The Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum has a new exhibit titled “Land of Lakes.” This exhibit displays fish and plant fossils from the Green River Formation. The focal point of the exhibit is a large leaf of the extinct palm Sabalites, which perfectly complements the museum’s continually growing displays of prehistoric items.
The “Land of Lakes” exhibit displays fossils from lake deposits from areas of western North America from New Mexico to Wyoming, which were covered mostly by large lakes approximately 40 to 60 million years ago. Lake dwellers such as a variety of fish became frequently preserved in the lake sediments, but occasionally remains of land organisms like a palm leaf were washed into the lake during rains. One of the largest fossils found in the Green River Formation are fossil palm leaves that confirm the tropical climate at that time. The new fossil leaf at the museum is about 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide, and is nearly 50 million years old.
“The fossil palm leaf is the largest plant fossil that we have in our collection,” Axel Hungerbuehler, Mesalands natural science curator, said. “The palm leaf definitely makes for a very attractive display.”
Hungerbuehler says it is rare to find a complete fossil palm leaf and the museum is pleased to have it on display.
The palm leaf and the other fossils on display in the new exhibit were entrusted to the museum by the Fossil Butte National Monument, which is a unit of the National Park Service.