Big Bend National Park is a fascinating place to learn about fossils because so many have been found here. The NPS has built a cool exhibit that showcases the 130 million years of the land’s development and the creatures that roamed the water and land here. 83-130 million years ago, this place was all water, and the only life was below the surface. But things changed when land rose above the water level.
72-83 Million Years Ag0
As the water drains off, a coastal floodplain emerges.
The Deinosuchus or “terrible crocodile” was a hunting dinosaur, as big as a schoolbus. The skull fossil looks pretty scary, and big! It was the top predator in the swampland that was Big Bend.
55-72 Million Years Ago
Rising land cuts Big Bend off from the sea, making it an inland floodplain.
The Tyrannosauraus, or “tyrant lizard” ruled the area during this time period. How big was it? 40 feet long and 16,000 pounds of serious hunting machine, this creature had the strongest bite of any land animal in history.
The Quetzalcoatlus (pronounced ket-ZAL-koh-AT-lus) was the biggest flying creature, with a wingspam of 35-40 feet. Here’s a reproduction of a skeleton of this big bird.
The exhibit had a great painting of how things might have looked during this time.
10,000-55 Million Years Ago
The earth gets wild and turns Big Bend into volcanic highlands.
The most mamal during this time was the Hyracotherium (pronounced hay-ruh-KOH-theer-ee-uhm). This little critter is the ancestor of all horses. Its feet had padded toes like a dog, not hooves like a modern-day horse.
How Big Bend Was Formed
The image below, from the fossil exhibit, shows how the landform emerged from water to form what we now know as Big Bend National Park.
For more on the fossils of Big Bend, check out this website.