The Prairie Ocean: Long Time, No Sea, is here at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History. Created by Chuck Bonner and Ray Troll, the exhibit will highlight stories of the Bonner family, and their family legacy as fossil hunters. The exhibit will also focus on Kansas and its natural history, featuring a variety of Chuck and Ray’s artwork, and fossils found here in Kansas.
Chuck Bonner – Chuck is a Kansas native, born and raised in the central and western parts of the state. His passion for art and fossil hunting was inherited from his parents. Chuck attended Fort Hays State University, where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art and a Master’s Degree in Painting. His art has been featured all over central and western Kansas, including murals at Fort Hays State University and the Ellis County Historical Museum. Chuck and his wife, Barbara Shelton, currently operate the Keystone Gallery, which is a combination of an art gallery, fossil museum, and gift shop. For more information about Chuck Bonner, the Keystone Gallery and his artwork, visit his website at keystonegallery.com
Ray Troll – Ray is known for his unique style of blending art and science, drawing his inspiration from extensive fieldwork and the latest scientific discoveries. Ray earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1977, and a Master’s Degree in studio arts from Washington State University in 1981. After he graduated, he moved to Tongass Narrows in Ketchikan, Alaska. From there, his artwork grew in popularity, eventually earning him an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Alaska-Southeast. Ray’s art has been featured in museums, books, and magazines. Some of his most recent works include Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway with Dr. Kirk Johnson; a mural for the University of Washington called Fishes of the Salish Sea; an exhibit at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History entitled, The Blue Seas, Green Seas; a traveling museum show called Buzz Saw Sharks of Long Ago; and his collaboration with Chuck Bonner in The Prairie Ocean: Long Time No Sea. For more information about Ray Troll, his artwork, and his exhibits, visit his website at trollart.com
A 91-million-year-old shark, recently described as Cretodus houghtonorum, was discovered in 2010 near a ranch located in Mitchell County. The discovery and excavation were conducted by the authors, Kenshu Shimada and Michael Everhart, adjunct researchers of the Sternberg Museum, along with two assistants from central Kansas, Fred Smith, and Gail Pearson.
Even though the fossil shark is an incomplete skeleton, it still represents the best Cretodus specimen known from North America. The team was able to uncover more than 130 teeth and 60 vertebrae from the site. The shark was estimated to be about 5 meters (nearly 17 feet) long, suggesting the animal was rather sluggish, which is a similar trait to a shark group called Lamniformes. This also includes modern-day distant cousins, the great white and sand tiger sharks.
The specific epithet “houghtonorum” is in honor of the landowners Keith and Deborah Houghton, who generously donated the specimen to the Sternberg. Discoveries like this would not be made possible without the cooperation and generosity of local landowners, and the local knowledge and enthusiasm of amateur fossil collectors, according to the authors. “We believe that continued cooperation between paleontologists and those who are most familiar with the land, is essential to improving our understanding of the geological history of Kansas, and the Earth as a whole,” said Everhart.
The study, A new large Late Cretaceous lamniform shark from North America with comments on the taxonomy, paleoecology, and evolution of the genus Cretodus, will appear in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and is available online. Click here to read the published paper.
More pictures and information from this dig are posted online at http://oceansofkansas.com/Cretodus.html.
Michael J. Everhart