Saskatchewan's 'Dino Gang' turns over rare fossil found at Lake Diefenbaker to museum

Finding a fossil last summer sparked a passion for Jon Ganshorn and his family.

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum accepted the donation of the Ganshorn family's fossil find on Saturday

Lily Ganshorn and her dad, Jon, pose with the rare fossil they're donating to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. (Emily Pasiuk/CBC News)

It was August 2017 when Jon Ganshorn, his daughter Lily, and a crew of nieces, nephews and family friends were searching for meteorites at Lake Diefenbaker.

They didn't find any — but they didn't leave empty handed either.

Instead, they found a fossil — and they've kept finding them. And their latest find was significant enough that they've donated it to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

It all started after their August meteorite hunt proved fruitless, and the kids asked their parents to break open what Jon Ganshorn describes as "mud balls" they'd found.

After they cracked a few open, they found a "glowing" structure in the middle of one of them, he said.

"We knew we had found something. We had no idea what it was."

They went back multiple times and found similar things, and eventually ended up contacting the University of Saskatchewan to find out what they were. The university confirmed they were finding ammonite fossils, which are the fossilized bodies of ancient mollusks.

It was, as they say, the spark that lit the flame.

Since that day, Jon and Lily have been out multiple times around the lake to search for more fossils. The Ganshorns have kept some and they're displayed in their home.

Rare find

But their latest mollusk find is a rarity. Ryan McKellar, curator of invertebrate palaeontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, says the fossil is one of very few specimens of that mollusk type found in the area. The last one there was found in 1963.

This is how the Ganshorn family found the fossil — attached to a rock. (Submitted by Jon Ganshorn)

The museum accepted the donation of the Ganshorns' fossil Saturday. 

McKellar stressed the importance of public involvement in the discovery and preservation of fossils.

"It's a really important thing for the museum. We only have a few people working in the province as paleontologists, so the public plays a very strong role in what we find and how much of anything we find," he said.

A closeup of the rare fossilized mollusk. (Submitted by Jon Ganshorn)

Kids excited about exploring

As for the kids, they've formed what they call the Dino Gang, and they say it's fun to go out and explore. 

"It's just a thrill seeing if you can find the newer kind of fossils that maybe they haven't found out yet," said Titus Evans, part of the Dino Gang.

"I haven't actually found one yet but it's been fun searching," eight-year-old Oliver Ganshorn said. 

Ethan Ganshorn, 6, says he might want to be a paleontologist because the discoveries have been so exciting.  

"I really like when I find fossils," he said.

Nine-year-old Isabelle Ganshorn is also pretty excited about the fossil finds.

"I really think that's actually kinda cool that there's somewhere kind of close to our house that I can actually find some sort of fossil."