"Illinois was once as balmy as
Hawaii," said Richard Leary, Ph.D., curator emeritus of the Illinois
State Museum. "We know because of fossils we have excavated in the
Rock Island and Brown County areas."
Continents of the world were configured
differently during that time period, estimated by scientists as
approximately 320 million years ago, a time also known as the Coal
Age. Illinois was located just south of the equator and was hot and
"Year-round, temperatures were
around 100 degrees, and it was very humid," said Dr. Leary. "Think
of the hottest of summer days in Illinois. That's what every day was
like when Illinois was in its tropical period."
Plant life of the time period
included ferns that towered 50 feet into the air, with fronds 12
feet long. It was the very early reptile period. Dr. Leary says
giant dragonflies buzzed through the air of what is now Illinois.
The insects had a wingspan of 2 feet.
Illinoisans can learn more about the
tropical time period Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at an event called
"Celebrating Changes: Tropical Illinois." The fun-filled family
event will feature touchable fossils from plants and animals that
lived in Illinois in the past. Visitors will see fossils, have an
opportunity to identify the mysterious Tully Monster (the state
fossil) and take part in assembly of a giant dragonfly puzzle. The
whole family can enjoy a variety of activities throughout the
museum, including crafts and games.
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"This Saturday event is a chance for
the museum visitor to step back in time 320 million years," said
Bonnie Styles, Ph.D., associate museum director. "With these
hands-on activities, children can begin to understand geology,
archeology, climate and history."
At 2 p.m., Dr. Richard Leary,
curator emeritus of geology, will present "Big Bugs and Towering
Weeds," a dynamic program on life in the Coal Age. Following the
program, he will be available for questions in the "Changes"
exhibition. The exhibition's Coal Age diorama is based on a site
originally excavated by Dr. Leary. The event is free and open to the
The multimedia Illinois State Museum
"Changes" exhibition explores what scientists estimate to be 500
million years of environmental change. The exhibition opened to the
public on June 12, 2004.
For more information call (217)
782-5993, TTY (217) 782-9175.
The museum is located at 502 S.
Spring St., at the corner of Spring and Edwards in Springfield, and
is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to
5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Parking is available nearby, and
the building is accessible to individuals with disabilities.
For directions, see
Department of Natural Resources news release]