From The World Of Parks & Recreation
By Doug Comer
Mark your calendars for Friday April 3rd, as that will be the last evening where you can come and Walk with the Dinosaurs. The program, which suffered from school closures due to weather, has been extended from its previous close date of March 25th in order to reschedule schools that missed days during school cancelations.
“We are very fortunate to have a relationship with Prehistoric Planet owners Ray and Mary Ellen Garton, who gave the okay to extend the program,” related Director Mike Book. “We have had some better weather in the past couple weekends and the people have taken advantage to visit the facility and see the exhibit. We have met and exceeded all goals made.”
The Stegodon fossil, who is believed to be an ancestor of the true elephants and mammoths, has been the biggest attraction of the “Ice Age” themed exhibit as the beast towers at 13-foot tall with tusks that span over 9-feet. During the opening talk, Book speaks about the differences between the Stegodon and Wooly Mammoth.
“While both produce tusks, the Stegodon tusks would generally grow outward with a slight curve, like a banana. The Wooly Mammoth grew tusks that curved extremely like the letter C. Other studies, like the teeth, told about their eating habits. The Mammoth has flat, wavy molars, which means they ate plants and leaves. The Stegodon’s teeth allowed the diet to consist of coarse vegetation.”
Other interests involve our prehistoric West Virginia section, where families can study about the creatures found in the Mountain State.
With three full-sized skeletons, including our State Fossil, the Giant Sloth, there is an abundance of information that tells about the history of fossils from West Virginia on display. The other two include a Saber-tooth Cat and a Dimetrodon.
“We are proud of our prehistoric WV section as almost everyone that visits did not realize that we have a State Fossil. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, who had a fond interest of fossil research back in the late 1700s, found the claw of the Sloth thinking it came from a type of cat. So, it was aptly named Megalonyx meaning giant cat. And once the fossil is named, it cannot be changed,” related Book.
While the Giant Sloth is the main attraction, the Dimetrodon, a reptilian from over 270 million years ago, was found in Ritchie County over 80 years ago. Many fossils have been found in the shale areas that surround the County.
Besides the full-sized fossils on property, there are another 50-75 real and replicated fossils on display. Megalodon teeth, which can be 3-times the size of the Great White, are popular especially with the airing of the “Shark Week” shows on Discovery. Our staff handles all smaller fossils and most are available to hold as Book explains.
“We offer many fossil pieces for the visitors to look at and even hold. It’s not every day that you get to handle objects that are over a million years old. The kids, as well as parents, have shown great appreciation of the exhibit as we have received a ton of emails expressing their gratitude. Again, another reason we kept it open for another week.”
Again, the exhibit’s last day is April 3rd and the evening hours are 4-8 p.m. For more information, contact us at the Recreation Complex at 304-423-7800.