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The paleontology division at John Day Fossil Beds manages animal and plant fossils, and ancient soil and rock samples from geological formations that span over 40 Ma during the Age of the Mammals.
The research and fossil management encompass four major areas: Basic research and basinwide investigative coordination, paleobotany, museum curation, and fossil preparation. Research areas include paleontology, stratigraphy, radiometric dating, paleomagnetic coorelation, paleopedological (fossil soil) analysis, paleogeochemistry, biostratigraphy, and paleobiology.
Researchers from around the world are currently working on these topics within the John Day Fossil Beds under the coordination of park paleontology staff. The paleobotanical (fossil plants) resources of eastern Oregon are some of the most prolific and diverse to be found anywhere.
Because plants are generally better environmental indicators than fossil animals, the John Day paleontology staff also works to identify the plant types over time and thereby reconstruct the ancient ecosystems and climates of eastern Oregon.Two of the many floras included within the John Day Fossil Beds include the Clarno Nut Beds and the Bridge Creek Floras.
There are 237 National Park Service sites containing fossils. Explore other sites at the National Park Service Paleontology page.
Did You Know?
Fossils from the Clarno Unit show that 44 million years ago, in what is now a near desert in Oregon, crocodiles and palm trees flourished.