the Alabama Paleontological Society, Inc.


TITLE:  “A Work in Progress: The Significance of Alabama Fossils in the Study of Evolution”

SPEAKER:  Drew Gentry, MS, PhD Student, Dept of Biology, UAB 

ABOUT THE PROGRAM:  There is no question that the rich paleobiodiversity of Alabama ranks among the best in the continental United States. Many of the fossil animals found across the state are now thought to have been some of the earliest and most primitive representatives of their kind. This includes armored dinosaurs (nodosaurs), duck-billed dinosaurs (hadrosaurs), and even the infamous tyrannosaurs. Unfortunately, these animals all went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period and therefore teach us very little about how changes in environment have influenced the evolution of the vertebrate species we see today. However, other vertebrates living in and around Alabama during the time of the dinosaurs survived the extinction event 65 million years ago and spread across the globe. By tracing the evolutionary history of these animals from the Cretaceous to the present, we can begin to understand how more than 80 million years of climate change has altered their biology. Combined with data gathered from modern species, this information gives us the remarkable ability to develop predictions about how future changes might influence some of today’s most beloved wildlife

  ABOUT THE SPEAKER: As an undergraduate at New Mexico State University, I majored in Biological Sciences and assisted in the excavation of the Binns Mastodon, now on display on the NMSU campus. After graduating, I worked as a scientist-in-the-park for the National Park Service documenting Pleistocene trackways at White Sands National Monument. Due to the failing health of several family members, I then moved back to Alabama where I began graduate school at UAB. During my time as a master’s student, I researched the anatomy and paleoecology of a species of fossil sea turtle known exclusively from Alabama. I am now a PhD student and laboratory instructor at UAB where among other things, I study macroevolutionary trends in marine tetrapods using chelonioids as a model organism. For the past several years, I have also worked as a volunteer fossil preparator in the collections department at McWane Science Center.




APS Field Trip to the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site:  APS visited the Minkin Track Site on April 9, 2016 and hosted the Fresh Air Family with about 60 visitors.  The day was perfect, with comfortable temperatures and sharp low-angle sunlight, perfect for hunting tracks.  A number of excellent finds were made.  The site has abundant Pennsylvanian fossils from the Pottsville formation (~310 million years old.



                  View of the Site                                  APS Members Bruce Relihan and Missy Turner

          A fish swimming trace (Undichna)            Small amphibian trackway found by Missy Turner


Large amphibian track and invertebrate trackway      Arthropod resting trace (Arborichnus)


   Multiple trilobite burrowing traces (Rusophycus)              Small arthropod trackway

  Two large amphibian tracks (Attenosaurus)                 Medium-sized Attenosaurus trackway

               Lycopod cone                                             Limulid (horseshoe crab) deep undertracks

FIELD TRIPS: APS conducts monthly field trips to fossil localities in Alabama and surrounding states strictly with permission of landowners (please refer to our Ethical Statement for further details).  In accordance with our Statement of Purpose, we frequently make educational presentations to schools and public gatherings on subjects related to paleontology.   Field trip participation is generally limited to members but individuals interested in coming on a field trip as a guest with an eye towards membership should contact APS President Ashley Allen (, Vice President Prescott Atkinson ( or Field Trip Coordinator Milo Washington (  We have also hosted classes ranging from upper elementary school grades to college geology groups and other groups with an interest in geology and paleontology on select field trips.


Interactive Photographic Index to the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site (maintained by Dr. Ron Buta): a newly updated collection of photos from the Minkin site that are much easier to view:

Trace Fossils of the Crescent Valley Mine - a large collection of vertebrate tracks amassed by Dr. Ron Buta in his visits to this surface coal mine located very close to the underground coal mine which was the source of the vertebrate tracks described in the 1930 Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History by Aldrich and Jones: PUBLISHED!  Here is a link to a new paper by Dr Buta and collaborators on the CVM site with many beautiful photographs:  The reference is:  Buta, R. J., Pashin, J. C., Minter, N. J., and Kopaska-Merkel, D. C. 2013, "Ichnology and Stratigraphy of the Crescent Valley Mine: Evidence for a Carboniferous Megatracksite in Walker County, Alabama," in The Carboniferous-Permian Transition, New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, S. G. Lucas et al., eds., Vol. 60, pp. 42-56.

Downloadable Guide to the Minkin Footprint Site by Drs Ron Buta and David Kopaska-Merkel:  Minkin Guide - optimized Apr 6 2012.pdf

Minkin Track Site Monograph link:  This link contains PDF files for the multiauthor monograph on the tracks and plants from the Minkin Track Site including an extensive photographic atlas:

Alabama Museum of Natural History:  The AMNH sponsors a great program of family friendly weekend field trips throughout the year to various sites focusing on geology, paleontology, ecology and other areas.  The AMNH has an immense paleo research collection accumulated over the past 100 years (including what may be the largest mosasaur collection in the world) and is always looking for volunteers to help with cleaning and cataloguing specimens.  In addition, for the past 30 years the AMNH has conducted a several week-long summer Expedition, usually focused on archaeology or paleontology in which participants  camp in the field and work with experts to uncover the remote history of human activities in Alabama or the much more ancient fossil inhabitants of the State: .   This is the link for Dana Ehret’s collection of images from the collection: .  The site is under construction but will be adding images over the coming months.

McWane Science Center: In addition to its world class interactive exhibits on the other sciences and its eye-popping IMAX Theatre, the McWane Center has a spectacular fossil exhibit, with lifesize replicas of dinosaurs including several whose remains have been found in Alabama, as well as the actual fossil remains of other fossil creatures that once inhabited the State such as a virtually complete mosasaur (a giant marine Cretaceous lizard related to the Komodo dragon) and a giant ground sloth: .  This is the link to McWane’s extensive new collection section with images of specimens in their collection:

Oceans of Kansas:  Mike Everhart’s spectacular website on the Cretaceous world, focusing on the western interior sea previously occupying present day Kansas, USA:

Winds of Kansas:   Roy Beckemeyer’s encyclopedic website on  recent and fossil insects, with particular emphasis on the Permian insect fauna of the Wellington Formation in Kansas and Oklahoma and numerous interesting links:

In Memoriam:  Frank David Lueth November 5, 1940-July 7, 2007. For those of you who knew him, this youtube photographic tribute to David created by his daughter is a wonderful memory of one of our departed friends:

Interested in fossils?  Want to help support the University of Alabama’s paleo program? Consider making your tax deductible contribution to the Alabama Museum of Natural History’s Paleo Collections Enhancement Fund. Your money will be earmarked to help modernize the paleo collections, for example by buying archival shelving and preservation materials, supporting creation of an online image database and more.  Select the link below to make your tax deductible contribution.  (Unit = Museum, Fund = Alabama Museum of Natural History Gift Fund).  No contribution is too small!

AMNH Paleo Collections Enhancement Fund


A reminder to members and visitors:  The long-awaited publication of “Footprints in Stone: Fossil Traces of Coal-Age Tetrapods” took place in June 2016.  The book, authored by APS member and UA Professor of Astronomy Ron Buta and geologist David Kopaska-Merkel, chronicles the difficult and at sometimes seemingly impossible cooperative effort between the APS and a small group of professional paleontologists to preserve the Union Chapel Mine, the world’s most prolific Carboniferous trackway site, located in Walker County Alabama.  Get your copy today!

Next APS Meeting: Monday June 5, 2017
Location and Time:  Birmingham Zoo Auditorium, 7:00 pm