Stolen KU fossils were plant items that visitors could touch at museum

photo by: University of Kansas

The Paleo Garden exhibit at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is pictured in this undated photo from the museum's website.

The three fossils stolen from the University of Kansas Natural History Museum over the weekend are plant fossils that visitors were allowed to touch when on display.

Lori Schlenker, collections and facilities coordinator for the museum, said in an email to the Journal-World late Tuesday that the fossils were stolen from the museum’s Paleo Garden exhibit, which allows visitors to feel the different fossils.

The plant fossils that were stolen are a petrified palm stem, a leaf compression of a Ginkgo tree and a cycad-like plant called Zamites. The largest of the three fossils is about 5 inches wide.

In light of the theft, the museum may reconsider allowing visitors to touch the fossils, Schlenker said.

“Security is a top priority for the museum, and we are exploring alternative methods to display teaching specimens as we continue to offer innovative science education opportunities for the public,” Schlenker said in the email.

The museum, which is in Dyche Hall at 1345 Jayhawk Blvd., reported the fossils missing about 9 a.m. Monday. They are believed to have been stolen between 12:30 p.m. Friday and 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The KU police crime log says an unknown suspect pried hooks from the display case to remove the fossils. The investigation is ongoing.

Deputy Chief James Anguiano of the KU Office of Public Safety said the fossils were valued at $650.

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