their battles are won. Memorials telling time, “you don’t have to stand still.” Because the top of the world Is just up that Hill. Where our natural history is an awe-struck echo Of world’s fair and equal Past, present and future, prelude and sequel. Where our flags fly above planes. Where we build in chalks that can’t be erased. Stone edifices made to last So you would walk Past their doors, down their halls And let your voice fill their room. Because only in empty silence can destruction loom. So stand tall. Wrap your arms around this crowd Sing our alma mater and sing it out loud. Let your voice sing in chorus and reach other nations Beckoning new Jayhawks to spark new collaborations Because you are the mortar that will hold these walls upright. Your future Your dreams are why Jayhawks did fight For the tradition before you Was merely prelude For what will come next now that you’re at KU.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
1 of 9 public universities with outstanding study abroad programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
$260.5 million in externally funded research expenditures
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times