In the high desert atop the Colorado Plateau, titanic trees haphazardly litter the ground as if scattered by giants. Some of the chunks and splinters of the forest still harbor the beetles and larvae that left their tunnels in the bark. This shattered forest scene is preserved forever not in wood, but in gleaming colored stones of agate, opal, and chalcedony. (1) In the Kansas plains a field of stony oyster shells, some as large as two feet across, lie open and lifelike, as if all “gaping”(2) in a moment of collective disorder and distress.
Other larger varieties of fossilized Kansas clams bear the imprints on their inner shells of tiny fishes that found refuge inside of them, in some ancient symbiotic agreement. In North Central Oregon, Tertiary mounds of leaves were so plentiful that early paleontologists shipped them out by the train car load. Though not fossilized, the delicate leaves left their form in colorful layers of ash; most show no sign of decay or drying or curling along the edges as one would expect of fallen leaves.
In the temperate peninsula region of Washington State, patient hunters of concretions find fossilized crabs hidden within orbs of stone. The crabs, like many trilobite fossils we all have seen, are highly detailed and in defensive positions. In western South Dakota, the skeleton of a dinosaur was discovered in 1993 having an iron concretion within its chest cavity, in the precise shape and size of its heart.