Category Archives: Fossils

There’s a dinosaur in town!

Well, okay, not the town I live in. But just down the road. Really.

Hadrosaurus foulkii was discovered, or most of her (him?) was, back in 1858 in a marl pit on a farm near, or maybe  in, Haddonfield. (Marl, I’m told, is a type of mud or soft stone rich in calcium – useful in acid-soil areas like South Jersey.) Dinosaur remains had first been noticed as something really strange and unknown about ten years earlier, and dinosaurs were still a bit hypothetical, based on a strange bone here and an odd tooth there. But large chunks of Haddy’s skeleton were still intact and easy to dig up. And nobody had ever seen an animal quite like that.

You can still visit the discovery site – though really, there isn’t much to see there. A plaque and an explanatory sign, a few picnic tables, and a tiny patch of woods, on a leafy dead-end residential street that looks as if no ten-foot-tall lumbering critter would ever have dared stride past the tidy houses to its death.

Or you could go to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, where Mr. Foulke, the excavator, worked back in the late nineteenth century. That’s where Haddy’s bones wound up; the hadrosaurus foulkii skeleton on display is a replica, but they have the real bones around somewhere too.

And, if you want a more colorful image, wander into downtown Haddonfield, where a statue stares benevolently (Haddy was a plant-eater) at shoppers and passing cars on Kings Highway, the main street.

And the world goes on changing.


Where are the snows of yesteryear?

Measuring one of the big snows in February 2010

Well…taking that question literally, they’ve melted, thank goodness, all 60 or 70 inches of them. They’ve soaked into the aquifer, or drained into the Delaware River and flowed out to sea. But once in a while, we run head-on into the wall of one of those cliches that are too true to believe:

Things change.

Around here, for example, people are still capable of giving directions by saying, “Well, you drive out past the Hawaiian Cottage…” even though the Hawaiian Cottage burned down years and years and years ago. Using it as a landmark is understandable, though. Who could forget a restaurant that you enter by way of a big concrete pineapple?

And if you wait long enough, things change a lot more.

Any self-respecting natural history museum can unnerve you with something like this –

(I took this photo at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in July 2009.) I wouldn’t want to meet it in a dark alley, or in broad daylight either, if it was still equipped with skin and muscles and a nubbin of brain and an empty stomach. But it’s gone, long gone, and its whole world with it. Gone like the green Sahara that dwindled and dried up before ancient Egypt began to think about pyramids.

Ah, well. We’re told that God notices the fall of a sparrow; from other sources, we’re told that birds are, in effect, living dinosaurs. If God takes note of our mini-dinosaurs of today, can he forget T. rex? 😀

T. rex, meanwhile, never guessed that her time was short; never made bucket lists or had nostalgic thoughts about how much better the Triceratopses they had when she was a kid tasted than the ones you get nowadays. We know better, or worse.  Good or bad, this is the only 2012 we get. Appreciate it.