Collecting fossils at the Petrified Forest National Park

November 27, 2017
Burke Museum
A Burke Museum field site at the Petrified Forest

A Burke Museum field site at the Petrified Forest.

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is an incredible sight. Often referred to as the Painted Desert, the landscape is made up of stark, colorful badlands and contains one of the biggest collections of petrified wood in the world.

The Petrified Forest is also an important resource for Burke Museum paleontologists. With the age of the rocks in the Petrified Forest to be estimated at around 205-225 million years old, specimens from this region can answer crucial questions about the Late Triassic era. 

Christian Sidor, Burke Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology, leads a research team to do fieldwork in the Petrified Forest each summer in collaboration with Petrified Forest paleontologists.

This past summer, Burke Museum volunteer Gary Livingston discovered an osteoderm, or piece of armored plating, from the back of a prehistoric animal known as Aetosaur. The fossil contains a unique pattern allowing paleontologists to identify which species it came from, similar to a fingerprint. 

Burke researchers will continue to collect fossils at the Petrified Forest get a better understanding of what life was like during the Late Triassic and better our understanding of how life evolves. 

 A tiny fossil found in the Petrified Forest.

A tiny fossil found in the Petrified Forest.

Photo: Burke Museum

Bill Parker describes an osteoderm fossil found in the Petrified Forest.

Bill Parker describes an osteoderm fossil found in the Petrified Forest.

Photo: Burke Museum

Petrified Forest’s lead paleontologist Bill Parker and Burke volunteer Gary Livingston search for fossils.

Petrified Forest’s lead paleontologist Bill Parker and Burke volunteer Gary Livingston search for fossils. 

Photo: Burke Museum

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