Eyewire presents: Fossil Fever!

Image by ScottRobertAnselmo

If you’re a big history buff then you’re probably very grateful to all of the humans who have left amazing written and visual historical records for present and future generations to learn from!

But what if you wanted a history lesson on the world as it was before human recordings? That’s where paleontology comes in!

Paleontologists study life that existed before the Holocene epoch, our current geological epoch. One of their most important tools for studying the flora and fauna from epochs past is, you guessed it, the fossil!

You may have a vague impression from grade school that fossils = old bones someone cool dug out of the ground. However, fossils have a much wider definition than that, and include everything from fully intact preserved animals, to the fossilized impressions of footprints.

All discovered fossils are part of the fossil record, which includes the actual remains and imprints, as well as any data we can gather about them such as their geographic location, location within the strata (rock layer) they are found in, or carbon information which helps to accurately date them. New technologies such as CT scanning, and new areas of paleontological exploration mean that we will continue to expand and improve upon the fossil record. What do you think we’ll discover next?

In this competition we’ll explore some of the many fascinating ways creatures of bygone eras have left clues for us about their origins. Thanks nature, we’re always eager to learn more!

Get ready to dig in and see what new discoveries we’ll make! The fossil frenzy begins on May 19th and the fever doesn’t break until 27th!

Eyewire, citizen science, Daniela Gamba, calendar, Fossil Fever, paleontology

Molds + Casts Happy Hours

First session runs from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM on Thursday 5/19
Second session runs from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM on Friday 5/20
Third session runs from 10:00 PM to midnight on Friday 5/20

One trick that allows nature to circumvent the decay process when it comes to fossilization is the creation of molds and casts. Molds and casts do not require the organism’s original structure to remain intact, and instead utilized the power of impression to create an accurate facsimile of the original material.

Although it is always cool to uncover historical originals, let’s also be thankful for the accurate impressions made by non-original materials, just like the digital models we use to map the brain. Now go forth and prove you can also make accurate non-original impressions during Accuracy Happy Hour! We’ll see you there!

Swag: Most accurate player completing at least 30 cubes wins a notebook, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

1st Place Accuracy – 10,000 points
2nd Place Accuracy – 8,000 points
3rd Place Accuracy – 6,000 points
Achieve 95% Accuracy – 5,000 points
Achieve 90% Accuracy – 3,000 points
Achieve 80% Accuracy – 2,000 points
1,000 points for anyone under 80% who still plays at least 30 cubes in either slot.
(These bonus thresholds are non-cumulative, i.e. they will not combine. If you earn 3rd place, for instance, and presumably got over 95% accuracy, you still earn a 6,000 point bonus, not 11,000.)

Preserved Hunt

Begins at 12:00 AM (midnight) on Saturday 5/21
Ends at 12:00 PM (noon) on Thursday 5/26

While all fossils are exciting, rare and open new windows into the past, it’s particularly exciting when you stumble across original preserved remains. These are some of the least common types of fossils, and from them we can gather a ton of information!

Specific conditions allow for the preservation of body tissues, among them desiccation (mummification), freezing, tar preservation, and capture in amber (fossilized tree sap). A good fossil containing original materials was protected from predators after death, and met conditions that slowed or stopped the process of bacterial decomposition. These animals can have amazing preservation even after millions of years, sometimes including intact skin, hair, and even organs!

Now it’s time for you to hunt for some rare and elusive artifacts hiding in plain sight! Uncover all 12 and you’ll be well rewarded with a bonus and a shiny badge!

Swag: The top scoring player will win a mug, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

Each merger found – 1,000 points
7,500 additional points if all 12 are found
200 point bonus available on each merger to the player whose guess is closest
250 point bonus available to any player who guesses within 10 voxels of a merger

Index Fossil Trivia

Begins at 11:00 AM on Sunday 5/22
Continues until 11:00 AM on Tuesday 5/24
Finishes with Power Hour from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Tuesday 5/24

Index fossils are fossils that help keep a timeline in the fossil record. Their presence gives clues to the geologic time period of the sediment in which they are found, and can help date other fossils based on their proximity to the index fossils.

A good index fossil must be abundant, globally widespread, and durable. An index fossil is often an animal that went through a type of “boom and bust” life cycle – that is, conditions allowed for it to flourish during its time period, but vulnerabilities to environmental changes also quickly led to its demise and extinction. Because these types of fossils only appear for a short period on the pre-historic timeline, they act as markers which other discoveries can be compared against.

Index fossils keep the prehistoric record, and our Eyewire trivia buffs help preserve the record of human knowledge with a brain full of trivia! Show us what you’ve got as we send lots of fossil, science, and general knowledge trivia your way.

Swag: The top scoring player will win a tote bag, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

For every question —
1st to answer – 300 points
2nd to answer – 200 points
3rd to answer – 100 points

Permineralization vs Carbonization

Begins at 11:00 AM on Monday 5/23
Ends at 11:00 AM on Wednesday 5/25

Many roads lead to fossilization, but they all require the stars to align as the perfect conditions allow animal and plant remnants to remain preserved in the ground for millions of years!

A two very interesting methods of preservation are Permineralization and Carbonization. Permineralization is the process of penetration and replacement of an animal or plant’s internal structure with mineral deposits. Carbonized fossils are created when extreme pressure crushes an animal, leaving just a 2D film of the creature’s carbon embedded in stone.

Choose your team, jump waaaaaay back in time, and let the competition begin!

Swag: The top scoring player on the winning team wins a t-shirt, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place on the winning team will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

Starting Lineup – top 3 players on each team, who earn 75% of their score in bonus points
All Other Players – earn 50% of their score in bonus points
Winning Team – 20,000 additional points
Each Team’s MVP – 5,000 additional points
(The winning team is determined by average points per player, with 2x weight given to Starting Lineup players. To qualify for any of the above bonuses or affect the team score, players must earn a minimum baseline of 2,000 points.)

Trace Fossil Marathon

Begins at 10:00 AM on Wednesday 5/25
Ends at 10:00 AM on Thursday 5/26

As tribute to the biggest tracing event of our competition, let’s take a look at the fossils that share in the tracing moniker – trace fossils!

Trace fossils, also sometimes called ichnofossils, are not fossilized living beings of times past, but instead fossils of things that shed light on what life might have been like during those times. These include trails and burrows, bite marks and bore holes, and even coprolites – fossilized poop! Pick your favorite and let’s get tracing!

Swag: Anyone in the top 25% of participants will be entered into a raffle, for which the five prizes include a wall clock, a pillow (new for this year!), and three sticker/magnet sets.

One live cell will be designated the “marathon cell,” with a 3x points multiplier!
Cube count bonuses: 3500 points per cube traced.
SC bonuses are doubled on all cells.
Every 3 SCs counts for 1 cube toward naming eligibility & per-cell completion bonus.
50 cubes = 5,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to vote on a new name for the marathon cell
200 cubes = 10,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to nominate a new name for the marathon cell