Saber-tooth cats, dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals will be among the star attractions during National Fossil Day on October 13. Activities are being held around the nation in this first ever event of its kind to focus on some interesting—and really old—stuff.
At least 230 National Park Service sites preserve an amazing variety of fossils. According to organizers of the first National Fossil Day, they include billion-year-old stromatolites, 200 million-year-old dinosaurs, Ice Age mammals from thousands of years ago and a host of smaller animals and plants.
Geologists point out that some of those creatures must have been pretty intimidating way back then: There’s the saber-tooth cat, the flesh-eating Allosaurus with 5½-inch claws, and the hulking entelo-dont, a seven-foot-tall, boar-like scavenger and predator with a nasty nature and powerful jaws.
National Fossil Day is being organized on October 13 during Earth Science Week by the National Park Service and the American Geological Institute. The event is intended "to promote awareness and stewardship of fossils … and foster greater appreciation of their value to scientists and educators."
“Fossils deserve Americans’ attention and appreciation,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, “and I am proud that the National Park Service has been one of the driving forces behind the establishment of National Fossil Day. Fossils provide clues to how living things respond to change and hold important lessons for us, here on our warming Earth. Fossils excite children and adults and draw them into the world of science. Everyone should come out and learn more about America’s paleontological heritage on October 13.”
Both children and adults can participate in National Fossil Day events all across the country. One of the largest will be the National Fossil Day Celebration on the National Mall in Washington, DC, where participants can excavate fossils from chunks of sediment at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, watch lab workers clean fossils, and identify fossils with the help of paleontologists.
In Arizona, National Fossil Day coincides with the opening of the Trail of Time at Grand Canyon National Park. As visitors walk the trail, they can read about the geology and human history of the Grand Canyon and about recent climate change. Each meter on the 4.56-km trail represents a million years of geologic time.
National Fossil Week also provides a chance for the NPS to spread the word about the new Junior Paleontologist Program, part of the popular Junior Ranger program. You can download a copy of the Junior Paleontologist Activity Booklet at this link.
If you'd like to find a National Fossil Day event, the National Fossil Day website lists events by state and serves as a one-stop shop for teachers, students, and paleontology lovers seeking activities and resources to help them pursue their interest. Although the official focus on fossils will be on Wednesday, October 13, a few locations are hosting activities on the weekend before and after that date as well, so check the website for details in advance.