Collecting fossils at the Petrified Forest National Park

Photo: Christian Sidor/Burke Museum
Photo: Christian Sidor/Burke Museum
November 27, 2017 | Burke Museum

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.