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What's New and Cool at the Denver Gem and Mineral Show
Seen at the 1st Annual Colorado Fossil Exposition

My wide angle lens just wasn't wide enough to take in all of the spacious arena hosting the fossil exhibition with a single shot, so here's two that combine for the panorama greeting rockhounds as they entered the Fossil Expo from the gem and mineral show via a connecting hall. There were over 40 dealers and exhibitors attending the 1st Annual Colorado Fossil Exposition, which was held in cooperation with the Denver Gem and Mineral Show. A single $4.00 (adult) ticket covered admission to both shows.

Meet Stan!

Or Perhaps That's: Meat Stan...

This Tyrannosaurus rex was undoubtedly responsible for removing a fair amount of dinosaur DNA from the gene pool during his reign in the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago. This cast skeletal reproduction of Stan was also the top predator exhibit at the Fossil Exposition. My camcorder faithfully recorded my words after first seeing Stan, which were "Oh, my God...."

Life was harder in days gone by, eh?

Stan was named after his discoverer, Stan Sacrison, who found the pelvis weathering out of a cliff face while he was exploring outcrops of the Hell Creek Formation near Buffalo, South Dakota. Study of Stan's fossilized remains has revealed that life was hard for him as well as his prey. He endured broken teeth and ribs as well as a broken neck which healed with fused vertebrae. His cheeks also sport healed injuries, as does the back of his skull which was penetrated by a hole more than an inch in diameter, very possibly acquired from the bite of another T. rex. That injury broke away a two by five inch chunk of bone and scarred Stan's brain case, but he survived even that terrific wound, as evidenced by a thin layer of bone which healed over the broken surface.

Perhaps some of those injuries resulted from love spats with a mate while she was impressing who was the boss on him. It's rather hard to imagine while looking at Stan, but if he had a girlfriend, she would have typically out-massed him by another thirty percent or so...

Stan was excavated by the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research staff in 1992 and virtually all of the skull was recovered, which was assembled from over 40 individual bones. The Institute has been involved in recovering five Tyrannosaurus rex specimens since 1990. Stan's original skeleton was nearly 65% complete, and from it and other specimens the Institute staff has produced what is probably the most accurate and faithful T. rex reproduction in the world.

The Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Inc. dates back to 1974, started as Black Hills Minerals, which was an Earth science supply house purveying mineral and fossil specimens from the Black Hills region. Today the Institute operates a museum in Hill City, South Dakota, employs a staff of 16 geologists and specimen preparers, and has earned a world-wide reputation for professionally prepared fossil specimens and museum quality cast replicas.

Of course, new design Stan TM t-shirts were available in basic black or earthtone khaki. $15.95 for adult sizes, $11.95-$13.95 for children's. Now really gentlemen, Stan TM...?

Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Box 643, 217 Main Street, Hill city, South Dakota 57745 Phone (605) 574-4289 Fax (605) 574-2518

Gemmy Ammonites

Ammonites were a large family of now extinct sea-faring animals similar to the modern chambered nautilus. Ammonites grew light and complex chambered shells which they employed as a trimable flotation devices, allowing them to float at regulated depths in their search for food. They thrived throughout the ancient oceans and evolved into numerous species with distinct shell forms over millions of years.

Their innumerable shells are preserved as fossils in geologic strata throughout the world. Due to their rapid evolution and wide distribution, ammonite fossils are often employed by geologists as markers in dating layers of rocks of sedimentary origin. The ammonites were wiped out with the dinosaurs in a mass extinction level event at the end of the Mesozoic Era, which severely impacted the surface planktons of the Earth's oceans, on which immature ammonites fed.

In a unique deposit in Alberta, Canada, ammonite shell remains underwent a remarkable mineralization, which transformed them into gemmy material that rivals any opal for color and iridescence. This material is known as ammolite, and it is officially recognized by the International Commission of Colored Gemstones as well as being Canada's gemstone.

G.B. Enterprises showed quite a number of these gemmy ammonites at their booth in the Fossil Expo. Note the motel room key I included for scale near the largest specimen depicted in the views above. This specimen was offered at $6000 and it was very beautifully mineralized, displaying all the colors of the rainbow, as shown in the close-up above right. Why settle for a 'big' opal when you could have one of these babies taking up most of your coffee table?

This dealer also showed several display boxes filled with ammolite cabs, most of which were cut freeform, undoubtedly to obtain the greatest possible yield from the rough. There were some real beauties among them, and I think an ammolite bola would be a real conversation starter. These lapidaried pieces were priced from $60 to $150 or so, depending on their size and eye candy factor. Each piece of ammolite is unique, and those showing three or more colors are the rarest and considered to be the most desirable. Of course, they are also the most expensive. Ammolite is relatively soft and delicate, and as with opal, pieces employed in jewelry are often lapidaried as doublets, covered by a thin layer of clear quartz for protection.

Hmm, I wonder if they've got any intact, ammolitized baby ammonite shells, something around 35 mm...

Gary Boyko, G.B. Enterprises, 1203-145 Point Drive NW Tower 1, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3B 4W1 Phone/Fax: (403) 283-7720

Flat Fishes

I have a friend who has a particular interest in fossils that could be lumped together and described as "flat fishes", the sort of geological road kill/art by God suitable for hanging and displaying on walls. Many fossils are replacements of only the hard parts of an organism, such as shells and bones. However, a fossilizing process known carbonization can result in the conversion of soft tissues into a thin film of carbon which is ultimately preserved as a highly compressed, two dimensional impression of the organism.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous and familiar of the flat fishes are specimens from the Green River Shales of Wyoming. I have a 6 inch Green River Dyplomystus in my own rock collection. There are other formations about the world which are inhabited by flat fish, and some truly fine specimens come from a Cretaceous sublithographic limestone in Lebanon.

Shown above is a "Guitar Fish", Rhinobatos hakelensis from Haquel, Lebanon. This fossil wanted $950. I'm pretty sure I saw one of these rays swimming around while scuba diving at a remote island in the Sea of Cortez just a few years ago... ;)

Above left is a Spiny Lobster, Palinurus sp, also from Haquel, Lebanon. It was offered at $1290, note the bonus fish. Above right is a flat fish that I thought particularly aesthetic, an "Exotic Fish", Gyronchus sp from Nammoura, Lebanon. $2000. Some of these, Dan? :)

PaleoSearch Inc., Hays, Kansas

So concludes my 1998 Denver Show report - I hope you've enjoyed browsing some of these little windows into various facets of the Denver Show as much as I've enjoyed presenting them. Denver was truly a rockhound extravaganza, and I'm afraid my reporting efforts only begin to scratch the surface of what was to be seen and learned by those of us who were fortunate enough to attend. Perhaps I'll see you there next year...

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