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Fossils Fascinate Cardozo Students
Fossils, dinosaur bones, and the curved claws of a velociraptor "a la Jurassic Park" fascinated students of Cardozo Middle School when Carolyn McMillan of the Mother Lode Mineral Society gave a talk on the items she has collected over the years.

She has dug up fossils, she explained at the school on Jan. 15, everywhere from the Mojave Desert to Utah and California's coastal mountain range where they were deposited as the ocean water flooded through passes, receded and then flooded again across the Central Valley over millions of years.

McMillan was invited by Cardozo teacher Marjorie Retzloff and spoke at intervals to five classes about her collection she had set up on long tables at the front of the classroom.

"You can lecture children at length about fossils until their eyes become glazed," she said. "But when they can actually touch and hold a dinosaur bone, or tooth or claw, they get quite excited," she said.

McMillan is a member of the Society that will present its 44th annual Gem, Jewelry & Rock Show this year on March 13 and 14 at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock.

Talking about jewelry, she displayed her necklace of beads streaked with the colors of minerals and composed of "coprolite" or dried and hardened dinosaur excrement.

Her favorite fossil is a trilobite found in clay laid down about 350 million years ago.

The trilobite was a very early, very primitive marine creature but the first creature to have eyes and the amazing number of 74 lenses. Paleontologists are not sure what it could see but think its only method of self defense was to roll up in a ball.

McMillan talked about a giant prehistoric shark, which had 300 teeth and a mouth about twice as large as the great white, the largest shark existing today.

Collectors buy and sell fossils among themselves, she noted, rating some as very valuable and drawing prices as high as $7,000 for a piece of fur from a saber-toothed tiger.

She has brought with her a replica of the skull and jaw of the saber-toothed tiger and its notorious curving teeth. Most members of the cat family have long tails they use for balance in jumping and running. But the saber tooth lacked that tail and probably attacked at close range from ambush.

Dinosaurs like the brontosaurus are represented in museums as standing as high as 40 feet. But that is without the long destroyed cartilage between the vertebrae that by her estimation would make them 60 feet or so tall in real life.