The Amazing Ostrich Egg

Ken Byrneby: Ken Byrne

The ostrich is a member of the Ratite family, which also includes emu, rhea, cassowary, and kiwi. Ratites are distinguished as flightless and keel-less (having no breast bone) birds. Ostrich skeletons and fossils date back over 120 million years.

The ostrich, native to Africa, is the largest of living birds. Some males reach a height of 8 ft (244 cm) and weigh from 200 to 300 lb (90 – 135 kg), while females will range between 5.5 and 6.5 (170 cm – 200 cm) feet tall at maturity.

In the wild, a mature female will lay between 12 and 15 eggs after mating (at the rate of one every other day for several weeks). Ostrich farmers quickly remove the eggs from the nest to extend the laying season. In some cases, a domesticated hen can lay up to 80 eggs, although 40 to 50 is more typical. Ostrich eggs are the largest of all bird eggs and weigh about 2.75 pounds (1.2 kg). The contents of one ostrich egg can be equivalent to as much as two dozen chicken eggs. Read the rest of this entry »

Insects in Amber

Tami O'Connorby: Tami O’Connor

What is Amber?

Millions of years ago large forests in some parts of the world began to seep globs of sticky, aromatic resin down the sides of the trees. Unlike sap, resin is produced to protect the tree from disease and injury and is extruded through the barkInsects in Amber in Magnifying Box of the tree during rapid periods of growth.

As it continued to ooze, this resin would trap such things as insects, seeds, leaves and other light debris. As geologic time progressed, these forests were buried under sediment and the resin hardened and formed the soft, warm, golden gem we know today as amber. Most of the amber in the world ranges from 30 to 90 million years old and is found in sedimentary clay, shale and sandstones associated with layers of lignite. Read the rest of this entry »

Shark Teeth

Laurie Neilsenby: Laurie Neilsen

In honor of The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, here are some common questions asked about shark teeth, and some meaty facts to sink your teeth into.

Q. Why are some shark teeth black and others are tan?

A. The color of a fossil shark tooth is dependent upon the sediment in which it settled. As minerals slowly replace the calcium in the tooth, it changes to the color of the minerals. Color does not necessarily indicate age in a shark tooth fossil. It usually indicates the region from which the tooth was collected. Our Fossil Shark Teethfossilized shark teeth are collected from Morocco.

Q. Then how old are these fossil shark teeth?

A. It’s hard to say. A shark tooth takes approximately 10,000 years to become a true fossil. These teeth could be as much as a few million years old! Read the rest of this entry »