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Kansas Kaleidoscope - February/March 2002

Real People. Real Stories.

(Volume 5, Number 4)

A fun magazine for kids!

Kansas Kaleidoscope, February/March 2002 Kansas Underwater

SUE CAN'T SWIM!

Kansans won't discover dinosaur bones--like the famous Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton nicknamed "Sue"--in our back yards. But we might find shark teeth! Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and other familiar dinosaurs lived at a time when Kansas was covered by a salt water sea.

Photo Credit: Painting by Dan Varner

For Parents and Teachers:

Kansas' geologic past -- as part of an inland sea--may seem prehistoric, but it still affects us today. With this issue we hope that readers will gain a better understanding of cause and effect in history. The rich farmland that makes Kansas an agricultural leader, and the jobs people have in Kansas oil fields, salt mines, and limestone quarries are a direct result of events in the Cretaceous Period, more than 65 million years ago. Just think how different life would be had Kansas never been underwater!.

OCEANS OVER KANSAS

Millions of years ago, the ground we now walk on was an ocean floor. Salt water covered Kansas, and the water was filled with huge fish, swimming birds, and reptiles. Gigantic meat-eaters called mosasaurs ruled the ocean. Some of them grew as long as the width of a basketball court. Fierce sharks like Megalodon grew just as long, weighed 50 tons, and had enormous mouths that opened eight feet high!

THAT'S A MOUTHFUL!

How to say...

Mosasaur
MOZE-uh-soar
Plesiosaur
PLEEZ-ee-uh-soar
Pteranodon
tuh-RAN-uh-don
Megalodon
meg-uh-low-DON
Tylosaurus
TIE-low-SOAR-us
Precambrian
pree-CAM-bree-un
Clidastes
klie-DAS-teez
Paleozoic
pay-lee-uh-ZOE-ik
Xiphactinus
zie-FAK-tin-us
Mesozoic
MEZ-uh-ZOE-ik
Hesperornis
hess-per-ORN-iss
Cenozoic
SEN-uh-ZOE-ik
Calcarichelys
KAL-kair-uh-KEE-leez
Cretaceous
kruh-TAY-shus
Archelon
ARK-eh-lon
Quaternary
KWAH-tern-air-ee


Photo Credit: Painting by Charlie Riedel MAKING A SPLASH!
Cretaceous Creatures of Kansas

It's probably a good thing that humans weren't around during the period when Kansas was covered by an ocean. May of the sea creatures would have found humans just another tasty morsel of food! Meet seven of them in this issue.

Want to "Sea" More?

Visit these great area museums:


Sternberg Museum of Natural History
Hays KS
913-332-1165
www.fhsu.edu/sternberg

University of Kansas Natural History Museum
Lawrence KS
785-864-4450
www.nhm.ukans.edu

Fick Fossil and History Museum
Oakley KS
785-672-4839
www.oakley-kansas.com/fick

Science City at Union Station
Kansas City MO
816-460-2020
www.sciencecity.com

Denver Museum of Nature & Science
"Prehistoric Journey" exhibition
Denver CO
800-925-2250
www.dmns.org
Mosasaurs and sharks could grow up to 50 feet long. Compare that to the length of the average human!
WHAT REMAINS TO BE SEEN

Where Did They Go?

Kansas is no longer an ocean state full of huge, hungry sea creatures. 

What happened?

For millions of years the Kansas ocean continually changed shape.  A change in the environment could dry up some of the water, or lock it into sheets of ice. Then more land would be exposed.Another climate change could melt the ice, or cause greater rainfall, and water would then cover the land once more. The Kansas sea shrank and grew many, many times.

Fossils = HARD Evidence!

Kansas is world-famous for the number and quality of its prehistoric fossils. A fossil is a leftover piece or a trace of something that lived in a past geologic age. A fossil could be the imprint of a leaf or bone pressed into rock. It could also be the ancient bone itself, or plant remains preserved as petroleum.

Time Traveling

Mike Everhart is a marine biologist and paleontologist in Kansas. He looks for and studies fossils of prehistoric sea life. "Kansas is one of the best places in the world to find marine reptiles from the Cretaceous Period," he said. He loves "talking to people about these ancient marine reptiles and showing them that they were every bit as big and exciting as dinosaurs."

COOL CAREERS: DIGGING UP SKELETONS IN OUR PAST
George Sternberg--"Natural-Born Fossil Hunter"

George Sternberg was only nine years old when he made his first important fossil discovery. He and his parents were camping in 1892 along the chalky cliffs in Logan County. Sternberg's father made his career finding fossils and selling them to museums all over the world. Young George liked to watch his father clean fossils in his laboratory. He went with him on fossil-hunting trips.

Dan Varner--Paleo-Artist

Many of the exciting underwater pictures in this magazine were painted by artist Dan Varner. Varner creates his pictures using oil paints on large canvasses. Varner talked to Kansas Kaleidoscope about his art from his home in New Jersey.

A FOSSIL A DAY: New Business From Old Leftovers

The ocean of the past is still all around us today in Kansas. Rock used for bulding stone, gravel, cement and ceramics formed in layers during the dinosaur age. Below these are much-older minerals such as salt, oil, natural gas, coal zinc and lead. We depend on the prehistoric remains of this ocean for food, plastics, building materials, and energy in our homes and autos.

IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK

Many houses, schools, churches and offices in Kansas were built of limestone. The State Capitol in Topeka and the Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria were each made of several million pounds of limestone quarried in Kansas.

SALT OF THE EARTH

At the end of the Paleozoic Era (more than 251 million years ago), oceans covering western and central Kansas left behind thick layers of salt. This large bed of salt was buried deep underground, and nobody knew that it was there. By accident, some oil drillers searching for gas and oil near Hutchinson in 1887 discovered the salt.

FOSSIL FUELS

Petroleum products, such as oil and natural gas, were a major source of wealth for Kansas in the 20th century. More than 80 of the state's 105 counties had petroleum wells. The first oil well in Kansas was near Paola in the 1860s.

Part 4: The Barn Stormers

In the last issue of Kansas Kaleidoscope (volume 5, no. 3), our four adventurers asked a young African American girl in 1879 for help to return to their own time in the present day. Our series began when Gina and her cousin Max, his little sister Opal, and Opal's dog Marshmallow took shelter from a storm in their grandparents' barn. Lightning struck, and the kids were forced to escape through a hole in the barn wall. Once outside, they were shocked to find themselves face to face with Lewis and Clark! In Part 2, they traveled again through time and were befriended by a Kansas family in 1879. Part 3 ended as the children plunged into a river to try to rescue a run-away Marshmallow. Struggling in the swift current, all four sank underwater.

What happens next?

Write the next part of the adventure (under 500 words) and send it to Kansas Kaleidoscope with your name, age, address and phone number. We'll publish one student's writing in the next issue! Help us create new adventures--and follow these young explorers as they travel through Kansas history trying to get back home. Send your writing by April 15 to Kansas Kaleidoscope magazine, 6425 SW Sixth Ave., Topeka KS 66615-1009, or by e-mail to education@kshs.org

In This Issue:

  • Water ways - Kaleidoscope Challenge
  • For Parents and Teachers
  • Measuring Time
  • Book Report - A Dinotopia: The Land Apart from Time
  • Cretaceous Crossword Puzzle
  • Joke Break
  • Bee a Winner!