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Science Lecture: Rare Finds At Gray Fossil Site

Ill. State Museum

Near the small town of Gray, Tennessee in the northeast part of that state, some amazing discoveries have taken place.  Most of it in recent years.  Elephants, rhinoceros, red pandas, saber-toothed cats.  Fossils for all have been discovered at the Gray Fossil Site.  They date back around 5 million years.

"Almost all the plants and animals we find from this fossil site are new to science," said Blaine Schubert, Director of the Center for Excellence in Paleontology at East Tennessee State University. "One of the most interesting things about this fossil site is we have a lot of transitional forms...  the alligators, the bears... are nice transitional forms."

The animal and plant fossils are well preserved because they were in a wet clay environment without access to oxygen, many discovered in a sinkhole.

"This site is the only one in the entire Appalachian region, from Georgia and Alabama all the way up to Maine and New York, that dates anywhere close to the time frame," Schubert said, pointing out the uniqueness of the Gray Fossil Site.

It's estimated only about 2 percent of the fossil site has been excavated.  So there is plenty more to discover.

Schubert returns to Springfield next week to give a lecture on the topic.  It's part of the Paul Mickey Science Lecture Series.  It takes place Wednesday night, January 14,  at 7 p.m. at the State Museum's Research and Collections Center at 1011 E. Ash Street.  It's free and open to the public.

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