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TRILOBITE

Long before dinosaurs existed, bug-like trilobites lived in the seas that once covered Wisconsin. They were some of the first animals to have complex eyes.

Fast Facts

  • the trilobite Calymene celebra is the state fossil of Wisconsin
  • some species of trilobite had more than 100 legs
  • over its lifetime, a trilobite would shed its exoskeleton and grow a larger one many times

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AMMONITE

Only a few ammonite fossils have been discovered in Wisconsin. They were found among rubble that glaciers carried into the state during the Ice Age.

Fast Facts

  • ammonites are an extinct group of marine predators closely related to squids and octopuses
  • their shells were once thought to be coiled snakes that turned to stone
  • they swam backwards by spurting jets of water from their bodies

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EMPTY JAR

This empty jar contains all the dinosaur fossils ever found in Wisconsin. Sadly, our state has almost no rocks from the Age of Dinosaurs.

Fast Facts – Dinosaur Fossils from Wisconsin

  • zip
  • zero
  • zilch

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VAN HISE MICROSCOPE

Charles Van Hise was the first person to earn a PhD from the University of Wisconsin and his degree was in geology. This is the small microscope he studied rocks with when exploring outdoors.

Fast Facts

  • Charles Van Hise served as President of UW-Madison from 1903 to 1918
  • was an expert on the iron-rich rocks near Lake Superior
  • there is an elementary school in Madison named after him

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GALENA

This cluster of cubes represents the mineral galena which is the number one source of lead. Southwestern Wisconsin was once home to hundreds of mines loaded with galena.

Fast Facts

  • galena is the state mineral of Wisconsin
  • the largest galena crystal known is about the size of a toaster and weighs 260 pounds
  • was named by a Roman naturalist roughly 1,900 years ago

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NAUTILOID

Back when Wisconsin was submerged beneath a tropical sea, the largest animals around were squid-like nautiloids. Some species had straight, cone-shaped shells that were up to twenty feet long.

Fast Facts

  • nautiloids used their tentacles to catch trilobites and other prey
  • this once diverse group has just six species living today
  • the first nautiloids had straight shells while curved and coiled shells evolved later

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HONEY BEE

Honey bees help many Wisconsin crops reproduce including apples, cranberries and pumpkins. These hard-working insects spread pollen as they gather nectar from flowers.

Fast Facts

  • only female honey bees have stingers
  • they evolved from bumblebees about 60 million years ago
  • a colony of bees has to visit about two million flowers to make one pound of honey

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SPEAR POINT

When the highway by Treinen Farm was widened, stone tools like this spear point were discovered on the property during an archaeological survey.

Fast Facts

  • most stone tools found in Wisconsin are made of chert, a tough and widely available rock
  • chert fractures in a special way that creates extra sharp edges
  • sometimes chert was heated in a fire to make it easier to chip into a tool

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BUTTERFLY

Butterfly wings and trilobite armor are both made of a hardened protein called chitin. In trilobites, the chitin was reinforced with the mineral calcite.

Fast Facts

  • butterflies can taste with their feet
  • their wings are covered with thousands of colorful scales
  • the oldest butterfly fossils are from Denmark and are about 55 million years old