A century ago people hiking through what is now Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park, in the U.S. state Nebraska, reported finding animal bone fragments. In 1953 Donald Peterson, a teenage farm worker, found part of rhinoceros skill in the area. Though he didn’t know it then, Peterson had stumbled upon a paleontological treasure trove.
It turned out the fossilised remains of entire herds of ancient animals lay interred at the site, having met their demise in the aftermath the Bruneau-Jarbidge supervolcano eruption twelve million years ago. The animals were buried alive by volcanic ash, which had drifted sixteen-hundred kilometres down-wind from the eruption site.
Peterson’s story, and the animal fossils, are the subject of a new children’s book, Rhinos in Nebraska (published by Macmillan, 2021), by U.S. author Alison Pearce Stevens. While non-fiction titles are a little off-topic here, I couldn’t help making an exception after learning New York based Australian artist and illustrator, Matt Huynh, created the book cover art and illustrations.