The receni spring rain made it easier to follow the tracks of the female coyote across the rugged sage-covered hills. The trail wound through draws and over ridges before it eventually led the man on horseback to a neat den dug into the side of a small flat-topped butte.
While he was walking around the small butte, intent on his hunt. Kenneth Hanify made an amazing_ discovery. Near the den, under a rock, lay a round, well-preserved, fossilized fish. Nothing like it had ever been found before.
Word of Hanify's unique fish eventually reached a geologist at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology who came out to see it firsthand. He was impressed and took it back to the lab for a closer look.
Since it was the first of its kind to \ be discovered anywhere on earth, the fish became the species type specimen and was given the scientific name of Syllaemus nanifii. Scientistslater determined that Syllaemus was a large, marine, herring-like fish that lived in the shallow salt water seas that once covered the slate 90 million years ago.
The coyoie hunt that produced Syllaemus took place almost 60 years ago. It is one recollection among many that Kenneth Hanify has about his long life on the same ranch that his father homesteaded back in 1906.
The ranch in Butte county is where he and his wife, Gwendolyn, who grew up on an adjacent ranch, raised their family and lived all their lives. The Hantfys remember with fondness those old days and their pioneer parents and neighbors.
Syllaemus, on the other hand, goes back far beyond human memory. It is one of Earth's curious
calling cards, an ageless reminder, of \ the flow and mystery of life.
Syllaemus is on display in the Museum of Geology at the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid Ciiy. The museum is open year-round. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday in the summer. In the winter, the museum is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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Copyright 1994, Isabel Dakotan. The original work may be protected by U. S. copyright law (Title 17, United States Code), which governs reproduction, distribution, public display, and other uses of protected works. Some uses may be legal with permission from the copyright holder if the use is fair use or within another legal exemption. The user of this work is responsible for compliance with the law.
Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.