Fossil Hunting

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Facing the back parking lot, look to the right. Follow the right-side trail up the hill. When you reach the top, take the stairs down to the fossil hunting area.

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Be careful
around the rocks. It's a straight drop down to Cox Road and we don't want anyone to get hurt.
Make sure to ask one of the museum volunteers for a plastic baggie before you head up, so you have something to put your fossils in!

The rock outcrops are part of the Burlington Formation. This is 800-feet of fossiliferous limestone and chert from the Mississippian Period (325-360 million years ago).

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Collect Crinoids, Brachiopods, Blastoids and Horn Corals

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During the Mississippian, most of North America was covered by the warm, shallow Kaskaskia Sea. Marine life flourished, particularly crinoids. Crinoids, commonly called sea lilies, attach to the sea floor with a stalk and use their feathery arms to gather small particles from the water as it flows by. Today there are about 600 living species of crinoids, which is a small portion of all the crinoid species that have ever existed. The Burlington Formation contains about 260 extinct crinoid species.

Pieces of the stem are the most common parts of the crinoid to find. The stem plates were connected by ligaments that rotted away. Unless the crinoid was immediately covered by sediment, waves would scatter the plates over the ocean floor where they would eventually settle and fossilize. At the museum, we call these pieces "rusty Cheerios."

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Sometimes, you can find a section of stem still together
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The rarest portion to find is the calyx, or aboral cup. This was the section at the top of the stem that held that arms.

Ossicles (bony plates) that look like little spikes supported the arms
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Can you guess the Missouri State fossil?

The CRINOID!

Other marine fossils in the Burlington Formation include brachiopods (two-shelled animals that look like clams, but are not closely related), blastoids (sea buds), and horn (solitary) corals.

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Limestone is slightly soluble in rainwater and erodes fairly quickly. This releases fossils from the outcrops with every rainstorm. Fossils litter the ground up on the hill.
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There are leftover holes and cuts from the blasting to build Cox Rd and geologists taking samples to test the limestone. 
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We do not allow rock hounding equipment (picks, hammers, chisels, etc.) to be used to extract fossils from the outcrops

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Help us keep the area clean by not littering or defacing the rocks

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