“How long will it take for my wishbone to fossilize?”

As you may recall, a week or two ago there was a heated scene in our kitchen between my daughter and her parents regarding the future of a rather extraordinary (in my daughter’s opinion) wishbone extracted from a rather ordinary (in my opinion) rotisserie chicken. On learning that scientists believe that the wishbone may be evidence of a link between dinosaurs and modern birds, my daughter very naturally wanted to add the wishbone to her collection.

My husband objected. “Bones have no place in this house. Unless they are fossils.”

After which my daughter very naturally wanted to know how long she had to wait. “Daddyo, how long will it take for my wishbone to fossilize?”

When he read about the spat, an old friend from San Antonio pointed me to a 2001 article by Kenneth Carpenter of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science entitled “How to Make a Fossil: Part 1 – Fossilizing Bone.” In his article Carpenter defines fossils as “the remains or traces of an organism older than 10,000 years.” Anything younger than that is apparently merely a sub-fossil.

My daughter was extremely disconcerted to hear this. “That’s even older than Mommyo!”

But she is nothing if not an agile negotiator. Quickly grasping that turning her wishbone into a fossil would never do, my little Caterpickle immediately switched tactics to begin lobbying for us to make a plaster cast of her wishbone before throwing it out.

Sadly, at the time I was not in the habit of keeping a supply of plaster of Paris in the house. So we had to settle for a Caterpickles’ agreement to make a proper plaster cast of the next wishbone that made its way into our house. Sounds like a perfect post-Thanksgiving turkey project to me.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
This entry was posted in Can we do that sometime?, Science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “How long will it take for my wishbone to fossilize?”

  1. Pingback: A Proper Paleontologist Is Always Prepared | CATERPICKLES

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  3. Pingback: “I thought T. Rexes only had three toes. What’s that back thing for?” | CATERPICKLES

  4. Pingback: Classic Caterpickles: “Did dinosaurs have belly buttons?”: A Caterpickles Investigative Report | CATERPICKLES

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