Life in North Dakota millions of years ago

Geologic Time Gallery tells story of prehistoric creatures

Eloise Ogden/MDN The suspended skeleton replica of the Xiphactinus, a 16-foot-long tarpon-like fish, is displayed in the Geologic Time Gallery in the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum.

BISMARCK – Imagine what is now North Dakota millions of years ago when prehistoric creatures lived here.

Visitors get a first-hand look at the state’s prehistoric past in the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck.

The Geologic Time Gallery tells the story from the sea creatures living in ancient oceans to the rise and extinction of dinosaurs to the end of the Great Ice Age, according to information about the exhibit.

Many of the prehistoric creatures in the exhibits are casts of fossils collected in North Dakota, according to Clint Boyd, senior paleontologist with the North Dakota Geological Survey’s Paleontology program in Bismarck. He said pieces of actual fossils are also displayed.

Added a few days ago to the Geologic Time Gallery are two teeth of a Tyrannosaurus rex discovered during a public fossil dig south of Bismarck in August.

Eloise Ogden/MDN Triceratops, one of the largest and heaviest of the horned dinosaurs, once lived in what is now North Dakota. It is in the Geologic Time Gallery in the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum.

Boyd said 10 T.rex teeth were discovered at that dig site. He said four public digs will be held next summer. Those interested can find information about the fossil digs at dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/digs/. Registration for the 2018 digs will open Feb. 1, 2018.

The Geologic Time Gallery covers prehistoric life in North Dakota from about 500 million years ago and up to about 12,000 years ago. It interprets the geology and evolution of life before human beings appeared in the state.

“The first people in North Dakota were big-game hunters who came to the area after the retreat of the glaciers around 10,000 B.C.,” according to N.D. Tourism information.

Among the many exhibits about North Dakota’s changing geology and life is Dakota, the duckbilled dinosaur. The rare mummified fossil now will be on permanent display in the N.D. Heritage Center and State Museum. Tyler Lyson discovered the 67-million-year-old Edmontosaurus with fossilized skin on his uncle’s ranch near Marmarth in southwestern North Dakota in 1999.

The N.D. Heritage Center and State Museum is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. It is closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Eloise Ogden/MDN

Eloise Ogden/MDN The archelon, a 12-foot-long giant sea turtle, lived millions of years ago in what is now North Dakota. It is displayed in the Geologic Time Gallery in the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum.

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