Make a Fossil Game

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Dunkleosteus head on display at a Canadian museum

ERN Item Type: 

  • Classroom Activities


National Park Service (NPS)


Fossil Butte National Monument preserves an extraordinarily high amount of fossils that are well-preserved. These fossils are here thanks to Fossil Lake which existed 52 million years ago. The lake's bottom was quite salty and lacked oxygen which differs from the lake's freshwater, oxygenated surface. Because of this, when a fish died and sank to the bottom of th elake, nonexistent scavengers and decomposing bacteria did not disturb the carcus. Mud and algae from the lake's surface sank to the bottom of the lake, slowly covering the corpse. The dead fish fossilized after millions of years before beign uplifted and exposed to paleontologists. This activity applies an abstract concept, fossilization, in a short, hands-on activity.

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