FHSU's Dr. Thomasson supplies fossil grass display for Chicago's Field Museum

Fossil grasses collected by Fort Hays State University's Dr. Joeseph Thomasson, professor of biological sciences, and his students will be part of a new exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum.

Thomasson has been studying and analyzing the evolutionary, taxonomic and ecological significance of fossil and modern grasses for more than 25 years. Results of the studies have been published in scientific journals such as "Science," "National Geographic Research," the "American Journal of Botany" and the "Journal of Paleontology." Thomasson's vast knowledge of grass and grasslands evolution led the Field Museum to ask him to provide fossil grasses for the new display.

Fossils provided by Thomasson include mass accumulations of grass husks and leaves.

"Grass husks are represented by a sample from Ellis County in which are preserved hundreds of specimens of a rice grass, Nassella pholii, some of which still show exquisitely preserved epidermal cells on the surfaces of the husks," said Thomasson. "Living relatives of this fossil species are now restricted to grasslands in Central and South America," he said. "It is a member of the larger and more important group of prairie grasses which includes living needle-and-thread or porcupine grasses."

Opening in March, the display will help explain what plants and animals occupied Central North America and Kansas tens of millions of years ago.

"In the words of the museum," said Thomasson, "the display will 'take visitors on an awe-inspiring journey through 4 billion years of life on Earth, from single-celled organisms to towering dinosaurs and our extended human family by examining unique fossils, watching animated videos, having hands-on interactive displays, and recreated sea-and-landscapes to help tell the compelling story of evolution -- the single process that connects everything that's ever lived on Earth.' "

"Having these fossils on public display at the Field Museum in Chicago will help generate national and worldwide attention for research studies conducted at FHSU, the Department of Biological Sciences and at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History," said Thomasson.

For more information about the new exhibit, contact Thomasson at (785) 628-5665.

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