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Digging for Fossils
Paleo & Archeo Destinations
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Family Travel Tips
 
 
Digging for Fossils

Unearthing a Stegosaurus

 

Photo by Dinosaur Safaris, Inc

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By Fodor's

Dinosaurs may be extinct in the real world, but they're alive and well in the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Long before a certain purple dinosaur commandeered the airwaves, dinosaurs were a formidable presence in children's books, games, TV shows, movies, and imaginations.

Ask your average 5-year old how to pronounce hadrosaur, and she'll tell you without stumbling over a syllable. When my own daughter, Kira, was 5, she would quiz her father and me about dinosaurs endlessly, but we never reached her level of expertise. If Dinamation International Society's Family Dino Camp had existed then, I would have taken her in a flash.

Today families can chose among places all over the world where they can dig for bones and help in paleontology labs. Most digs are dinosaur related; however, whale fossil, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger bones, as well as plant related fossils, are found at working digs, and you or someone in your family might be the first to uncover them for all the world to see.

Paleontology is mostly painstaking, slow, hot, and tedious work. Consider in advance whether your child has a real interest in and the personality to enjoy this type of multiday family vacation. Even Dino Camp, which offers a variety of child-friendly activities, is best for youngsters who already appreciate the subject. Of course, some children do discover a love of paleontology once they get involved, but it could just as easily turn out the other way. Teens and parents as well should fully discuss the itinerary, accommodations, hours, and location of a particular trip before committing. These experiences are definitely work. They're also a great fun - if you're into it - and always an incredible learning experience. Because multiday digs can be too much for some families, one-day dig opportunities can be a good way of trying out the experience. Whichever type of adventure you choose, you just might find that at the end of the trip, you'll be able to match your offspring's knowledge, if not their all-embracing love, of these prehistoric wonders.

It is assumed that most people do not know a great deal about the intricacies of digging for fossils, so lectures, talks, and hands-on lessons are very much part of the fun on this type of adventure. Reading lists and other materials about paleontology are often part of the pretrip information for expeditions. Any advance reading you do will definitely enhance your family's experience.

Excerpted from Fodor's Family Adventures by Christine Loomis Copyright 2002 by Fodors LLC, a registered trademark of Random House, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.
How Fossils Are Formed
While lots of fossils have been found the vast majority of life forms have vanished without a trace. Why? Fossil formation is a rare event even during times of mass extinction. For plants and animals to fossilize amazing things have to happen. First off, plants and animals are part of the food chain so their remains must be covered quickly before someone or something comes in search of its next meal. Tree sap and sand can form protective layers and preserve plant and animal organisms by slowing or stopping the process of decay. When we find a fossil in amber, as hardened tree sap is known, the organism is preserved in its original state. But when plants and animals are preserved in other elements, such as sand, other things have to happen too. If minerals or crystals don't take up the space created as a plant or animal decays there won't be any fossil for us to see.
Travel Trivia
Arizona shares a border with which of the following U.S. states:
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