Paleontology is one of those fields where amateurs can, and frequently do make significant contributions. This is an inspiring story:
Imagine finding a few pieces of bone that lead to the identification of a new species. Thatâ€™s what happened to one amateur North Texas fossil hunter whose discovery goes on display with Saturdayâ€™s opening of theÂ Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
Kris Howe, of Carrollton, has been hunting fossils since he was 5. Itâ€™s something he did with his father, who taught him how to read the landscape and identify locations where the remains Â might have collected millions of years ago.
Heâ€™s especially partial to an old river bed near Lake Grapevine where he stumbled across the fossils that would earn him recognition in the world of paleontology.
â€œIf you look down the edge of this exposure you can see a difference in the color," Howe says as he retraces his path.Â â€œThat area in between is an ancient riverbed. If you had something that would be deposited it would be in the riverbed typically."
Howe remembers walking the ridge five years ago when he saw something unusual poking up through the loose, crumbling shale.
â€œThere was one little bone and a couple of feet from there was another little bone and thatâ€™s all really you could see,â€ he says. â€œI didnâ€™t know what they were."
So Howe took the bones to paleontologist Tony Fiorillo, who's now the curator of fossils at the Perot Museum.
â€œIt was material youâ€™d expect to see at the bottom of a Kentucky Fried chicken bucket,â€ FiorilloÂ muses. â€œAnd you could have picked us up off the floor because we could recognize immediately he had a fossil bird.â€
And not just any fossil bird. It was the oldest known bird ever found in North America -- about 95 million years old. And it was a new species to boot.
Read more about this amateur paleontologist's remarkable discovery.