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One of our favorite fossils because it tells one of our favorite stories.
The scene is a lake, about 50 million years ago. A small Mioplosus fish finds its final resting place next to a banana leaf. There isn't enough oxygen in the water to support the bacteria and other critters that decompose organic matter in this Wyoming lake, so these fossils' details are retained.
"Hang on!" you say. "What was a banana leaf doing in Wyoming?!" Yeah, we like that question.
Banana trees are not known to be indigenous to Wyoming these days, but a lot can change in 50 million years. Wyoming was situated at approximately the same latitude as it is today, but we know it had a climate similar to Florida because of the presence of crocodiles, sycamores and... bananas in the fossil record, which are all known to require warmer, balmy, swampy subtropical environments. So, why was Wyoming warm enough for bananas? It was the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), lasting less than 200,000 years, during which the mean annual global temperature was higher than today's temperature by 5 to 8ºC. The PETM was driven by a massive release of carbon into the atmosphere. (Sound familiar?)
This fossil plate is 347x249x37mm and 3.4kg. The fossil is backed with plywood for strength and a way to hang it on your wall, should you choose to do that.