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For millennia, humankind has been fascinated by the hard-external shell of the organisms classified within the Phylum Mollusca. Consumed first as food, their empty shells have served multiple functions in the past; as tools in many ancient cultures, in religious ceremonies by the Aztecs, and money by Pacific Islanders. During the Age of Discovery, sailors could supplement their meager incomes by selling exotic seashells to wealthy gentlemen for their Cabinets of Curiosity. Today many people first become enchanted with seashells by picking up worn beached shells during a vacation to the shore. If fortunate to live by the ocean, a newbie might branch off into the live collection of shallow water mollusks while those more land bound might start by purchasing foreign, deep-water or rare specimens. Because of the shear abundance of marine mollusk species, the more advanced collector will begin to concentrate on a single or small number of molluscan families, acquiring as many of those species as possible, spending major capital for the rarest. Among the gastropods, one of the most popular families to collect due to its beauty are species of the family Cypraeidae commonly known as the cowries. Members of this family are known for their egg shaped, brightly colored shells with a narrow slit-like aperture and most notably a porcelain-like glossy shell that is produced by the animal’s soft mantle which when fully extended, covers and polishes the external shell. Cowries are common worldwide across tropical and subtropical seas even with a few temperate species tolerant of colder water. Because of their popularity as a biologic collectible, the desire to create new species with minute differences or found at diverse localities have resulted in a large amount of species splitting. Fabio Moretzson (2014) termed this as taxonomic ‘noise’, much of it from non-peer reviewed amateur publications with new species descriptions based mostly on shell characteristics. Moretzsohn and the editorial board of the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) have attempted to clean up much of the ‘noise’ through review of molecular and anatomical data reducing over 1000 different names to 245 species and 166 subspecies (2013).
Paleontology is not immune to the proclivities of the cowrie collector. Going back to at least the Cretaceous, fossil Cypraeidae are also sought and commercially sold with notable species found in the Eocene and Oligocene of Europe, the Miocene of Indonesia, and the Oligocene and Miocene of Australia. In general, fossil cowries are rare with the notable exception of the genus Siphocypraea from the Upper Pliocene of the Southeastern United States. Unlike other cowries which have a distinct spire in their immature bulla stage, Siphocypraea has a depression over the apex resulting in either an open or spiral apical sulcus in adults. Anyone who has collected from the Plio-Pleistocene shell pits of South Florida has encountered these shells in abundance with a staggering amount of variation in characteristics. In this post, I will review the publication history of Siphocypraea and in doing so describe the different interpretations of its speciation.
T.A. Conrad (1841) described one of the first fossil cowries found in the United States from a specimen discovered at a sink hole in Duplin County, North Carolina. This species that he named Cypraea carolinensis, was listed from Miocene deposits now considered as Upper Pliocene Duplin Formation. Later in 1886 Angelo Heilprin in his paleontological explorations of South Florida described a cowrie found within Pliocene (now considered Lower Pleistocene) marl deposits uncovered in canal construction along the Caloosahatchee River. Due to its unusual comma-shaped apical sulcus, he named it Cypraea (Siphocypraea) problematica. At this point in time, no other Neogene cowries were described for almost 50 years. The Florida development boom began in the early 20th Century and during the construction of the Tamiami Trail connecting Florida’s west and east coasts, draglines encountered a molluscan rich sand near the Monroe-Dade County line. Among the endemic Miocene (today Pliocene) fauna were large cowries which W.C. Mansfield noticed were very similar to the species found in North Carolina. Mansfield (1931) named it Cypraea carolinensis floridana differing from the type by being more elongated and having a rounder ventral area. The following year Mansfield described a near perfect specimen of C. carolinensis carolinensis from what is now called the Jackson Bluff Formation thereby extending its range to the Florida Panhandle. The German malacologist F.A. Schilder (1932) noting similarities between Cypraea mus, a recent Venezuelan species and Heilprin’s Cypraea (Siphocypraea) problematica assigned C. mus to the subgenera Siphocypraea. Woodring (1959) would disagree with placing C. mus into Siphocypraea instead, he created a new subgenera Muracypraea for C. mus and its associated fossil species. Disregarding a similar bulla stage apical depression with C. carolinensis, Julia Gardner (1948) in her monograph of the Miocene and Pliocene molluscan fauna of North Carolina and Virginia, proposed a new section name, Akleistostoma for C. carolinensis and C. mus.
One of the more seminal works in Florida biostratigraphy and paleontology in the 1960s was by Alex Olsson and Richard Petit (1964). In Part 1 Olsson clarified the stratigraphy and associated fossils that were being exposed in shell pits, new canals, and the channelization of the Kissimmee River, by dividing the Neogene of Florida into four units: The Tamimi Limestone in Unit D, the Pinecrest in Unit C, the Caloosahatchee in Unit B and an unnamed Unit A which would later be known as the Bermont Formation and allied these units to their Mid-Atlantic counterparts. In Part 2, Olsson and Petit named new species and correlated known species into their corresponding unit. In the process they raised Siphocypraea to genus level noting the extreme variation seen in the genus particularly in the Kissimmee River area. They questioned how many of these variants should be named but did find two forms that were numerous enough to assign as subspecies of S. carolinensis; S. carolinensis hughesi a very broad elliptical form and S. carolinensis transitoria which shows characteristics transitional between S. carolinensis and S. floridana. Later Olsson and Petit (1968) expanded upon their views on Siphocypraea by assigning Cypraea mus as Siphocypraea (Muracypraea) mus and reassigning Cypraea chilona found in the Miocene Chipola Formation as Siphocypraea chilona.
No other United States Siphocypraea were described until the work of Ed Petuch began in the late 1970s first with the description of a new extant species within the Caribbean. Petuch worked in the Florida Neogene at a time when many pits and construction projects were exposing sediments containing species new to science. One of these exposures was in a housing project west of Miami in which the digging of a lake exposed a fossil shell deposit with mollusks having close affinities to the Upper Pliocene of the Mid-Atlantic region. Among the new species was a Cypraea in which Petuch (1986) named C. lindae. Also found were a diminutive cowrie which he associated with Cypraea pilsbryi an obscure species named by Ingram (1939) from the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Petuch (1994) would later reassign both to Siphocypraea. During this era, Petuch was not the only researcher naming new Siphocypraea species. In 1988 Juan Parodiz of the Carnegie named a species with similarities in between S. carolinensis and S. problematica naming it S. trippeana. Within the same paper Parodiz elevated Olsson and Petit’s subspecies S. transitoria and S. hughesi to species level. In 1991, Petuch named three additional Siphocypraea; S. mulepenensis, S. griffini and S. herweckorum, however it was with the release of his Atlas of Florida Fossil Shells in which the naming of species really began to exponentially increase. Without going through each individual name, Petuch (1994) named 12 new Siphocypraea species, followed by his 1996 publication creating a new genera Calusacypraea for those Siphocypraea which exhibit neotenic (juvenile traits in adult form) moving his S. sarasotaensis into this generic assignment and naming three new species. Before the 20th Century concluded, a German researcher, Dirk Fehse (1997) named two additional Siphocypraea species from the Caloosahatchee Formation.
The number of Siphocypraea species were artificially reduced by Petuch (2004) when he resurrected Gardner’s Akleistostoma as a genus for all Siphocypraea having a simple anterior sulcus with a widely opening posterior aperture and a new genus, Pseudadusta for those species with a comma shaped anterior sulcus and a narrow posterior aperture. In addition, and without going into much detail here, within the same publication he created a new subgenus within Calusacypraea called Myakkacypraea and two new subgenera within Siphocypraea; Okeechobea and Pahayokea. Within this entire Siphocypraea complex he named nine new species. In his book on the Geology of the Everglades, Petuch (2007) pictured two internal casts, one Akleistostoma and the other Calusacypraea from the Lower Pliocene Peace River Formation which if accurate fills in a large gap between the Chipola species S. chilona and the Upper Pliocene S. carolinensis. Naming of new species continued in Petuch’s unpublished book Compendium of Florida fossil shells (2011). He gave a name to the Akleistostoma internal cast and named four new subgenera to Akleistostoma and 13 new Pliocene species. For Siphocypraea he created three new subgenera and 11 species while upgrading his two Siphocypraea subgerera from 2003 to genus level. Thus, genus Pahayokea has two new subgenera and six new species and genus Okeechobea one new subgenus and eight new species. For Calusacypraea, the Miocene cast, one new subgenus and one new Pliocene species were named. Lastly with his genus Pseudadusta Petuch named two new subgenera and 11 new species. In all 52 new species of the Siphocypraea complex were named in this one work. Just last year Petuch (2018) published his latest book concentrating solely on the fossil Cypraeidae of South Florida. I have yet to acquire this book, however it advertises the description of over 100 species, so there must be additional new species that would add to this total, three that I know of for sure.
WoRMS has tried to cleanup some of this taxonomic splitting by failing to recognize any of Petuch’s genera instead accepting only Siphocypraea and Akleistostoma. Also, they have upgraded the Caribbean fossil and extant species classified under Siphocypraea (Muracypraea) to full genus recognition as Muracypraea. Under this interpretation, Siphocypraea/Akleistostoma were restricted to the flooded Southeastern United States and became extinct with S. problematica in the Lower Pleistocene. WoRMS did not challenge the 90-species listed prior to 2018 as it is a register for extant species however its acceptance of Akleistostoma has caused some problems with the systematics of Siphocypraea. As defined by Gardner, Cypraea carolinensis would be Akleistostoma carolinensis and as defined by Petuch any Cypraeidae with a simple anterior sulcus. Heilprin’s definition of Siphocypraea could therefore be interpreted broadly as any Cypraeidae with a comma shaped anterior sulcus. There are many workers of Florida molluscan paleontology that except this believing that there are only two species; carolinensis and problematica. However, to accept that viewpoint is to ignore the transitional forms and variation that was occurring in South Florida during the Upper Pliocene. Accepting Olsson & Petit’s view that Gardner created an unnecessary classification with Akleistostoma and that the depressed apex in the Bulla stage is the defining characteristic in Siphocypraea would clarify the inconsistencies with the evolution of S. carolinensis/floridana to the endpoint S. problematica. It is why I have chosen to use only Siphocypraea in my collection.
The ultimate question is how many species of Siphocypraea are there? That is not the scope of this post and would require a lot of work which would certainly be contested and contentious. I do believe there are more than five and less than hundred. I believe all species up to Olsson and Petit. I believe that some of Petuch’s species are valid, but exactly which ones are hard to say. His practice of creating subgenera that he later elevates to genus and description of species within depositional beds and those interpreted beds in different geographically regions make it difficult to say which are species and which are synonyms. What I have tried to do below is to bin different characters and variations of Siphocypraea within my collection from degree of anterior sulcus coiling and the opening of the posterior aperture.
Siphocypraea chilona (Dall, 1890). Lower Miocene (Burdigalian) Chipola Formation, Liberty County, Florida USA. Shell is nearly round with a high convex dorsum and a narrow aperture uniform throughout. Even crenulations of both sides of the aperture. When preserved, the color pattern is of large reddish spots. Not uncommon at Alum Bluff. Both WoRMS and Petuch would assign this species to the genus Akleistostoma.
Siphocypraea carolinensis (Conrad, 1841). Upper Pliocene Duplin Formation. Left: Darlington County, South Carolina USA. Right: Florence County, South Carolina USA. The specimen on the left is typical of S. carolinensis, subovate with a simple anterior sulcus, wide posterior aperture, denticles on parietal lip are weak. The dorsum or top of shell can be variable with some gerontic specimens being relatively high. The dorsum height of the specimen on the right is closer to S. floridana but all other characteristics are consistent with S. carolinensis. Also, Akleistostoma.
Siphocypraea pilsbryi (Ingram, 1939). Upper Pliocene Duplin Formation, Bladen County, North Carolina USA. The best way to describe this species is as a miniature S. carolinensis. I had this listed as a dwarf form of S. carolinensis until I came upon the paper describing Cypraea pilsbryi in researching this post. The type locality is the Cape Fear River and I found several examples of this species on a tributary of the Cape Fear. Little is found online about this species although Petuch has reported it from South Florida. Also, Akleistostoma.
Siphocypraea carolinensis floridana (Mansfield, 1931). Upper Pliocene Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation, Sarasota County, Florida USA. The specimen on the left is a gerontic individual from APAC, on the right typical S. floridana from SMR. Highly variable much more so than S. carolinensis. The dorsum tends to be not as high as S. carolinensis and parietal denticles are more strongly expressed but shares the uncoiled anterior sulcus and wide posterior aperture. This is the common Siphocypraea found in the Sarasota shell pits. Also, Akleistostoma.
Siphocypraea sarasotaensis Petuch, 1994. Upper Pliocene Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation, Sarasota County, Florida USA. First described as a Siphocypraea, Petuch later classified this species with his Calusacypraea genus which is defined by neotenic characteristics such as an undeveloped anterior sulcus and very light weight. Many researchers feel that this species is merely a variation of S. floridana (Lyle Campbell pers. comm.). WoRMS classification Akleistostoma while Petuch would call this species Calusacypraea myakka.
Siphocypraea briani (Petuch, 1994). Upper Pliocene Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation, Sarasota County, Florida USA. Described as Calusacypraea briani and differentiated from S. sarasotaensis by having a larger and longer shell. I have placed this shell as S. briani however it could be a gerontic individual of S. sarasotaensis. Some Cypraeidae demonstrate sexual dimorphism which could explain the larger size as well. WoRMS classification Akleistostoma, Petuch Calusacypraea.
Siphocypraea lindae (Petuch, 1986). Upper Pliocene Golden Gate Member of the Tamiami Formation, Collier County, Florida USA. Very close to S. carolinensis with a high dorsum and simple sulcus but with a narrower posterior aperture and stronger denticles on parietal lip. Petuch assigns this species in his genus Pseudadusta.
Siphocypraea trippeana Parodiz, 1988. Upper Pliocene Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation, Sarasota County, Florida USA. Typically, shell is small and narrow with a high dorsum. The sulcus has a slight bend more so than the S. carolinensis complex, described as a keyhole appearance and a narrow aperture like S. problematica.
Siphocypraea ketteri Petuch, 1994. Upper Pliocene Golden Gate Member of the Tamiami Formation, Collier County, Florida USA. Another form transitional between S. carolinensis and S. problematica. Differs from S. trippeana by having a wider shell and flattened base with noticeable wrinkles along the base. Petuch assigns this species in the genus Pseudadusta.
Siphocypraea hughesi Olsson & Petit, 1964. Upper Pliocene Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation, Highlands County, Florida USA. Restricted to the Kissimmee River area. Distinctive shape, wide and squat. Anterior sulcus approaching that of S. problematica. Petuch assigns this species to Akleistostoma (Olssonicypraea).
Siphocypraea transitoria Olsson & Petit, 1964. Upper Pliocene Pinecrest Sand Member of the Tamiami Formation, Sarasota County, Florida USA. Although common in the Kissimmee River area, this specimen is from APAC in Sarasota where it is much rarer. Very close to S. problematica with slightly less coiling of the anterior sulcus and a slightly wider posterior aperture. Petuch would call this Siphocypraea streami.
Siphocypraea mulepenensis Petuch, 1994. Upper Pliocene Golden Gate Member of the Tamiami Formation, Collier County, Florida USA. Like S. problematica with a comma shaped anterior sulcus and narrow aperture. The shell differs in being shorter with a pyriform shape. The shell around the anterior sulcus noticeably protrudes.
Siphocypraea problematica (Heilprin, 1886). Lower Pleistocene (Calabrian) Caloosahatchee Formation, Martin County, Florida USA. The shell is long and narrow with a comma-shaped anterior sulcus and narrow posterior aperture. Well preserved individuals demonstrate a rich golden color.
Siphocypraea swearingeni Petuch & Drolshagen, 2011. Lower Pleistocene (Calabrian) Caloosahatchee Formation, Martin County, Florida USA. I found numerous specimens of this form in mixed spoil with the S. problematica pictured above and based on the adhering matrix, it appears that they came from a different layer. Wider and shorter than S. problematica, this could be an environmental variant of it. I was hesitant to put a Petuch 2011 name on this population as there could very well be an earlier name that would take precedent, however it does fit very closely to the figures of S. swearingeni in Petuch 2018.
Muracypraea mus (Linnaeus, 1754). Recent. Judibana Bay, Venezuela in sea grass beds at 1-3 feet depth. Also known as the mouse cowrie, this species was once classified as Siphocypraea. Since M. mus has two obvious nodes on each side of the mantle line on posterior end of the dorsum and the sulcus fills with callous as it matures, it was placed within a separate genus. Although restricted to Venezuela and Eastern Columbia, its ancestor M. henekeni had a widespread Caribbean distribution in the Miocene.
Conrad, T. A. 1841. Appendix to: Observations on the Secondary and Tertiary formations of the southern Atlantic States, by James T. Hodge. Am. Journ. Sci., vol. xli, 1st ser., pp. 332-348.
Dirk Fehse. 1997. Two new fossil Siphocypraea from Florida, U.S.A. - Schriften zur Malakozoologie, Heft 10: 38-44, pl. 12-13, 1 tab.
Gardner, J. A. 1948. Mollusca from the Miocene and Lower Pliocene of Virginia and North Carolina: Part 2. Scaphopoda and Gastropoda, United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 199-B: iv, pages 179-310, plates 24-38, [iii].
Heilprin, Angelo. 1887. Explorations on the west coast of Florida and in the Okeechobee wilderness: with special reference to the geology and zoology of the Floridian peninsula: a narrative of researches undertaken under the auspices of the Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia. Transactions of the Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia v. 1
Ingram, W. M. 1939. A new fossil cowry from North Carolina. The Nautilus 52(4):120-121.
Mansfield, W.C. 1930. Miocene Gastropods and Scaphopods of the Choctawhatchee Formation of Florida, Florida Geological Survey Bulletin 3, 189 pages.
Mansfield, W.C. 1931. Some tertiary mollusks from southern Florida. Proceedings of the United States National Museum, v. 79.
Moretzson, Fabio. 2014. Cypraeidae: How well-inventoried is the best-known seashell family? American Malacological Bulletin. 32(2): 278-289.
Olsson, A.A., and R.E. Petit. 1964. Some Neogene Mollusca from Florida and the Carolinas, Bulletins of American Paleontology 47(217): pages 509-574, plates 77-83
Olsson, A.A., and R.E. Petit. 1968 (1993 Reprint). Notes on Siphocypraea, Originally - Special Publication 9, The Paleontological Research Institute Special Publication 19: pages 77-88.
Parodiz, J.J. 1988. A new species of Siphocypraea (Gastropoda, Cypraeidae) from the Neogene of southwest Florida. Annals of the Carnegie Museum 57(3): 91–97.
Petuch, Edward J. 1979. A New Species of Siphocypraea (Gastropoda: Cypraeidae) from Northern South America with Notes on the Genus in the Caribbean. Bulletin of Marine Science -Miami- 29(2):216-225.
Petuch, Edward J. 1986. Cenozoic The Pliocene reefs of Miami: their geomorphological significance in the evolution of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, southeastern Florida, USA. Journal of Coastal Research 2(4).
Petuch, Edward J. 1991, New Gastropods from the Plio-Pleistocene of Southwestern Florida and the Everglades Basin. W.H. Dall Paleontological Research Center Special Publication Number 1.
Petuch, Edward J. 1994. Atlas of Florida Fossil Shells (Pliocene and Pleistocene Marine Gastropods). Chicago Spectrum Press.
Petuch, Edward J. 1996. Calusacypraea, a new, possibly neotenic genus of cowries from the Pliocene of southern Florida. Nautilus 110(1): 17-21
Petuch, Edward J. 2004. Cenozoic Seas. CRC Press.
Petuch, Edward J. 2007. The Geology of the Everglades and Adjacent Areas. CRC Press.
Petuch, Edward J. and Mardie Drolshagen. 2011. Compendium of Florida Fossil Shells, Vol. 1 Middle Miocene to Late Pleistocene Marine Gastropods: Families Strombidae, Cypraeidae, Ovulidae, Eocypraeidae, Triviidae, Conidae, and Conilithidae [unpublished].
Petuch, Edward J. David P. Berschauer, Robert F. Myers. 2018. Jewels of the Everglades: The Fossil Cowries of Southern Florida. San Diego Shell Club, 256 pp.
Schilder, F.A. 1932. Fossilium Catalogus, I, Animalia. Pars 55. Cypraeacea, 276 pp.
Woodring, Wendell Phillips. 1957. Muracypraea, new subgenus of Cypraea: Nautilus, v. 70, no. 3, p. 88–90,
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Hello Everyone its been way to long since my last entry. I've been sharing on the Facebook page because its so easy to upload from my phone. But I will start back bogging...... I miss it
I found these cephalopods two weeks ago here in middle TN- Leipers Formation from what I'm told. I found it interesting how the shell casing seems to have been peeled back on both......
June 5, 2010
Barry held his camera barely two feet away from the back of an Agkistrodon piscivorus. Although a small snake, it was still very dangerous and he positioned his camera based on years of experience with these reptiles. Known more commonly as a Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin, the twelve inch juvenile snake had coloration similar to the closely related Copperhead. However, its patterns were muted by late afternoon shadows in a remote location that was not favorable to an easy medical evacuation. So, we slowly moved away and eased our paddles back in the water to complete an adventure which began long before daylight.
Almost twelve hours earlier my friend and I had packed our gear, food, and water into my eighteen foot canoe. Soon after, our paddles fell into a synchronous rhythm that allowed us to quietly experience an aquatic wilderness. We were searching in Texas - hunting in alluvial debris and Pleistocene terraces for the slightest hint of extinct creatures.
Our unrushed pace allowed us the time to get a feel for the local geology. Occasionally, groundwater from the surrounding area made its way to the base of the Pleistocene gravels and created springs which emerged just above older impermeable shale. The cool water supported rich vegetation that resisted the summer sun. It was also a visual key to the strata we were trying to find.
A little later, we found an area where the gravel spilled onto a ledge just above the water. Almost immediately I spotted a gravel encrusted bone fragment. I looked over to see Barry higher up on the river terrace. Still scanning the area, I hollered, “Hey, I found some mineralized bone over here. Uhhh…wait, here’s another one.” I noticed the second piece was gnarly and pitted while Barry made his way down to inspect my finds.
“What do you think of the encrusted bone?” I asked. He replied, “Not sure; but there’s no doubt it’s old. Which bone do you think it is?”
I tried to imagine the fossil without the encrusting gravel, “Looks like it could be the ‘joint’ end of a scapula…I’m not sure about the second one, though.”
Before and after cleaning – proximal scapula & unknown fragment
I headed back to the canoe to pack away my finds while Barry searched further down the ledge. It wasn’t long before he yelled he had found more bone, and after I paddled the boat over to him, he grinned and asked me to find the camouflaged fossil. The fragment was difficult to spot amid the varied textures of rock and silt. We were off to a good start.
Barry's mineralized bone fragment
In Texas, June temperatures can quickly reach the upper 90’s. We maintained a regular fluid intake and an occasional soak in the water. Proper hydration and cooling were essential for us to enjoy an amazing adventure versus a headache pounding endurance test. Since we still had more than a dozen miles to travel, the hot conditions could not be ignored.
A few miles later a short rocky ledge barely emerged from the water. It looked like a good spot to check and take a break. What I really did not expect was to step a few feet from the boat and see a broken stone dart point. I looked at it with a little skepticism; the area seemed like a place fisherman would use to access the water and I wondered if someone had passed the time trying to replicate an ancient weapon. But the patina on a few nearby flakes confirmed the find was old.
Barry searched the rocky debris fan on the downstream end of the ledge. I let him know to keep an eye out for more than bone and kept scanning the ground. Before me was an area the size of two cars where the water had peeled away part of an upper bank which had slipped into the water. I stopped. There, in the gravel and weeds, were more flakes…and another dart point! As I reached for my camera, I saw another broken point by my knee…a cool moment. Then things started to get comical - in an amazing sort of way - because as I took the photo of the first point, I spotted a third one just beyond it…an incredible moment!
Still kneeling in the same spot, I yelled to Barry, “Hey, you’re not going to believe this, but I’ve found…hang on….” I shook my head in disbelief at the fourth late Archaic projectile point tucked in the gravel. “You have to come over here, now,” I smiled. I tried to explain to him what had just happened – pointing out each of the finds. He was as awestruck as I, but we both almost lost composure when, within seconds of ‘show and tell’, another light colored point met my eye a few inches from where I laid the paddle. I edged backward to get a good camera angle. Then, I just looked up at Barry in stunned silence and back down again beside my other knee at a small gray-purple dart point. That is when we both erupted with the excitement of two kids.
“I’m now walking away. There have to be more here; so you find them,” I jokingly announced as I headed upstream to survey the ledge. Savoring an unbelievable fifteen minutes of discovery included the analytical questions forced by the finds. Often people have asked, “Where did these artifacts come from?” Sometimes the answer is simple because the ‘site’ still exists. Other times, I will touch two fingers together in front of me, representing a point in space, because similar coordinates may be all that remain of ancient eroded camps. My quick recon of the area seemed to confirm a similar origin for these artifacts. Our timing had offered us the chance to experience something that would have been erased by the next flood.
My six dart points fill Barry’s hand
Barry’s voice carried down the bank, “I found one!” I saw him gently scratching the sand and gravel in the weeds. I took in the view of the area because I wanted to remember this place and time. Barry called out again, “Hey, you should see this large white base I found!” By the time I made it back to him, he had found another dart! While he pointed out his finds, I felt like we were functioning in a mild state of shock – still trying to wrap our minds around what was happening. After a few more broken finds and photos, we cooled off in the water. In all we found 19 pieces; some were complete and some were fragments.
Dream-like remnants of the artifact discoveries stayed with us for miles. I told Barry I was not sure I would have believed the event if I had not been part of it. Roughly thirteen hundred years earlier, someone made the weapons we found. Handling them was like touching an old pocket knife owned by your great grandfather or holding an old wooden spoon used by your great grandmother - except, they were much older and no one remembered the owners anymore. We could not know what the circumstances were during the last moments someone held these artifacts, but we were the next men to hold them and imagine those days.
We found a few pieces of fossil bone over the next couple of hours and it really began to get hot. To get relief from the temperature, we paddled closer to the shady banks. On few occasions we startled beavers from their dens. Not many things can get your attention quicker than a forty pound animal hurtling into the water on the edge of your vision. My only regret was that the camera had not recorded our comical reactions.
Then, as we rounded a large bend, a huge gravel bar came into view. In the distance, I could see something big lying on the rocks. “Barry, what’s that?”
“I don’t know….” He shaded his eyes and leaned forward, then exploded, “IT’S A HUGE GAR!” He spun to face me, “Can I have the SKULL?!” He spun back, “It’s HUGE! You’ve got to let me have it, please!”
He sounded like a ten year old begging for his favorite birthday present. It was hilarious. But my smile was temporarily gagged when I caught a whiff of the almost dry carcass. “If you can separate the skull from the rest, you can have it…but it stays on your end of the canoe,” I winced.
The smell matched the size of the alligator gar – it was a monster. I was fascinated to see such a large specimen up close. Barry finally separated his prize from its ragged remains. Then, he placed it in the canoe under his seat and we continued to search the bar.
The multi-colored gravel camouflaged many pieces of petrified wood and the new ‘gar skull owner’ took advantage of the canoe’s carrying capacity. We left shore a little heavier and smellier. Unfortunately for me, the prevailing wind came from the bow of the boat. I joked with him about the odor coming from his direction, but he firmly insisted he was unaware of any stench.
On another bar, the gravel teased us with more bits of bone; then Barry spotted a large brown lump. He called me over to take some photos. Whose bone he had found was not immediately obvious; but it had some size. Only after he freed it from the sand were the features of a large vertebra confirmed. Likely from a mammoth, it had suffered the erosive effects of time and water. Yet, Barry grinned. He had accomplished one of the goals we had for the trip – find mammoth bone.
The heat was relentless, but we kept cooling off and drinking. Even the butterflies were frequently tapping moisture and minerals in the damp sand. Eventually, we reached an area where the channel narrowed and we took advantage of the shade. I was looking for beaver dens when Barry cried, “Snake! Back there by the large stump!”
We buried the paddles in a series of strong back strokes to reverse our direction. I finally spotted the handsome reptile crawling into a small pile of logs. I could tell he wanted to catch it, when he almost whispered, “Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri.” After three seconds of heat affected thinking, I realized he had not issued curses to move faster, but had just named the scientific classification for a Texas Rat Snake – the name that had passed through my mind 5 seconds earlier…. Barry scrambled up the bank and had the snake in hand within two minutes. He slowly manipulated it while I took photos. I have always enjoyed my encounters with these non-poisonous reptiles. They can be very aggressive and strike repeatedly, or try to intimidate any threats with their loud hiss and vibrating tail. He left on the log where we found it.
About a half hour downstream we were exposed again to the late afternoon sun. It reflected from the water and the barren high bluffs beside us. We paddled and scanned both water and banks. Through the salty sweat in my eyes, I saw something out of place halfway up one of the bluffs.
“OK, that can’t be what I think it is, can it Barry?” A bowling ball sized dome contrasted sharply with the surrounding tan soil. We slowed the canoe to a stop. I remembered the “dome” of a four foot mammoth humerus I had found almost a year earlier…. My heart rate increased.
Barry insisted, “John, that shape is too perfect; it has to be a bone.” The closer we got the boat, the more my pulse quickened. From fifteen feet below it, I still had to get closer to allow myself to acknowledge the obvious…it was a bone!
We positioned the canoe as close as possible to the vertical bank. The water was not moving fast there, but it was deep. In a tricky move that involved me stepping on the tip of the stern and stabbing my rock hammer into the soil of the steep ledge above, I pulled myself up to a spot where I could rest. Our access point was a little downstream of the “dome”, so I had to dig footholds to make my way to the find. It was impressive when I could finally rest beside it. “Hey Barry, it’s bone!” I grinned.
After a difficult time staging a few digging tools, we started to excavate. I carefully determined the perimeter of the fossil and had some vivid flashbacks to last year’s humerus find. However, the deeper we dug, the more it became apparent that the rest of the bone was not attached. We tested the ‘ball’ for movement and it popped free of the matrix below. In the soil below, we did not find any more evidence of bone.
Initially it seemed there was a large scavenging scar across the surface, but after cleaning, the mark appeared to be an eroded part of the internal vascular structure. Other old gouges and marks may have been due to ancient scavenging. Shape and size suggested I had found my first mammoth ‘femur ball’ or the head of the femur. Regardless of the number of mammoth fossils I have found, they never cease to spark my imagination.
Mammoth femur head – approx. 7 inches in diameter
Scars and vascular structures
The shadows had begun to lengthen by the time we loaded the femur ball and started back downstream. Temperatures had dropped a few degrees which energized us for the next few miles. In a large eddy, we saw another snake crossing the water and sped up to see it. Both of us recognized the juvenile Water Moccasin as it paused and floated on the water. Barry pulled out his camera and I positioned the canoe to assist him. All was going well until the young snake thought the boat would make a good rest stop. The most important result of the next few moments was that no one entered the water, and nothing entered the canoe. I repositioned us to allow the little pit viper to reach the bank. It seemed to respond to the security of solid ground and assumed the confident demeanor of the species.
We reached the take-out after twelve hours on the water. Tired, but feeling the satisfaction of an incredible adventure, we completed a relatively short shuttle run back upstream. The trip had so many layers – so many memories. We hunted and found what we sought. And somewhere between our imaginations, the water, willows, cottonwood, and stone, we caught a reflective glimpse of the ancient hunters.
Dear Fossil Forum members!
This report deals with ammonoids from the former zone of Protrachyceras archelaus, which is our present Longobardian within the Ladinian stage of the marine Triassic timescale.
A beautiful view of the surging “rock waves” of the incoming tectonic thrust sheets. The valley between the two Mountains in the middle of the picture marks the tectonic border between the mainly Triassic Hallstatt Unit and the Tirolikum Unit of the Totengebirgs nappe (in the background).
Since the beginning of the geological research within the Northern Calcareous Alps of Austria in the middle of the 19th century, about 500 species of Triassic ammonoids have been described in great Monographs by Mojsisovics, Hauer, Diener and other early authors. The ammonoids described therein came from upper Anisian to uppermost Norian aged parts of the Hallstatt limestone in Austria.
Only in the lower to middle Ladinian period, a gap exists in the rich ammonoid record of these early researchers.
This gap was explained by them as an interruption of sedimentation in the Ladinian time or tectonically reduced Ladinian strata during the genesis of the Alps.
During these early days no one thought of a collecting gap because Ladinian ammonoid faunae were well described and known from several localities in the Southern Alps and the Bakony Mountains in Hungary.
In 1882 Mojsisovics pictured ammonoids of Anisian and Ladinian age in his monographic work “Die Cephalopoden der mediterranen Triasprovinz”.
The locations mentioned therein reach from the upper Anisian Schreyeralm limestone here in Austria to several Ladinian locations of the former Austrian provinces Südtirol, Lombardy and the kingdom of Hungary, which were also part of the former Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy at this time. Included in this work were also Scythian and Anisian ammonoids from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Fig.2 Frontpage of Mojsisovics second great monograph from the year 1882.
“The detailed accurate descriptions and illustrations provided by Mojsisovics are unquestionably the greatest contribution by a single author towards appreciating the astonishing beauty and variety of Triassic ammonoids” (cit. E. T. TOZER).
Therefore every recent Triassic ammonoid researcher includes these old works in the standard literature of Triassic ammonoids. These old works were so to speak, a cornerstone for building the marine middle and upper Triassic timescale of our days.
Unfortunately the early stratigraphic scales of Mojsisovics had some mistakes. Originally the stratigraphic position of the “Norian” stage was set by him below the Carnian.
He used the term Norian for the time frame we today call Ladinian. Mojs. thought that most parts of today’s real Norian Hallstatt limestone of Austria were of the same age as real Ladinian strata in the Southern Alps. Some misinterpret location data, i.e. the wrong assumed position of the fineclastic Zlambach marls as base of the Hallstatt limestone led him to this wrong assumption.
It was the Austrian geologist Alexander Bittner, a contemporary of Mojsisovics, who introduced the term Ladinian into literature by recognizing the false assumptions of Mojsisovics. The name Ladinian was chosen by Bittner after the Ladinian folk of the Southern Alps/Dolomites. At this time this area was also part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy with its capital Vienna and it’s so called “Vienna school” of the palaeontology institutions there.
Probably this “miss take” of Mojsisovics led to some changed ammonoid zones within the Norian timescale, which last into the 20th century.
It was the merit of the Canadian Triassic worker E.T. Tozer to correct this long lasting error by establish his own North American Triassic timescale, based only on North American, mainly Canadian Triassic ammonoid locations.
The pelagic (deeper marine) Triassic sedimentation in Austria starts with the uppermost Anisian Flexo-Ptychites beds/lenses of the Schreyeralm limestone. This is also the base of the Hallstatt formation. The next frequent ammonoid lenses/layers occur within uppermost Ladinian/lower Carnian strata in this formation. The lower to middle Ladinian time frame in between was not well documented with ammonoids by the early researchers of the 19th century. At some historical locations the lower Ladinian part is/was given but was not really recognised by them.
Later, modern researchers used microfossils to determine the placement of large parts of the grey to violet limestone in the Hallstatt formation into the Ladinian. Within the 20th century also scarce ammonoids were mentioned from these middle Ladinian strata.
Fig.3 Anisian Schreieralm limestone with cross sections of Flexoptychites sp.
Fig.4 Monophyllites sphaerophyllus (HAUER) from the Schreieralm limestone
In general, ammonoid locations are not frequently known within the Ladinian part of the Hallstatt limestone.
The most common fossils are Crinoid stem parts, Bivalves and Conodonts.
The limestone facies consists of red to grey, sometimes yellowish to grey coloured limestone which is locally interbedded with marls.
Also strongly condensed successions are common there and fossils also do not occur in continuous layers.
Comparable Ladinian ammonoid faunas are also well known from similar Hallstatt type limestone in Greece and Italy. They show similar ammonoid faunae of Ladinian to Carnian age.
In the Tethys realm the whole Ladinium is split into two subdivisions today.
Upper Ladinian = Longobardian,
Lower Ladinian = Fassanian,
The historical zone ammonite of the Longobardian is Protrachyceras archelaus (LAUBE).
Protrachyceras archelaus (LAUBE), in MOJSISOVICS “Die Cephalopoden der mediterranen Triasprovinz“ Wien 1882
Tafel XXXL, Fig. 1,
But Protrachyceras archelaus LAUBE do occur within a longer time span and is therefore not perfect for stratigraphic aims. The old archelaus zone of the Ladinian was therefore changed into several Longobardian and Fassanian ammonoid zones of today.
Within the Tethys realm the Longobardian is split into the ammonoid zones of:
The Fassanian is split to the ammonoid zones of:
The ammonoids shown in this report come from a condensed fossil bed roughly inserted to the turquoise marked ammonoid zones of the timescale below.
Historical Ladinian locations
The condensed lower Carnian fossil lenses on the famous historical Feuerkogel show almost all a portion of the upper Ladinian at their base. This is also visible at other Lower Carnian locations within the Hallstatt limestone.
During the last years Proarcestes sp. from a new location are sometimes shown for sale in the internet. They are sometimes identified as Arcestes sp. from Norian strata. But it is Proarcestes, therefore its Norian age is definitely wrong.
I visited this new locality a few years ago. All locations there are of Ladinian age which is evidenced by Proarcestes cf. subtridentinus, Anolcites sp. and Epigymnites sp. This fauna is maybe slightly younger than the fauna shown later here in this report.
Fig.6 Some Epigymnites arthaberi (MOJS.) and Epigymnites moelleri (MOJS.) from the above mentioned location
The new location
Several years ago a friend and I were lucky to find a hitherto unknown middle Ladinian ammonoid location during a prospecting trip. At this location the normal limestone succession is penetrated by several fractures and tectonic influence across the normal layer direction is also visible there. The fossil layer itself, in which ammonoids were frequent, consists of a very strong condensed upper part of lower Longobardian age, indicated by Protrachyceras longobardicum (MOJS.), and a lower part of a slightly older age indicated by scarce last descendants of Ptychites cf. pauli MOJS. which show deeply incised second and third lateral saddles similar Aristoptychites or Arctoptychites.
Therefore the location is ranged by me to the transition of the ammonoid zones of Protrachyceras longobardicum and the underlying Eoprotrachyceras gredleri zone. Outside of the Tethys realm this is roughly comparable to the zones of Meginoceras meginae MC LEARN and Tuchodiceras poseidon (TOZER) of the North American timescale. Both zones are known from the Triassic of British Columbia in Canada too. Tozer, 1994, wrote that flat forms of Protrachyceras sikianum MC LEARN are comparable with Protrachyceras longobardicum (MOJS.) and the thicker morphs of Pt. sikianum MC LEARN with Pt. archelaus (LAUBE).
View of the lower, sometimes more greyish limestone part of the fossil layer. The chisel points to a Sturia cf. semiarata MOJS.
The furrows on the limestone block have their origin in the strong condensation of this limestone. One can recognize by this feature the underlying part of a condensed limestone (fossil) layer.
In contrast to the above shown picture, a view of the underside of the overlaying layer where craters/hollows are visible. These two features can be used for recognizing up and downside in strongly condensed limestone. This feature is independent from the Triassic age of the rock and occurs in condensed limestone of Jurassic age too.
The right hanging limestone block contains the fossil layer.
Protrachyceras longobardicum (MOJS). in situ. View from the underside. The upper half of the ammonoid was totally dissolved due to the extreme condensation of the uppermost limestone layer at this location.
In this location P. archelaus occurs very scarcely. It is no good indicator for stratigraphic aims here at all.
A normal collector can use the following features to insert ammonoids into the Ladinian timescale.
The frequent occurrence of Proarcestes sp. with a wavy end body chamber is a sign for Ladinian age.
All forms of Sturia sp. are restricted to the late Anisian and Ladinian.
The occurrence of real Ladinian Protrachyceras MOJS.
The following picture will show you the main differences between Protrachyceras, Trachyceras and Neoprotrachyceras.
In contrast to Trachyceras the venter furrow of real Protrachyceras MOJS. is bordered by nodes which show a single point per node. Protrachyceras are restricted to the Ladinian.
Real Trachyceras show “broader” nodes with two or three points a node bordering the venter furrow. Trachyceras is frequent in the Lower Carnian (Julian)
The genus Neoprotrachyceras KRYSTYN looks similar toTrachyceras but shows also just one point per node, sometimes changing up to two points per node within maturity. Neoprotrachyceras is restricted to the uppermost Lower Carnian and lowermost Upper Carnian (e.g. the genus Spirogmoceras SILBERLING in the Dilleri Zone of the North American Tuvalian)
For a newbie collector it is difficult to find some fossils in the Hallstatt limestone at all. To place them into the right ammonoid zone is sometimes the easier part of the exercise.
A weathered cross section of Proarcestes sp., visible at the limestone wall. Notice the bleached limestone surface in contrast to the colour of the fresh rock.
Talus block with visible cross sections of ammonoids and orthocone nautiloids
Natural picture size is 20cm. The edges of the fossils are deeply weathered in. This can be a sign that the fossils will probably split out well.
Small idiomorphic Biotite crystals up to one mm in size, fine Feldspar crystals and thin greenish tuffitic crusts around some ammonoids and limestone clasts indicate a distant simultaneous volcanic event, adjacent to the palaeo Hallstatt realm. This is the very first observation of volcanic fallout/washout within the Hallstatt limestone column.
Within other tectonic nappes in the Northern and Southern Calcareous Alps (Dolomites) volcanic (Tuffitic) ash layers are a frequent feature in Ladinian time. In the adjacent Tirolic nappe some volcanic/tuffitic events are evidenced near the base of the archelaus zone.
The middle Ladinian fauna listed below was found at this location.
cf. Beyrichites sp.
Eupinacoceras cf. damesi (MOJSISOVICS).
Epigymnites cf. ecki (MOJS.)
Epigymnites cf. breunneri (HAUER)
Epigymnites arthaberi (MOJS.)
Gymnites raphaelis TOMMASI
Megaphyllites obolus MOJS.
Monophyllites wengensis (KLIPSTEIN)
cf. Silenticeras sp.
Sturia cf. sansovinii MOJS.
Sturia semiarata MOJS.
Proarcestes ombonii TOMMASI
Proarcestes subtridentinus MOJS.
Protrachyceras archelaus (LAUBE)
Protrachyceras longobardicum MOJS.
Ptychites cf. pauli MOJS.
Ptychites cf. plusiae RENZ
Syringoceras cf. longobardicus
Nautilus div. sp.
Austriellula dilatata (SUESS)
Important ammonoid species of the archelaus zone
A beautiful, conspicuous faunal element of the archelaus zone is Protrachyceras longobardicum MOJS. the zone ammonoid of the Langobardicum Zone
This species shows its maximum roughly in the lower middle of the former archelaus zone and can be used well for stratigraphic aims. As mentioned earlier in this report compressed variants of Protrachyceras sikanianum MC LEARN are comparable to Pt. longobardicum MOJS. The thicker variants of Pt. sikanianum rather resemble Pt. archelaus LAUBE.
Fig. 13 Protachyceras longobardicum MOJS. with Proarcestes ombonii TOMMASI and Proarcestes cf. subtridentinus MOJS.
Fig. 14 Pt. cf. longobardicum, some juvenile Arcestes sp. and the brachiopod Austriellula dilatata.
Fig. 15 Epigymnites breunneri (HAUER) and Monophyllites wengensis (KLIPSTEIN)
Fig. 16 Epigymnites arthaberi MOJS. and Monophyllites wengensis (KLIPSTEIN)
Fig. 17 Gymnites raphaelis TOMMASI
Fig. 18Discinisca sp. Looks like a fossil Limpet gastropod (Patellidae) but in reality it is an inarticulate Brachiopoda
Fig. 19Sturia cf. semiarata together with Proarcestes cf. ombonii
The most frequent faunal element of the Ladinian within the Tethys realm is Proarcestes BRONN. This genus occurs with several species up to Carnian strata. In our location Proarcestes subtridentinus MOJS. and Proarcestes ombonii TOMMASI was often found. The second one can reach the dimension of a small ball.
Fig. 20 Proarcestes subtridentinus
Fig. 21 Monophyllites wengensis (KLIPSTEIN)
In the Hallstatt limestone this genus starts with the Anisian Monophyllites sphaerophyllus via the Ladinian M. wengensis up to the Carnian M. simonyi. Within the descendants of the Triassic Phylloceratida the ancestor of the Jurassic Ammonitida is supposed.
Fig. 22 Ptychites cf. pauli MOJS. This species of Ptychites show deeply incised second and third Lateral saddles. I think that this is a feature of allmost all "late" species of Ptychites.
Fig. 23 Ptychites cf. plusiae RENZ
Fig. 24 Sageceras walteri
I hope you have enjoyed this new report about the Ladinian strata of my favourite collecting area.
Again I thank, “Danke Roger”, Fossil forum member “Ludwigia” for correcting my “Austrian” English.
ALMA, F. H. (1926). Eine Fauna des Wettersteinkalkes bei Innsbruck. Annalen des Naturhistorischen Museums in Wien, 40, 111-129.
BACHMANN, GH, JACOBSHAGEN, V (1974) Zur Fazies und Entstehung der Hallstätter Kalke von Epidauros (Anis bis Karn; Argolis, Griechenland). Z Deutsch Geol Ges, 125: 195-223
DIENER, C. 1900: Die triadische Cephalopoden-Fauna der Schiechlinghöhe bei Hallstatt. Beiträge zur Paläontologie Österreich-Ungarns und des Orient 13
v. HAUER, F. (1888). Die Cephalopoden des bosnischen Muschelkalkes von Han Bulog bei Sarajevo. KK Hof-und Staatsdruckerei.
von Hauer, F. (1888. KK Hof-und Staatsdruckerei.
KITTL, E., 1908, Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Triasbildungen der nordöstlichen
Dobrudscha. Denkschriften der mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Klasse der
kaiserlichen: Akademie der Wissenschaften, v. 81, p. 445- 532
KRISTAN-TOLLMANN, E, KRYSTYN, L (1975) Die Mikrofauna der ladinisch-karnischen Hallstätter Kalke von Sakliblei (Taurus-Gebirge, Türkei). Sitzungsber. Österr. Akad. Wiss. Math. Naturwiss. Kl. Abt. I, 184 (8-10): 259-340
KRYSTYN, L. Zur Ammoniten und Conodonten-Stratigraphie der Hallstätter Obertrias(Salzkammergut, Österreich), Verh.Geol. B.-A., Wien 1973
KRYSTYN, L (1983) The Epidauros Section (Greece) – a contribution to the conodont standard zonation of the Ladinian and Lower Carnian of the Tethys Realm. Schriftenreihe Erdwiss. Komm. Österr. Akad. Wiss., 5: 231-258.
MOJSISOVICS, E. 1893: Die Cephalopoden der Hallstätter Kalke, Abhandlungen der Kaiserlich-Königlichen Geologischen Reichsanstalt, II Band, Wien 1893
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Mathematisch–naturwissenschaftliche Classe, 63, 575–701. Wien 1896,
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der mediterranen und juvavischen Trias. Verhandlungen der kaiserlich-
königlichen geologischen Reichsanstalt, 1879(7):133–143.
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Abhandlungen der kaiserlich-königlischen geologischen Reichsanstalt, 10, 1–322.
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PISTOTNIK, U. 1973-74 Fazies und Tektonik der Hallstätter Zone
von Bad Ischl — Bad Aussee (Salzkammergut, Österreich)
RENZ, C. – 1931 Die Bulogkalke der Insel Hydra, Ostpeloponnes
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With plates 1-6, 2 tables and 9 text-figures Mitt. Geol.-PaläonInst. Univ. Hamburg. Heft 54, S. 27-54
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Sorry it has been so long since I last posted. I have been so busy with school, family life, and lots of technical problems. But I finally was able to finish my video and I am so excited to share my work with all of you!
This video is about my latest fossil cleaning, It is my favorite trilobite to date! It is actually a complete body fossil, not just a shell, or a piece of one. I did learn a few new things this time. I had some trouble with this one because the air scribe I have is not not suited for microscopic fossils, which is what I am cleaning up. Because of this I ended up damaging my fossil. A technique I am trying is to find the edges of the fossil and clean them out before I clean out the middle of the fossil. I am doing this because the air abrasive is basically a s sand paper in air form. The top of this trilobite is quite detailed, if I cleaned up the detailed section first it would leave it open to be hit by unintentional air abrasive and thus damaging it. So I left the top to be done last. This seemed to work well. Which is pleasing. Watch and see how it all turned out!
Seed ferns (Cyclopteris, Neuropteris, Macroneuropteris, Mariopteris, Mixoneura, seed fern rachis impression, seed fern male fructification)
Calamites (Calamostachys, Macrostachya, Asterophyllites)
Cordaicarpus (Cordaites seed)
Jurassic (Bothonian) petwood
to be continued...
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That's right, I'm back. I'm sorry I didn't update as much as I should have. I was very busy with exams and essays (but it paid off, I made the Dean's List woo!) and then on break I just wanted to chillax and never write again.
So... where did we leave off?
I went on a field trip with my class to Portland Point. It was very rewarding. I found tons of brachiopods and some crinoid and trilobite material. My finds include a small, orange colored crinoid, and a near complete trilobite that's partially rolled. I wish I could include pictures but the fossils are currently at home.
The internship continued as usual no new developments really, and I got an A in my fossil prep class. I wish I could go back and continue working on the fish but the prep lab is closed because it will be renovated starting February.
So where does that leave me? I received an offer from the Volunteer Coordinator to serve as an intern to the Museum Operations and Programs Coordinator. In this job I would serve as a tour guide as well as assist the Coordinator in organizing programs and events. I accepted because I feel that I would gain more experience than just doing busy work in collections which is important because I am considering working at a museum in the future. And, I can still appreciate the museum's specimens as a docent. I will still update the blog with fun facts I learn from tour guide training and with my experiences serving as an intern. I have found out how to get college credit for the internship so although it's too late to get credit for last semester, this semester I can focus more on my internship by not taking as many classes.
I'm already thinking about summer and whereI should work. I found a dream job out west for which I am adequately qualified but it's way too far away for my first summer in college. There's always next year! Instead, I am hoping to work at my local conservation center and museum but I would need to find and apply for a grant to get paid. I can't survive sophomore year unless I get a summer job! If all else fails, I can be a camp counselor again. Fun, but not relevant to my scientific interests.
This semester I am taking Evolution and Diversity, Ecology and the Environment, Evolution of the Earth and Life, and Statistics.
I'm sorry I left unannounced! I'll try not to let it happen again. I start next week
Alright, in 2003 it was the second year of my dad and my trip to big brook. this time, we brought my older sister and her friend. we dug in the pit for hours (they sat on logs, how helpful ) we found a decent amount. suddenly, my dad finds a fish tooth (now remembering it was probably a good puny goblin). he gave it to the girls to look at. u wont believe it. THEY DROPPED IT! my dad was so ##### and dug desperatly in the spot of the brook were the tooth was dropped. in the first sift, we didnt find the tooth, but he says things not allowed to be said on this forum without my account being banned! in his hand, he held a tooth 1.5 in down and 1in across, fully complete with two HUGE cusps and all enamel and root. So he thanked my sister and stupid friend. i guess bad luck makes good fortune. i will get pics later, but it looks like an otodus or a goblin that is hugenous.
Since the upload of Part 1 succeeded, I'll now offer up Part 2, a look at two interesting taxa from the family Globigerinidae. This family contains most of the taxa that we associate with the idea of "planktonic forams", perhaps due to our familiarity with the "globigerina oozes" that form a significant part of the floor of the modern world oceans.
Globigerinoides ruber (d’Orbigny, 1839) is one of the two “red” species of globigerinids, as the specific epithet indicates. It is well-known that the color of individual specimens varies from white to pinkish-red, and it is typically the case that only some of its globular chambers exhibit the red coloration. I have specimens with all white chambers, one red chamber, two red chambers, etc., and have a single individual that is all red. Interestingly, the intensity of the color seems to increase with the number of chambers affected, so the all red specimen is very red indeed -- it is also a little smaller than average. Here is a typical specimen seen from the umbilical side, in a slightly oblique view, showing the primary aperture and one red chamber:
The genus Globigerinoides differs from Globigerina in that its species exhibit secondary apertures, formed at the junctions of the spiral suture with intercameral sutures:
Here is the spiral side of the same specimen, again presented in an oblique view, with two supplementary apertures, two red chambers at the left, and a pale pink one at the right. The top, final chamber is white, as is most frequently the case. This taxon is the commonest foram in the sample, by a large margin.
The other red globigerinid is Globoturborotalita rubescens (Hofker, 1956). According to the World Foraminifera Database, it also occurs in the Gulf of Mexico, but I have seen no specimens in my sample as yet. This taxon shows four chambers in the umbilical view, rather than three, and lacks the secondary apertures.
A second interesting globigerinid, quite different from the preceding, is Globigerinella siphonifera (d’Orbigny, 1839). This genus exhibits planispiral forms, rather than trochospiral -- all of the chambers are in the same plane. (Actually, the test begins growth in a trochospire, but quickly switches growth pattern to planispiral.)
There is a primary aperture at the base of the final chamber, and in fully mature specimens like this one, the initial chambers enter the final one through the primary aperture:
The final chamber appears to be “gobbling up” the initial chambers, like the snake that swallows its own tail.
In Part 3 of this entry, I’ll examine three taxa from the Family Globorotaliidae. Stay tuned.......
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Milky Way Galaxy
25,000 years ago
A spiral galaxy, one of the billions of islands of stars moving across the dark matter that is known as the universe, it rotates like a huge galactic wheel, pulling countless stars within its titanic gravitational pull. This particular galaxy is known as the Milky Way, 100,000 light-years across and 1,000 light-years thick. Like a grain of sand pulled by an ocean current, an asteroid races through the galaxy. The asteroid measures nearly seven miles in diameter, and has been moving through the galaxy since the dawn of time, passing planets and other asteroids. It is now on a collision course with a medium sized planet. The planet is still millions of miles away, but the asteroid is approaching quickly. The planet is warm and tropical, and also has an abundant source of water, oxygen, and life. The asteroid hurdles towards Earth, nothing can stop it. When it impacts, it will cause world-wide destruction and chaos. The countdown to extinction has begun.
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the pterosaurs saw what happened that day
a second Sun dropped from the sky
the pressure wave blasted those closest to haze
and wafted their ashes on high
then hundreds more pterosaurs lifeless and torn
took flight in a terrible dance
broken umbrellas tossed far by the storm
untethered kites left to mischance
thousands of pterosaurs fell like dead leaves
caught up in sudden tumultuous seas
waves smashed the pterosaurs huddled on land
waves buried eggs under layers of sand
the dark with mercy tried to hide these ravages in night
receding waters banked the once majestic bodies high
and now at last as all the worlds great forests come alight
they are transformed
as cinders reborn
they take their final flight
Sigmund Freud theorized that the act of collecting ties back to the time of our toilet training. Freud suggested that the loss of control and what went down the toilet was a traumatic occurrence to us human and thus in our subconscious we develop the desire to collect things as a mean to try to gain back not only control but “possessions” of that which were lost so many years ago.......
O.K. if I tried to rephrase what I just shared in a non-academic language is that we human collect because of the trauma we faced when we couldn’t control and keep our poo poo when we were toddlers - man that sounds pretty bizarre (in a funny and entertaining way - no disrespect to Mr. Freud) while at the same time stirred my brain into thinking really deep about the purpose, the psychology and even the philosophy behind our beloved hobbies of collecting, whether they be fossils, minerals, books, etc.
Thus in this blog, I will attempt to share my thought and theories that are my own take on this particular subject. Though I will have to say in advance before you read that this is in no way an attempt to be academic in nature - just pure ramblings for the purpose of my own amusement and if it turns out to be enlightening then all the better! So here it goes:
**switching on psychological rambling mode**
My perspective and belief is that collecting is an act that is stemmed from our human nature’s instinct that reacts towards “Fear” and “Uncertainty”, and there are quite several motives and psychology behind collecting that I believe support this notion:
Fear of Mortality
A collector collects due to a deep rooted fear of mortality and whether if you will be remembered or leave legacy after you have passed away. We can observe collectors of this type who often will go on to donate collections to public institutions or create museums to exhibit their collections. We as human (at least I believe most of us are anyway) desire to be remembered in some ways and thus our collection or what we have contributed will leave a mark in history and in essence immortalize us with our legacy which is our collections.
Fear of Being Alone
Some collectors start collecting as a mean to seek company of like-minded individuals who share similar passions or to experience acceptance as be part of a unique society, group and culture; for we human are social animals that instinctively seek group safety and social belongings or we become lost and terrified. This motive therefore, is also based on our fear instinct that has been implanted in our psyche.
Fear of Non-Existence
I think it’s probably sensible to assume that we all collect in order to know more about ourselves or to remind us of who we are, our interests, our loves, our passions and our nostalgic pasts. Thus the motive of collecting from this perspective is related to our fear instinct. For to remind of ourselves is to reinforce ourselves that we exist while at the same time reminding us of moments of happiness that make us feel alive - and those moments for collectors are the times we interact with and make ourselves surrounded by the objects of our obsessions. In addition we could say that, the act of building a collection creates a type of blueprint of our inner psyche and of a person’s life through the objects the collector acquired and cherished - the experiences the collector went through in his life. Therefore, the act of collecting is the act of painting a portrait of our life stories and our souls, through objects that speak about our love and fascinations. It reinforces our identity, our memories and our existence.
Fear of Uncertainty & Chaos
Collecting as a mean to create meaning to an otherwise seemingly chaotic world. We as collectors collect by gathering groups of objects that form cohesiveness or relationship between the pieces or to tell a certain story behind those naturally unrelated pieces and thereby forming meaning to the collection. Some collectors form collection in response to certain problems or sense of wonder of the chaos presented in front, and by building a collection the collector is able to tackle that problem. For example, a collector might face the question of “How can I represent the diversity of the Eocene mega fauna of North America?” (problem / chaos) and thus the collector embarks on a collecting quest to gather specimens that would build a complete collection of Eocene North American mega fauna specimens collection (solution / order). The act of collecting creates a collection that in essence, becomes the solution to the collectors dilemma. This, I would also say that is part of our deep rooted human psyche of fear of chaos and the unknown, and thus our instinct is to try to limit the chaos by creating orders (or illusions of order) to an otherwise chaotic world (in our perception at least) much in the same ways as how the early humans banded together, formed groups and created cultures or rituals to face the world’s problems or threats. Collectors on the other hands, tackle the chaos by creating order in the collection and in so doing the collector gains a semblance of power and control over disorganization and chaos.
Fear of the Absence of Aliveness
Collecting is without a doubt, a pleasurable pursuit for collector, whereas an audiophile takes pleasure in listening to music, food connoisseur indulges in the enjoyment food & wine, or art aficionado indulge in art appreciation and possession. We collectors induce our senses of aesthetics and pleasure from acquiring and creating collections of objects in order to feel enjoyment. In a way, this could be viewed as related to our fear instinct because we fear to not being able to feel the pleasurable pursuits in life. For we human feel alive when we experience such pleasures, whether the pleasures be from the indulgence of consumable & wearable objects or simply to possess and be surrounded by the things that give us joy like our collections.
Fear of Powerlessness
Collecting can be viewed as an act that I think came from our hunting instinct - to explore our sense of wonder of the unknown, to challenge the goals of acquisitions of hard-to-find objects; this in my view is in essence “the thrill of the hunt”. This particular collecting mindset is also based on our response to our fear instinct for when we hunt, we transform ourselves from being powerless prey to being powerful hunter and dominators - thus hunting (or in essence collecting) is an act to overcome our fear instinct while the “hunting” and while at the same time the journey of the hunt makes us feel alive. Also, when thinking about this motive I think it makes sense as we tend to see many collectors tend to be drawn to fossils of creatures of great power and ferocity or majestic beauty. For some collectors to possess such specimens make the collectors feel the power of those long dead creatures probably in similar manners in how hunters have trophies of their hunt to show their skills as hunters to overcome such beasts.
Now don’t these reasons and psychology of collecting sound much more appealing than Sigmund Freud’s potty training explanation? But, before some may think that “Collecting = Fear” may seem like a degrading notion at first glance, I present to you my next theory:
**switching on philosophical rambling mode**
Fear of Being just another Animal - Collecting to Transcend Humanity
Despite our instinctual fear that drives us to collect, the act of collecting is also an act of human transcendence and transformation. Some collect objects of power to symbolize the attaining of that power or the conquering of such powerful force that ultimately makes us feel more powerful than who we are without the collection. An act of collecting transform us into more powerful being (whether physically, socially, economically or spiritually): a person with no social distinction or significance can become conservators, scholars and even admired icons of historical significance. Collecting can transform the powerless into the powerful, the ignorant into a scholar, a hoarder into a curator and in many cases, turning common man into sage.
Our fear of mortality, uncertainty and instability of our universe makes us human so special and able to achieve our transcendence from mere creatures of survival instinct into creators, innovators, artists, philosophers or sages. Thus it is the shadow that allows us to appreciate the light; the fear of death that makes us cherish the beauty of life; the brutality of our darkest side that gives rise to the reactionary opposites that make us saints, protectors and self-less beings capable of great courage and heroism.
Therefore, even if the psychology of collecting comes down to “Our Fear of Mortality” (death with no legacy or inability to feel “alive”), “Our Fear of Non-Existence” (due to the lack of social presence, acceptance or without a group to belong); that very fear creates motives for us to have “Desire for Transcendence” into something more than what we are. Thus I would make the case that the act of collecting is both instinctual (as a reaction to our deep rooted fear of mortality & physical existence) and spiritual (as a path [and an enjoyable one!] towards transcendence of the human existence).
**switching off philosophical rambling mode**
My goodness after I just wrote all that, I just had an idea that the next time, when I meet people who think my collecting and obsession with eclectic objects are weird, bizarre or non-sensual, I can start quoting my philosophical ramblings that my collecting hobby allows me to transcend spiritually and start going into Zen mode - that’s should be entertaining to say the least, lol. Who would have thought our hobbies could be so spiritually stimulating.
Anyway that’s all for my rambling for today. Hope you enjoy the blog entry
Here are the top common species and counts at WB, as per Emerson's book.
- Coral - Turbinolia pharetra 1000 (common, ranges from 5mm and up)
- Bivalve - Anomia lisbonensis 1000 (fairly large)
- Bivalve - Barbatia (Barbatia) uxorispalmeri 1000
- Bivalve - Notocorbula texana 1000
- Gastropod - Latirus moorei 1000
- Gastropod - Polinices aratus 600 (very common snail, as a Naticid, drills holes in prey)
- Bivalve - Vokesula smithvillensis petropolitana 500
- Gastropod - Buccitriton texanum 500 (very common snail, and a predatory hole driller)
- Gastropod - Hesperiturris nodocarinatus 500
- Bivalve - Pachecoa (Pachecoa) sabinica 308
- Gastropod - Buccitriton sagenum 300 (predatory snail drills holes)
- Gastropod - Turritella nasuta 300 (oddly, a filter feeder)
- Bryozoa - Lunelites bouei 253
- Bryozoa - Schizorthosecos interstitia 253
- Gastropod - Mesalia claibornensis 250
- Gastropod - Protosurcula gabbii 250
- Scaphopoda - Dentalium (Antalis) minutistriatum 244
- Gastropod - Michela trabeatoides 240
- Gastropod - Pseudoliva vetusta CONRAD FORMA 232
- Bivalve - Vokesula smithvillensis smithvillensis 200
- Gastropod - Bonellitia parilis 200
And with additional information added:
Emerson's book provides info on the number of specimens in his collection. The rarest species, of which there are many, are represented by only one specimen. The more common specimens range from a few to an unspecified, large number.
Most of the time, he provides an exact count. Example: 232. Often, he provides a minimum value, such as 250, meaning that there were at least 250 specimens in the collection. Other times, he omits a number, but states the species is very common. These latter specimens are noted above as the number 1000.
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An enormous bipedal dinosaur believed to be able to run up to 25 mph. Sue was the largest specimen ever found measuring 40 feet long and standing 13 feet tall. She was 28 years old when she died of unknown causes possibly an injury to her leg causing her to be unable to hunt her normal prey. Tyrannosaur weighed about 9 tons. While not as long as some of the other carnivores of its time Tyrannosaurus was a dangerous beast although some believed it to be a scavenger. They lived in North America from the Dakotas to New Mexico.
It was believed to have had feathers as a chick
A braincase of an adult specimen. It had a large section in its brain devoted to strategy
The growth rate of an average Tyrannosaurus Rex
Adult skull and the skull of an 11 year old juvenile
A track believed to be Tyrannosaurus
As many say, good things come to those who wait. Well, fruition at last!
While working for an elderly couple last Saturday, cleaning up various parts of the lawn for cash, I learned that this couple once traveled the world, collecting fossils and stones along the way. The next day at church, I was greeted with a very pleasant surprise, a slab of rock literally overflowing with crinoid stems!
While many may say that it isn't that big of a deal, as an amatuer fossil hunter, and one with no luck to his name, it was a great thrill to see so many wonderfully preserved fossils (see pictures in album, beware, pictures are blurry as I was forced to use the computer webcam.)
And yet another surprise, the more I worked, the more fossils I will be able to have, including shark teeth. Which is always a great motivator!
And on another note, while working on a science fair project for my chemistry class, I created a project on the most efficent way of preparing fossils using household items. The judges seemed very impressed by the rarity of such a project and how well it was done, and by the more amazing ways of cleaning fossils. I hope to see great results tomorrow.
Overall, it's been a very good week.
Ive finally cracked it...... These have been sat on the beach for hundreds of years in some cases slowley eroding away, with the beach situated amongst the most dense consentration of commercially minded collectors in the country.... The only reasons I can think of that they sat there and wernt picked up is either they are too difficult or time consuming to prep and because of this they would get very little for their efforts in finacial return..... Its the only plausable explanation....to do what I do you have to love em..... you have to forget money...if your worried about your time and money, you dont enjoy there sheer size, the magic of uncovering the past, grain by grain as you preogress..... some people would find it boring..... but to be honest, I cant get enough...... I knew it looked different from the start.... the rock it was in felt different, the texture, it was more fibrous... the way it behaved under stress...... a short prep time of probably only 28 hours or so..... which is pretty good for one of these.... sometimes if you get the ammonite shell sat on a bed of shells, the limestone cements like concrete and its more a battle of whits and patience that gets you the result.... fortunately this one played the game..... Ive struggled myself with the ID and its only when you put it amongst the others you can see the not so subtle differences to the 'usual' Coroniceras you find on this beach..... the ribs are more straight, the curvature in the shell is more apparent ( I dont know the 'technical terms' lol...I walk the walk not talk the talk).....and the colours of the very fine calcification is quite different as well in some places almost see through and less than a mm thick..... so i have had to go easy on the sanding down of this one.....after chewing over what it could be, half prepped I gave up and consulted a good friend of mine who pointed me to the right fossil once we could see the wood from the trees.... Its a new on for my collection , which is always a buzz.....
Arietites(Paracoroniceras)oblongaries Lyme Regis Lower Jurassic Sinemurian
I just filmed and posted a new youtube video. I would love to hear what you guys think about it !
Charles Darwin with his elegant theory,
Met the burden of proof with those sneery,
One-hundred-fifty years later,
There is no idea greater,
In advance he would have felt cheery !!
Trilobites appeared with complexity,
Still viewed to this day with perplexity,
They are fun at this forum,
And deserve our decorum,
Tens of thousands of species collectively !!
Tiktaalik arose from the sea,
Stood so tall spectacularly,
Fins like our hands,
To conquer the lands,
A fantastical family tree !!
While Ida was swinging in trees,
Never thought of being marquee,
Now hotly debated,
The evidence weighted,
Awaiting her next show for TeeVee !!
Fossil shark teeth are quite the rage,
From Paleozoic to Pleistocene Age,
The forms are so graceful,
This forum is faithful,
All others are always upstaged !!
T.rex had a monstrous bite,
Gave all the Trikes a big fright,
Although taking a horn,
Would be quite a thorn,
Like any smart bird he took flight !!
Fossil limericks are always such fun,
No way I would only make one,
A vast inventory,
Treasures mined in a quarry,
The magnificent tales are all spun !!
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Sometimes the region I live in has the feeling of being a bit of a backwater. We're far removed from the metro and interstate action. So, just in case you have no idea what or where Michigan's NW LP is (Northwest Lower Peninsula), here's a view of the entire region:
Essentially, the whole place is a giant glaciated gravel pit.
Up in the northern 1/3rd of this "mitt" there are low ledges of bedrock exposed on the shores of Lake Michigan, as well on the Islands from South Fox on up, and there are several quarries operating in the area, but otherwise everything is covered in sand and rounded rocks. The formations in the northern 3rd are: the Gravel Point, Charlevoix, and Petosky Limestones; Norwood, Antrim, Jordan River Shales, and remnants of the Whiskey Creek Formation, all Devonian, in the Little Traverse Bay region. The Upper Silurian (Bass Island) crops out at the northern tip of the peninsula, and on the islands immediately to the west. Further north, on the Upper Peninsula, is the rest of the Silurian and the Ordovician.
After growing up in Missouri, where you can't walk a creek bed without finding fossils, Michigan seemed a bit of a fossil let-down. My folk's moved up here in the fall of 1985. We had been taking family vacations in the area for 10 years, escaping the July heat and humidity of St. Louis, MO., and my parents wanted a "change of lifestyle." Fortunately for me and my habitual rock hounding, they moved right next to an old and deep gravel pit.
Back then, seeing nothing but gravel and boulders, I didn't think there would be too much to interest me. Brachiopods were obvious, and there was plenty of glacialized coral, Petosky Stones (a Hexagonaria coral), favosites, and chain corals to be found, some of them interestingly preserved, and of course all the igneous rock you wanted -- pink and red granites stippled with green veins, jasper, agates, basalts, feldspar; more than I can identify. Stuff worth hunting for, but 2 or 3 walks a year was plenty.
As any seasoned fossil hunter knows, looks can be deceiving. After several years of being extremely busy and not really having the time to hunt properly, I finally do. Add to that the daily injections of inspiration I get from The Fossil Forum, and the 2 to 3 times per year walks have turned into 2 to 3 times per week.
The Goodies are coming in fast, and with a fair amount of surprising diversity.
It's amazing what you can find if you just spend the time to really look.
And, the more I look, the more questions I have regarding the original source of the fossils I'm finding, the influence and affect of the glaciers on the geology; the timing of their advance, how many advances there have been, their direction of movement, and the relative distances that they have moved rock, or when particular types of rock have been moved. How abundant is a type of rock in one area as compared to another across the North/South and East/West axis? Can "banding" of deposits be discerned to target particular types of fossils? Are any of the original sources for the fossil bearing boulders still present? If not, can one tentatively assign a rock to a formation/geologic era using fossils for correlation?
I intend to use this blog as a platform for exploring these questions and others that arise, what I learn, and as well as for sharing my finds.
Here's a map from Google Earth showing the pit closest to me, which I'll refer to as the Lincoln Rd. Pit; our greenhouses are in the upper left corner. You can see how short the walk is. Perfect for quick after work boulder smashing. The field to the west is our neighbor's. An ex-MSU extension agent. I think he plows it up just because he's bored, but the field is loaded with stone.
Wider view of the same area. Lincoln Rd. Pit is circled in yellow. To the west of the main pit, is a larger inactive pit, circled in black. Hunting there is a little sparser, but I'll hit it a few times a year. Greenhouses are circled in green. Due north of the greenhouses are two abandoned pits circled in black. One is on my dad's property, the other is private, but un-posted. The third, larger black circle to the north is the Benzie Co. Road Commission's gravel pit, dug into the north flank of Eden Hill, with no deep pit dug. Including the yearly plowed field, that's six spots to hunt in a 2 mile radius.
A view of the big ridge, Eden Hill, running NW - SE. Crystal Lake and the Betsie River Watershed is to the south, Platte Lakes & river watershed to the north. The big road that loops through the lower left is US31. Gravel pits/greenhouse in the center, circled in black.
And a full view of the general region, aka: Grand Traverse Region, named for the big double bay between the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas. Leelanau Peninsula on the west. Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore runs from the middle of Benzie Co., north into the middle of Leelanau Co.
That's all for now.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog,
I had a good weekend on the river this past Saturday and Sunday. I did some fishing and scouting for new dig spots. I have yet to find my own place where 1. no one else knows/digs that I am networked with 2. that produces decent quality and OK quantity. Saturday evening that was checked off from my fossil hunting bucket list, though. I plugged down the river in my lil 14' jon boat, saw some shells atop a bank that looked familiar to the fossil pecten in edgecomb county and made a quick dash to the shore! I had quite the struggle among the brush and trees between myself and these barely visible shells - but I made it, grabbed a very nice C. madisonius with some little barnacles atop of it. As I'm climbing down I spot something embedded in the rock/hardened clay and got so excited I literally laughed out loud. MEGLADON TOOTH! -This I was not expecting, but welcomed! I pried it out, really neat color and sadly chipped away about a third - but still in good condition and a promising sign as I looked around and also found two beautiful little great whites almost pearly white! Such unique colored teeth for this part of eastern NC as normally my finds, like GMR, are darker grays and blacks and then you have the aurora teeth and hour east that these appeared more like in color but still different. I would love to know the minerals responsible for this coloration here. Anyhow, I returned with my Good digging partner, Rick, Sunday and we found a few more things that were alright. More to explore - more to come I'm sure!