The fossilization of organisms is quite an incredible process and only occurs during exceptionally rare occasions—just as in the case of this tiny cone (Figure 1). When the conditions were perfect some 67 million years ago, this small, delicate part of a giant prehistoric tree became a part of the fossil record ("Science Olympiad: Virtual”). This prehistoric cone comes from the Metasequoia or dawn red wood tree and is one of the oldest species of seed-bearing plants.
|Figure 1. A 67 million-year-old petrified Sequoia dakotensis cone from the Hell Creek Formation. The matrix covering this delicate fossil has been carefully removed. S.W. Veatch specimen, photo by S. W. Veatch, Oct 2011.|
This tiny cone dropped to the ground one day long ago in the Cretaceous Period and likely rolled into a depression of some sort and remained there just a short time. This cone was then buried under sediment from an event that caused mud and sand to be washed into a depression that permitted rapid covering and burial of the cone. Over eons of time, water— infused with minerals, especially silica— penetrated the cone and slowly began to replace the organic matter of the cone with these minerals (Hamilton C & R.).
Botanical Name: Sequoia dakotensis
Although today North Dakota's ancient Cretaceous forests are long gone, they have left behind amazing badlands and stunning landscapes containing petrified tree trunks and fossil cones.
Bluemle , J. (2007, July 27). North Dakota's Petrified Wood. Retrieved from https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs/ndnotes/ndn3_h.htm
Hamilton, C., & R., n.d.). Science Views: The Formation of Fossils. Retrieved from http://www.scienceviews.com/dinosaurs/fossilformation.html
Science Olympiad: Virtual petrified wood museum. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://petrifiedwoodmuseum.org/soconiferophyta.htm
The virtual fossil museum. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://