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State Museum opens two exhibitions on plant fossils and extinction of Passenger Pigeon
Archaeopteris sp. Late Devonian, Burtville, PA. Two different species of Arachaeopteris tree fronds are present in this specimen.

ALBANY, NY.- Two exhibitions featuring New York State plant fossils and specimens of the extinct passenger pigeon will open at the New York State Museum on August 30, 2014. The Binghamton University Paleobotany Collection and The Passenger Pigeon: From Billions to Zero will be the Museum’s newest exhibitions located in the New York Discoveries area.

“We’re eager to open two new long-term exhibitions for our visitors,” said State Museum Director Mark Schaming. “The Board of Regents and the State Museum are grateful for Binghamton University’s donation of their significant paleobotany collection. We have organized an exhibition to display this impressive collection of fossils to the people of New York State. The passenger pigeon is also an important New York story; the exhibition describes how the once-popular passenger pigeon went from a population of billions to zero.”

In 2013, the New York State Museum acquired Binghamton University’s paleobotany collection containing thousands of plant fossils. In conjunction with the Museum’s previous holdings, it is the largest Middle Devonian plant fossil collection in North America. While most of the collection derives from New York, some fossils are from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Canada, and Belgium. The Binghamton University Paleobotany Collection showcases this important collection that allows scientists to learn more about how the diversification of plants caused significant changes in Earth’s atmosphere over 350 million years ago. The exhibition will feature fourteen plant fossils from the collection.

Two hundred years ago, the passenger pigeon was the most common bird in North America. Because they were so abundant, passenger pigeons were an important food source for humans for thousands of years. In the mid-1800s, over-hunting and habitat destruction led to a rapid decline in the passenger pigeon population. On September 1, 1914, the last passenger pigeon died. The Passenger Pigeon: From Billions to Zero marks the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of this once common bird. The exhibition will provide visitors a rare opportunity to see passenger pigeon specimens and related artifacts from the Museum’s biology and history collections.

Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, Curator of Birds at the New York State Museum, will present a free lecture, “The Passenger Pigeon: Icon of Extinction” on Sunday, September 28 at 1:00 PM in the Huxley Theater. “Only a few generations ago passenger pigeons were so numerous no one could have imagined they would become extinct.” said Dr. Kirchman. “By commemorating the centennial of the passenger pigeon extinction with an exhibition and free public programs, we hope to remind visitors how over-exploitation of natural resources can lead to permanent loss of biodiversity.”

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