Professor helps identify rare fossilized bird
Dr. Bob Chandler, biology professor at Georgia College, has worked for more than 30 years researching modern and fossil bird species.
Recently his expertise was used to help identify a new fossil found by a 10-year-old girl in Colorado.
“A group of park rangers from Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument near Colorado Springs brought pieces of shale and rock to the class for a project. One student, Gabby Linden, discovered a fossilized bird,” said Chandler.
Florissant is known for its rich and diverse fossil deposits. The landscape there has revealed the ancient story of redwood forests, volcanic eruptions and climate change.
“I received a call from Herb Meyer with the National Parks Service, who is a longtime colleague of mine. He wanted me to help identify a new bird found,” he said.
Chandler was sent a photo of the fossil and noticed several identifying features.
"From the shape of the head and the feet with short toes I determined that it was a potoo from the same family as whip-poor-wills and nighthawks,” said Chandler. “Since the fossil dated back about 34 to 35 million years, it is a very significant find.”
This fossil is the first potoo found in North American from the Eocene time period.
“It’s rare to find a complete fossil and even rarer to find one with feather impressions like this,” said Chandler. “This finding now proves the birds in this family were living in North America during that time period.”
Chandler is planning to take a trip to Florissant this fall to further examine the fossil.
“We will take x-rays to find out what other skeletal elements might be buried and take measures for publication of the finding,” said Chandler. “
Chandler received his Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Illinois University. He received his master’s degree in zoology from San Diego State University. He received his Ph. D. in systematics and ecology from The University of Kansas.
For more information on Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, visit nps.gov/flfo.
To learn more about the biological and environmental sciences department at Georgia College, visit gcsu.edu/biology.