July 3, 2013
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Communications & Public Outreach
(307) 766-2286 x231
New Book by World’s Foremost Expert Available on Wyoming’s Ancient Fossil Lake
A comprehensive new guide to Wyoming’s fossils of the Green River Formation promises to be a landmark reference for amateurs and professionals alike. The Lost World of Fossil Lake is a 425-page, full color book by paleontologist Lance Grande, the world’s foremost expert on fossilized organisms discovered in the 52 million year old Fossil Butte Member in southwest Wyoming.
The coffee table-style book includes 243 color photos of fossils, and is available for $45 from the Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) (Online Store), or by calling 307-766-2286.
“The Green River Formation is probably the world’s most popular fossil location for amateur collectors, and it is a major site for scientists who have made world paleontology discoveries over the last 150 years,” says Grande, who serves as the Distinguished Service Curator of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Fossils discovered in the ancient Fossil Lake include fishes, alligators, bats, turtles, insects, palm trees, and many other species of plants and animals. “These organisms were preserved in layers of limestone, sediments that accumulated over thousands of years,” says Grande.
The book examines the fossil discoveries, provides a classification of these organisms, and chronicles the natural history and scenes of Eocene life in and around Fossil Lake. It also includes a field guide and atlas designed to enable readers to identify and classify many of the known fossils from the Green River Formation.
More than 50 million years ago, during the Tertiary Period, Fossil Lake was one of three great lakes that covered what is now Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. Fossil Lake was a subtropical ecosystem, a landscape teeming with plant and animal life. The higher elevations surrounding this subtropical environment included highlands and mountains of a more temperate climate. Today the region is a rocky and dry desert where paleontologists continue to dig up astonishing traces of our vanished flora and fauna.
One of the earliest known mammals with a prehensile tail was discovered at Fossil Lake. It used its tail to grasp branches similar to modern day primates that swing through the trees, but unlike our modern day species, the prehensile tailed animal that inhabited Fossil Lake was a carnivore. Fossil Lake was also an evolutionary hot spot for parrots and many other families of birds found in today’s tropical regions of the world.
This lush landscape also included hundreds species of insects and two distinct species of bats, including the most primitive known member of the bat order, as found in the fossil record.
“Wyoming’s fossils have always fascinated the public and scientists,” says Tom Drean, director of the WSGS. “They tell a story of our Earth’s past, and we are pleased to once again offer a book on our fossil resources and by Lance Grande,” says Drean.
Grande has previously published a book about the fossils of the Green River Formation in a WSGS bulletin titled “Paleontology of the Green River Formation,” which since 1980 has resulted in two editions and five printings.
“This new book includes color images and new specimens that have never been published before and focuses on the most productive member of the Green River Formation, Fossil Butte,” says Grande.