By Dave Tucker February 19, 2012
New exhibits have been added to the WWU Geology Department museum showcasing fossil tracks from the Racehorse Creek landslide (field guide to the landslide here and the fossil fields here). A slab of sandstone holding a track of the 8-foot-tall flightless bird Diatryma was put on display in 2010; read about that part of the exhibit elsewhere on this website. WWU paleontologist George Mustoe has now two more rock slabs with Diatryma tracks from the landslide, as well as rock panels with tracks of several other birds, tracks of a carnivorous predator of the Order Creodonta, and a replica life size skull of our old friend Diatryma. Many of the new tracks are from the personal collection of local fossil hunter Jared Watson(thanks to Jared for the generous loan!) The new Chuckanut fossils are on the first floor of the ES building at the south end of campus; others are on the south side of the second floor. The ground floor of the building has fine displays of minerals and old geologic tools.
One of the most interesting of the new tracks put on display are of those of a carnivorous animal called a creodont; these are the first tracks of this order extinct animals found in the Chuckanut Formation. Creodonts lived in North America and Europe from the Eocene to the Miocene, and were the dominant predatory mammals for much of that time. Though the Creodonta were an evolutionary dead end, they may have an older common ancestor with today’s Carnivora. A print of an original painting by Marlin Peterson shows a pack of creodonts surrounding a tapir and its baby. Marlin earlier painted an herbivorous Diatryma ; that painting is on the wall next to the large rock slab, and an entertaining time lapse Youtube video shows him painting that one.
The building is open to the public seven days a week when Western Washington University is in session. On weekends you must use the first floor doors at the main entrance, facing Haskell Plaza.