Fossil site marks 20th anniversary with open house

NORTH BEND – The Red Hill Fossil Display and Field Station will hold an open house from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the Chapman Township Building, 196 Main St.

Fossils found at the site will be on display and tours of the road-cut collecting site will be available. Fossil hunts for children will be held from 3:30 to 4:30 at the building.

“Our site is particularly unique because a tetrapod fossil was found 20 years ago, on Aug. 17,” said Jan Pycha, a site volunteer.

The tetrapod was an amphibian, but may have had some fish-like characteristics such as a tail and gills. However, it also developed legs from its lobe-finned fish ancestors, said Doug Rowe, who is responsible for developing and managing the Red Hill Fossil Display and Field Station.

“It may have looked like a large salamander,” Rowe said.

The Red Hill site is one of a few places – and the most productive – in the U.S. where fossils of fish and animals that dwelt in and around fresh water during the Devonian period can be found. The Devonian period represents creatures that lived about 363 million years ago.

“It is an active, ongoing site for the discovery and research of evolving animals from that era,” Pycha said.

From 4:30 to 5 p.m., Dr. Ted Daeschler, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia, will talk about Red Hill as “a world-class fossil site.”

All of the events are free and open to the public.

Daeschler was one of the paleontologists who found the first tetrapod fossils at Red Hill in 1993. The fossils later were attributed as those of a species named Hynerpeton and includes parts of a shoulder and lower jaws, among others.

The actual road cut where the unique fossils have been found is owned by the state Department of Transportation, which cooperates with field station volunteers and researchers and township officials to help further the station’s “primary goals of discovery, science, education and research.”

For more information, or to make an appointment to search for fossils in the rubble at the bottom of the road cut, call 923-2044.