A group of geologists from Kansas University and Kansas State University has received a grant of nearly $100,000 from the National Science Foundation to study five locations in the United States where there are exceptionally well-preserved fossils.
Participating in the study will be paleontologists from the Kansas Geological Survey and the Museum of Natural History at KU and the geology department at KSU.
According to Howard Feldman, paleontologist at the Kansas Geological Survey, the scientists will focus on locations where large numbers of fossils are particularly well preserved. Such sites are called "Lagerstatten," a German word for "mother lodes." Two of the sites are in Kansas the Hamilton site in Greenwood County and the Garnett site in Franklin County. The other sites include the Bear Gulch in central Montana, the Mecca Quarry in western Indiana, and a site near Albuquerque, N.M.
"These sites have been exploited for fossils but not much is known about how the fossils were preserved or about the environment at the time the fossils were preserved," Feldman said. "We want to develop general models of how these Lagerstatten are formed."
The scientists will study sites where the fossils range in age from 300 million to 350 million years old.
"We plan to dig for new fossils and to examine museum specimens that already have been discovered," Feldman said. "We will mainly examine rock outcrops at the sites and do chemical analyses for certain compounds, which will give us some idea of how the animals and plants were preserved and what conditions were like when the fossils were buried."
The scientists plan to present a paper on the early stages of their work at an international meeting this summer in Lyon, France.