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Smoky Hill Chalk

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The Smoky Hill Chalk Member of the Niobrara Formation is a Cretaceous conservation Lagerstätte, or fossil rich geological formation, known primarily for its exceptionally well-preserved marine reptiles. The Smoky Hill Chalk Member is the uppermost of the two structural units of the Niobrara Chalk. It is underlain by the Fort Hays Limestone Member; and the Pierre Shale overlies the Smoky Hill Chalk. The Smoky Hill Chalk outcrops in parts of northwest Kansas, its most famous localities for fossils, and in southeastern Nebraska. Large well-known fossils excavated from the Smoky Hill Chalk include marine reptiles such as plesiosaurs, large bony fish such as Xiphactinus audax, mososaurs, flying reptiles or pterosaurs, flightless marine birds such as Hesperornis, and turtles. Many of the most well-known specimens of the marine reptiles were collected by dinosaur hunter Charles H. Sternberg and his son George. The son collected a unique fossil of the giant bony fish Xiphactinus audax with the skeleton of another bony fish, Gillicus arcuatus inside the larger one. Another excellent skeleton of Xiphactinus audax was collected by Edward Drinker Cope during the late nineteenth century heyday of American paleontology and its Bone Wars.

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