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Kansas, US



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There is no official state fossil for this state. Encourage your state legislature to adopt one today!

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Paleontology and geology

The Precambrian: The only Precambrian rocks in Kansas consist of subsurface bedrock that underlies the entire state. No fossils are known from these rocks.

The Paleozoic: The Early Paleozoic (Cambrian through Devonian) in Kansas is represented only in drill cores that provide evidence of a shallow sea. The Late Paleozoic (Carboniferous and Permian), in contrast, is well represented by surface rocks. Sea level rose and fell repeatedly during the Carboniferous, and great swamps formed along the shores. Amphibians and early reptiles flourished in the swamps, along with the ferns, scale trees (Lycophyta), and other plants that provided the organic material that would eventually become coal. A diversity of marine invertebrates thrived in the warm, shallow seas. During the Permian, the climate became much drier and shallow seas were restricted to central Kansas. The harsh Permian climate did not support a rich diversity of life, but rare fossils of lungfish, sharks, and fish have been found.

The Mesozoic:The Mesozoic is represented in Kansas primarily by Cretaceous rocks. Fossils of plants and marine invertebrates provide evidence that a shallow, warm sea covered the western part of the state at this time. Later in the Cretaceous, the sea deepened and sharks, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, turtles, fish, and numerous invertebrates flourished.

The Cenozoic: Most Tertiary rocks in Kansas were formed by the activity of streams carrying sediment eroding off the Rockies to the west and filling wide, shallow valleys, creating a broad plain. The climate was wetter and milder than today and the landscape was savanna-like. In the Quaternary, vast glaciers spread over the northeastern part of the state for a short time. Fine silt, ground from rock by the glaciers, was blown over much of Kansas to form loess deposits. Sand dunes piled up in the south central and southwest parts of the state. Coniferous forests, grassland savannas, and short grass prairies spread. Mammals such as mammoths, mastodons, camels, and saber-toothed cats, were common.

Links to more on Kansas paleontology

Organizations | Education and Exhibits | Research and Collections | Resources


Museums (showing 3 of 3 listings)

Sternberg Museum of Natural History: This museum in Hays, associated with Fort Hays State University, features exhibits and educational programs on a variety of topics include paleontology.

The University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center: This site provides general information about the University of Kansas Natural History Museum - its exhibits, programs, research and collections.

Fick Fossil and History Museum: A family-friendly museum located in Oakley.

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Colleges and Universities (showing 2 of 2 listings)

University of Kansas, Lawrence: The Paleontology program offers courses for undergraduate and graduate students.

The University of Kansas Paleontological Institute: The institute publishes the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, as well as an associated journal and database, focusing on paleontology of the Midcontinent.

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Education and Exhibits

Virtual Exhibits (showing 1 of 1 listings)

GeoKansas: GeoKansas is designed to provide information about Kansas geology and fossils. Includes images, field trip routes, and information on places to visit. From the Geology Extension program at the Kansas Geological Survey.

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Research and Collections

Researchers (showing 1 of 1 listings)

University of Kansas Paleobotanical Collection: Collection of fossil plants currently housed at the University of Kansas.

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Ongoing Research Projects (showing 1 of 1 listings)

The University of Kansas Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center, Division of Invertebrate Paleontology: The facility is located in Lindley Hall on the University of Kansas campus.

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Image Collections (showing 2 of 2 listings)

Some Fossil Brachiopods: Images of several fossil brachiopods, dating in geologic age from early Cambrian to Pleistocene, with explanatory text.

Levin Fossil Collection: An image gallery of an amateur collector's finds, focusing on fossils of all ages from Kansas.

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Databases (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Division of Invertebrate Paleontology, Natural History Museum & Biodiversity Center, University of Kansas: Search the online database (includes trace fossils, microfossils, and macrofossils), view image galleries, and find out more about the division's fossil collections.

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Field Guides (showing 2 of 2 listings)

Oceans of Kansas: Photographs, artwork, historical papers, and other information on the sea creatures, especially mosasaurs and plesiosaurs, that lived in the Western United States during the Cretaceous period.

Ancient Life Found in Kansas Rocks—An Introduction to Common Kansas Fossils: This detailed and informative site includes a Kansas geologic timetable, fossil classification, images, vocabulary, and more. This site is based on a book available from from the Kansas Geological Survey.

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On-line Journals/Publications (showing 1 of 1 listings)

Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology: Presents a comprehensive and authoritative yet compact statement of knowledge concerning groups of invertebrate fossils. Listing of print volumes available for order on-line.

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