Prehistoric Birds Take Flight and Pique Public Interest
Rock&Gem Magazine|December 2020
Birds have really taken flight these past two decades—ancient birds, that is! A flurry of new research has led to a flurry of books with titles like Dinosaurs of the Air, The Mistaken Extinction: Dinosaur Evolution and the Origin of Birds, Mesozoic Birds: Above the Heads of Dinosaurs, and The Rise of Birds, among others.
JIM BRACE-THOMPSON

Many of these books appeared as this new heyday was dawning, and today barely a month goes by without some major new find or journal article.

Much of this activity has been thanks to remarkable finds in China of exquisitely preserved feathered dinosaurs, dinosaur-like birds, bird-like dinosaurs, and early birds themselves. The October 2, 2020 airing of NPR’s Science Friday radio program featured young Jingmai O’Connor, described by some as “the punk rock paleontologist.” Working with the Field Museum of Chicago and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, Jingmai is in the center of the action when it comes to bird ancestors and ancient birds.

During her Science Friday interview, she noted how the field has benefited because paleontology is still a relatively new discipline in China and thus has generated much excitement and—consequently— much more funding compared to what comes out of the U.S. Treasury. New finds are made on an especially frequent basis as more eyes look to the ground among poor Chinese farmers seeking to supplement incomes with dramatic new fossils.

And all science is benefiting as ancient birds take flight from the stony pages of time!

PULLING TO KEEP GLOWING TREASURES GLOWING

The neighboring towns of Ogdensburg and Franklin, New Jersey, straddle the Franklin-Sterling Hill mining district. The district is world famous both for the economic wealth it once produced (33 million tons of high-grade zinc ore) and for its variety of collectible minerals (357 species). What really put it on the mineral collector’s map was the 91 fluorescent minerals that glow beautifully. Thanks to these and many rare mineral species, it’s been said to be one of the top ten mineral localities in the world!

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