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JohnJ

Sidetracked

April 3, 2010

 

Adrenalin pumped through me like it usually does on the way to a new location. While on the road, I enjoyed ‘working out’ the geology I traveled over. The sunny spring morning framed the entire outdoors in vivid color, and from the corner of my eye, I noticed some fresh excavation in the distance. Like many other places, I made a mental note of it and continued to my destination. Dozens of miles and minutes later, my friend, Bob, and I had pulled our gear together and loaded things into the boat. We waded through the spring bloom and poison ivy and began a journey we would not soon forget.
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Golden groundsel & Texas bluebonnets
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I wanted to learn more about one of my favorite geologic outcrops on this trip, the Lower Cretaceous Washita Group. Its formations have fascinated me with the remains of creatures of incredible variety and beauty. From the monster-sized Eopachydiscus ammonites to the simple, elegant form of Kingena wacoensis brachiopods, the North Texas strata have enchanted fossil hunters for years. According to some of the latest research, the lowest in the group, the Kiamichi Formation, is supposed to be around 103.5 million years old. It is followed by the more well known Duck Creek Formation at near 102 million years old. The Fort Worth, Denton, Weno, and Pawpaw Formations are found in the middle of the group. Above these, the Main Street Limestone (about 97 million years old) is overlain by the Grayson Marl. The Washita Group is finally capped at close to 96 million years old by the Buda Formation. Our trip started near the ‘bottom’; just where was our next challenge.

 

One of our first clues came in the water when the partial whorl of a Mortoniceras ammonite laid in contrast to the bottom gravel. My interest was further piqued by a second ammonite wedged beneath a few rocks on the next gravel bar. Other fossils in combination with these ammonites and a bank bluff of alternately receding layers of marl and hard stone suggested we were in the Fort Worth Formation.

 

Partial Mortoniceras ammonite fragment
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Mortoniceras sp. ammonite
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Of course, we kept in mind that the gravel bars contained the reworked fossils of any formations found upstream. But before long, Bob found a large Mortoniceras ammonite eroding from the silt covered formation.

 

Mortoniceras sp. ammonite
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As we moved along the stream, it became apparent that no one had collected there in a long time. Large Macraster echinoids and additional ammonites were scattered periodically in the gravels. It was amazing to see so many. Bob found two other large ammonites hiding in the gravel. We picked up a few more fossils along the way, but most looked their best where they laid...capturing a moment of potential Cretaceous perfection.

 

Larger Mortoniceras sp. ammonites found by Bob
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Macraster obesus fossil sea urchins
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Keeping us company in water were other creatures, too. A shy red-eared turtle and a well-fed diamond backed water snake added to the adventure. But it was a close encounter with several spawning longnose gar that kept the adrenalin flowing.

 

Diamond backed Water Snake
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Red-eared Turtle
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Spawning Longnose Gar
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Bob’s haul and my finds
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About mid-afternoon, we had a nice load of fossils in the boat, so we headed for the take-out. On the way, I contemplated a few options to round out the day. Then I remembered the fresh excavation on the morning drive. So we loaded up and headed that way.

 

Upon arrival, I realized the site was not as large as it appeared earlier in the day. A utility easement near the road had been reshaped by a bulldozer. In the course of their work, they had cleared a large ditch and exposed the local geology. We thought we would give it a quick look to see what formations were present. Bob walked slightly ahead of me as we descended into the shallow water. Sticky yellow clay and a few Ilymatogyra arietina oysters stuck to my shoes. Then, I froze.

 

“No way...you’ve got to be kidding,” I uttered. Bob turned and responded, “What?” I looked up at him from where I had dropped to my heels, “I’m about 90% sure this is ivory…mammoth ivory! It’s part of a tusk!” My heart pounded as I looked just below the water at its fragmented surface. Silt covered most of the concentric layers, but I recognized the fragmentation pattern from previous tusk finds. We pulled out our cameras and began the preliminary documentation.

 

Initial exposure
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It was late afternoon, and I did not know the size of the find. But another problem was more obvious; the shallow water clouded with the touch of a finger. The clay appeared to be reworked Grayson marl (Del Rio Clay), so it would not be hard to excavate. However, the Pleistocene gravels scattered within it would make any digging awkward. After sizing up our options, we decided to get creative with the water to maintain visibility. Bob generously labored to keep clear water flowing across the area I slowly excavated with my knife and rock hammer. Working in the silty water was slow and frustrating. There were moments I just used my hands to ease away the gravel and clay. I thought I could expose the end of the tusk in a short time; but as the sun descended lower on the horizon, the realization that I might not, began to sink in.

 

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Late in the day, we took our final series of photos. The long shadows and tired muscles signaled the moment to make some tough decisions. There were about three feet of tusk exposed and it was all underwater. It was extremely fragile. To try to remove it would have destroyed it. So, I made the decision to carefully cover it up. Although it was a difficult choice, given the circumstances, I thought it was the right one. To excavate it properly would require drier times or a small coffer dam, plaster, reinforcement, and more tools. Even if it was removed under the best conditions, the final preparation would be a huge challenge. It was time to call in ‘the troops'.

 

Cloudy water was a constant problem
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Roots penetrated one end of the tusk
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Angling downward into the clay and gravel
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Bob and I discussed tentative plans to find someone to lead a future excavation. Then, I graciously thanked him for his efforts and, with a handshake on a day well spent, we parted company. During the long drive home, I called a couple of friends for assistance with the new ‘tusk project’ and gathered more leads to follow up. What a memorable day! I called my wife and told her we got a little sidetracked on the way home...when she heard ‘why’ she said, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

 

June 2010 Postscript:
At the end of April, after speaking and corresponding with several universities and groups, I was finally able to find an organization to take on the ‘tusk project’. They have contacts within the paleontology department of a local university and they hope to use the dig as a training opportunity. The question on everyone’s mind: Are there bones associated with the tusk? Organizing a university dig takes a little time. Nevertheless, this story will have another chapter in the future.

JohnJ

Ancient Hunters

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.

 

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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.

 
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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

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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

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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“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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!”

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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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

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Scars and vascular structures

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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.

 

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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.

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JohnJ

A Humerus Trip

August 15, 2009

It all started on a small, secluded Texas waterway in the Jungle of Gigantism (you know better than to ask), we watched a log submerge with purpose... but, it was no log. Big reptiles were only a hint of the giant to come. Shortly afterward, we pulled into the bank and my friend Dan offered, "you want upstream or downstream?" Words he later said would influence a fossil career.

It was 7:45 in the morning. I headed downstream to low gravel ledge. Within a short time, I found an unusual shaped bone, a little over a foot long, wedged into the bank. It turned out to be a limb bone of a giant sloth! It even had gravelly sandstone attached to it. I laid my paddle beside it and continued to search the ledge. Finding nothing else, I thought that I should check out where the ledge dropped into the water...and there it was. A dinner plate-sized dome edged from the steep face, halfway down to the water. To the casual observer, it would seem to be another rock, but the shape resonated in my consciousness - bone...big bone.

Sloth bone

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I returned to the first bone and took a few in situ photos. Dan was working his way back toward the boat about 100 yards away. He hollered out that he was going to check out the opposite bank. I signaled a 'thumbs up', and decided to call my wife. I excitedly told her that we were well underway on our expedition, and that I had just found a good sized limb bone. I also told her that I might have found something BIG, and that I'd get in touch with her later. While Dan continued to wander the opposite gravel bar, I dropped over the ledge to take a few photos of the "dome" in the face of the bank. "Hey Dan, you need to come over here. I want your opinion on something." I grinned inside; there were logistics to work out....my mind was racing! We had over 2 dozen miles to travel...in Dan's nearly maxed out two man kayak. This was going to get interesting....

Proximal "dome" exposed on bank face

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I spent the next several minutes going over the entire area again. The reason was twofold: I needed to work off some adrenalin, and it's easy to miss something when you're that hyped up. Dan finally arrived, and I guided him to the first bone. He reacted, "Whoa! That's significant! It looks like sloth to me." "I found something else," I replied. We scrambled over the bank and dropped into the mud below the small ledge. "What do you think this is?" I grinned. His eyes went wide and he started rubbing some of the dirt off the dome to get a better look at the details. We both shook our heads in awe. I scooped up some water and splashed it over the dome. Dan rubbed it like there was a genie inside. We both took a closer look, then shook our heads in amazement...BONE! I was a little closer to one of my dreams of finding another fossil giant.

We started digging...and the apparent became more obvious as the end of a massive bone slowly emerged from the soil. Suddenly, I turned to Dan, "Did you hear that?"

"No; what?"

"I hear a boat coming."

Now, we are a bit protective of productive fossil sites, but the fishermen (that we eventually engaged in conversation) appeared to be friendly enough. It seems that a dentist, a chiropractor, and their friend wanted to do some fishing. They were also looking for some pieces of petrified wood, so we quickly obliged them with the location of a few large pieces we found upstream. A little later, they returned. We had just extracted the first few pieces of the bone. The largest was close to a saturated 60 lbs. In the time they had been upstream, Dan and I analyzed the transport logistics and boat capacity...we knew we had a dilemma. There was no way we could haul all of this bone more than 20 miles. So, we struck a deal on more fossil wood while I took down some phone numbers and a calculated risk. I placed the large proximal end securely into a corner of the floor of their boat. They thanked us for the wood, and we agreed to meet at a location downstream later in the day. Even with the phone numbers and brief rapport, I winced as they slowly rounded the bend. With a deep breath, I forced the what ifs from my mind; we still had a large piece of bone in the bank.

After two and a half hours of bruising, bloody digging into clay and gravel with improvised rock hammers and knives, Dan and I lifted out the final piece of the monster bone. This joint confirmed which part of the skeleton I had found. The "dome" turned out to be the proximal end of a nearly complete Columbian Mammoth humerus (top of the front leg)! It had angled directly back into the bank. Although fractured into several pieces, it was later re-assembled to be just over 48 inches long and around 120 lbs! It's massive and huge!

Author badgering the bone

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Dan working to free the distal end

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...Back in the water, we had to rearrange some things on the kayak to achieve proper trim. Tentatively, and with a little fine tuning, we continued our journey downstream. Several hours later, we passed our waterborne associates, and told them we would see them later. Along the way further downstream, we stopped periodically to check likely looking spots for more fossil bone. Occasionally, we would find a large chunk of petrified wood, and stand it up near the water. We hoped to show more goodwill toward our upstream transport team.

Author with the distal end

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Reaching another prime location, we pulled in and started searching. There were many large pieces of fossil wood here, so we stacked them up. With a flash of insight, I reminded Dan that we weren't far from a nearby road. If I could persuade the fishermen to take me and the rest of the bone a short distance further downstream, then they would be free of any later rendezvous. We could pay them with all the petrified wood, and I would also be free of worry. Then, I could hike the pieces of bone to a hidden spot near the road, and go back to the water where he could pick me up. Dan agreed, and within a short time our plan went into action.

I profusely thanked the guys for their assistance and we parted company. Near the road, I scouted the area for a hiding place and promptly secured the fossil treasure. A quick survey from all angles left me confident it would be there later. Soon, Dan came into view upstream, and we were off to see what other bounty awaited us.

Several other finds were made that rounded out a spectacular adventure. As we loaded the boat onto my vehicle, darkness soon caught us. By the time we reached my hidden cache and got it loaded, it was 10:30 PM. It had been quite a day!

Primary pieces

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Over 48 inches long

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Columbian Mammoth humerus

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Awesome discovery!

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JohnJ

The Unexpected

September 6, 2009

It happens in all areas of life. Yet, sometimes the unexpected is manifested in remarkable circumstances. Last January, Dan and I were scrambling across a rocky bar in a Texas stream. To help keep our focus during a cold downpour and intermittent showers, we joked with various sandstone "fossils" we picked up. The erosive nature of water and gravel creates thousands of pseudofossils, and we were finding them with frequency. "Hey Dan, here's your mammoth tooth! Catch!" (Please do not try this at home.)

"Yeah, yeah, and this must be your sabre-tooth fang!" So it went until we had scoured the midstream rock bar. Walking back to the canoe, I grabbed another, algae covered piece of sandstone and held it up toward him.

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"What do you think this is?" I jested. Without missing a beat in time, he blurted, "Tetrameryx shuleri!" We both laughed at the green check mark shaped formation.

As I pictured the weird-horned, pleistocene antelope, I thought it was too bad it was sandstone. Dan was back at the canoe, so I tossed it back with the rest of its slimy kin...and it broke. We'd been pitching broken sandstone all day, but the whitish core that caught my eye wasn't normal. It didn't get any more normal when I picked up both pieces to show Dan.

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"OK, now what do you think this is?" I said. His jaw dropped...somewhere on the ground with mine! The joke was on us! It wasn't just sandstone anymore. It really was Tetrameryx shuleri! It was incredible an example of the unexpected.

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A week ago, we teamed up again to see what treasures we could discover. The quarry was Pleistocene bones or paleo artifacts. I gently eased the stern of the boat onto a few rocks near the edge of a shallow riffle. Large chert cobbles and gravel stretched across the river, just beneath the surface. As I tended to the canoe, Dan lifted a large flint tool from beneath the water. His find re-focused us to the potential of this spot.

We scanned the subsurface terrain without a find. I walked back near the canoe and stopped to survey the area. Dan started to view the carp swimming nearby with a predatory stare. I looked down at the cobbles in front of me. Leaves were trapped by the current against some of them. One of the stones triggered a moment of recognition and denial, "Hey Dan, too bad we can't find any mosasaur material around here." Both of us were so focused on our primary targets that we had forgotten about some Upper Cretaceous faulting in the area. Yet, when my hand wrapped around the underwater "stone" there were more micro-moments of recognition. As the water dripped from my find and hand, I almost gulped out loud.

"It is a mosasaur vert! Wow, it's big!"

Dan sloshed closer, "Whoa! Let me see that! Hey, it is a mosasaur vert!" Being quoted so soon was very complimentary...we both just shook our heads.

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I thought of our January trip and said, "What does this remind you of?"

"Tetrameryx shuleri!" Dan replied.

In both situations, it was written all over our faces...we had been caught off-guard. I wasn't even sure I would believe these stories if I hadn't been a witness to them. Of all the fossils we thought we would find, this was the unexpected.

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JohnJ
October 4, 2009
 
The Central Texas weather forecast for the day was a wet one. However, a quick check of the radar revealed I had a few hours before dealing with any storms. My wife just smiled as I mentioned going out for a few hours. I told her that maybe all the recent rain had washed out some tiny jewels at my best Eagle Ford Formation site. She knew, at the very least, I would return with some dazzling, pyrite studded, Prionocyclus sp. ammonites and other late Turonian fauna.
 
Drizzle and overcast skies shadowed me on the drive to the site. Yet, when I arrived it had temporarily ceased. I geared up lightly and slid along in the fresh mud. In a short time, half a dozen micro ammonites were in my plastic container, and my knee pads had begun to accumulate a load of the gray clay. I alternated between macro scanning (without a magnifying visor) and micro scanning (with the visor). No, wearing the visor doesn't look cool; but I prefer the results. Besides, it's not as bad as having an empty fossil container.
 
There are all kinds of surprises that occur when you are near ground level and looking at a magnified world. The detail is fascinating and absorbing. Small, 5 mm ammonites are sanded with reflective pyrite prisms. After a few minutes, you forget the scale of things before you. ...That's when you innocently lock eyes with a 2 inch praying mantis! Using a 4X visor...well, you do the math! After the danger signal flashes through your brain and your vision has not quite focused, it tilts its head a few degrees to the side and slightly, but abruptly, flexes a ninja move with its front legs. From a third party perspective, (and I'm relieved there wasn't one) the scene probably resembled someone getting electrocuted off their hands and knees. It's amazing how fast the mind works – before my muddy slide ended, I completely recognized what I had seen. After gathering my fossil container, visor and my thoughts, I crawled back and saw the small insect running for its life.
 
I thought about getting the camera out to photograph the mantis, but a few drops of rain alerted me to the weather. To the northwest, the overcast darkened into very heavy rain clouds. They would miss me on their northeast track; however, their trailing edge would probably build to inundate me soon. I figured I had about 15 minutes before the rain, so the visor lowered for some quick scanning. It was just a few feet further when I saw my prize! Nestled at the edge of eroded matrix, I found my third rare Saleniid echinoid from this Upper Cretaceous formation. Even though it was partially coated in the matrix, I could see that it was the most inflated specimen I had found.
 

 
A quick series of 5 or 10 raindrops hit me in the back. I scrambled with the camera and took a few in situ photos. Then, I carefully packed away my tiny treasure and made my way to the vehicle. Muddy shoes off, sandals on, gear inside, I closed the door and the rain began to pour…ahhh! Success! This was what I had hoped for….
 

 
 
Late October
 
A few weeks pass, bringing erosive, periodic thunderstorms. Other locations have my attention during this time…places where you don't need a magnifier to see mammoth and mosasaur fossils. While my attention was diverted, the rains did what they have done for millennia.
 
Then, on the 25th of October, I met a friend and his son for a quick, impromptu hunt while on their way back home. It wasn't long before they had to leave the Lower Cretaceous location we were scanning; so, I decided to drive to the Eagle Ford site. Miles later, I found it completely refreshed! The rain had washed away all my tracks from the previous trip. Since my time was also limited, I headed to the area that had produced the unknown Saleniid echinoids.
 
Soon, Prionocyclus, Worthoceras, and Scaphites micro ammonites along with the occasional Ptychodus shark tooth were coming into view of my 4X visor. I picked up a few exquisite, pyrite/marcasite dusted specimens, but no Saleniids. Still, I hoped to add to my small collection of rare echinoids. I stood up and stretched...crawling around the rubble of this site searching for 5 – 7 mm sea urchins is an unintentional yoga routine. The higher view gave me a chance to change my vantage point, and I noticed an area that I had not hunted in a few trips.
 
Prionocyclus sp.

 
cf. Worthoceras sp.

 
cf. Scaphites sp.

 
cf. Worthoceras sp.

 
Being careful to look for the resident rattlesnakes, I pulled up some dead vegetation at the new spot and began scanning. It took just 5 minutes to find what I had been searching for...another little echinoid gem! My wife describes these moments of discovery like a cartoon where your eyes go rubber-banding in and out of your face. I could see it was a fantastic little urchin!
 
(apologies for the video quality, but you'll get the idea)


 
Since finding the first of these unknown echinoids in July of this year, I have been on a steady quest to find an identification. However, through my research, members of the Fossil Forum, and others, I soon realized these may represent a new species. Initial research seems to indicate they are new to the known Texas species, and it is probable they are Bathysalenia echinoids. I would certainly welcome any knowledgeable assistance in keying out a more specific ID.
 

 

 
But that was not all this "new" area had to offer, because I soon found the 3rd and 4th partial specimens of a different species of regular echinoid I had been chasing at this site! The 3rd one was embedded in the matrix of what might be a fragmented burrow cast. This species is a completely different puzzle…and yet to be identified by me.
 

 
Oh, and after I picked up this echinoid, I saw a small fish tooth where the urchin had been. Later, in the photos, I saw it was in plain sight next to the echinoid. Sometimes, it's really just a matter of perspective.


June 27th, 2014 UPDATE: A New Texas Echinoid Species
JohnJ
January 2, 2010
The Lower Cretaceous Glen Rose Formation (Kgr) of Central Texas is roughly 110 million years old. Its classic exposures look like man-made steps or solid blocks that are occasionally interrupted with softer rock or marl. The formation is typically divided into upper and lower units by a layer of Corbula fossil clams. Just below this layer was the destination I wanted to find for my first fossil hunt of the year. It takes its name from the isolated occurrence of an ornate fossil sea urchin - the Salenia texana zone!
A bright dawn had not yet thawed the frost when I headed to meet my friend, Bob. He was excited to show me a new quarry where he had found echinoids the previous month. When we arrived at the site, he oriented me to the most productive layers in the formation, and we started hunting the youngest strata. I immediately began to find fossils. Erosion of the shelf, we were searching, left fragments of 'heart' urchins, gastropods, and bivalves everywhere. I was trying to be selective, looking for the better preserved specimens, but it was hard to pass up an unusual oyster or clam.
Oyster (Ceratostreon weatherfordensis ?) with the partial mold of the shell where it was attached



Juvenile Arctica sp. clam

Soon, Bob was calling out, "Spiny urchin!" with periodic repetition. He wryly commented, "I just seem to be a magnet for those things." Meanwhile, I gouged my elbow on rock as I crawled along the ground. Glancing to check the damage, I spied one of the small, prickly echinoids. It was just one of those small moments...that capture your love of the outdoors. The late morning light was perfect, and when I reached for the camera, a little heart urchin caught my attention. Even better. So, I digitally captured the two 'echies' before putting them in my box. We finished the morning and the rest of the layer with several more echinoids and a partial crab claw.
Loriolia texana echinoid with Orbitolina texana foram

Heteraster obliquatus echinoid among Orbitolina texana forams

Loriolia texana echinoid

Some finds after a little cleaning








From this area, we moved down into the "zone". A hard limestone bench capped a six foot thick layer of softer rock. It weathered into chunky clay before a transition back to solid stone. Even within this bracketed strata, I noted some subtle differences in the coloration and hardness. But meanwhile, Bob had started finding echinoids while I was "getting the lay of the land". The marble-sized Leptosalenia texana were eroding with regularity from the top half of the zone. A small, disk-like foram, known as Orbitolina texana, littered the ground. Scattered among them were a variety of different gastropods and a non-fossil caterpillar.
Leptosalenia texana with forams and gastropods

Caterpillar

Leptosalenia texana echinoids



Bob previously mentioned that he had found a couple of plates (a part of an urchin's shell) from a very uncommon echinoid on his last visit. So, as we leaned against the wall of the formation, I asked him what else he remembered. He described them as being more whitish in their preservation than some of the other finds we were making; and when he said it, I thought of the variation in the rock I had seen earlier. We had already found fragments of the spines which the 'Salenia' urchins used to protect their shells; but I was not tracking them - we were tracking a cidarid echinoid! In the Glen Rose Formation, two species have been described: Phyllacanthus texanus and P. tysoni. So, I grinned when I saw part of a larger, bumpy spine sticking out of the rock.
About that time, Bob suggested that we move over a short distance to a fresh spot. Hunting anything, with success, requires identifying and following certain clues. In the new spot, I put my suspicions to the test. A few feet below the caprock, I found a lighter layer that was somewhat hidden by runoff from layers above. I flaked away the debris to get a better look and immediately started to find several spine fragments! I announced my excitement, "Cidarid spines!"
Echinoid spines


5 cm echinoid spine in matrix

A slightly elevated heart rate accompanied the anticipation of following signs in the rock. Then, I had an adrenalin spike when Bob called out, "You need to look at this." He walked toward me, and in his hand were 3 connected plates of our cidarid urchin quarry. I showed him some of the spines and explained the "hidden" layer we could focus on. I thought we were close to our treasure, and he asked if I had "covered" the area just to my right. I told him, "No, go ahead" as I knelt down for a look at some of the spines eroding from the ground.
"JOHN!" I turned to see him stand up beside me with a golf ball-sized, knobby echinoid in his palm!
"You did it!" I yelled. "You really...did it! Way to go!" We stood a moment, looking at the rare urchin with a range of emotions. Then, he handed me his prize while he went back to get his camera. I put it back in the spot he picked it from and took a few photos. When he came back, more photos ensued...it was an amazing Texas find! Although I know quite a few cidarid urchins have been found through the years, I am personally aware of just five...including Bob's - certainly not a common discovery. Checking a few references later indicated he had found a Phyllacanthus texanus!
Bob's discovery


Phyllacanthus texanus echinoid


Well, as you can imagine, the adrenaline of discovery had us quickly back in search mode. More spines were found. I ravenously scanned the layer we isolated. Then, my "heart jumped in my throat" when I spotted the partial test (shell) of another Phyllacanthus! So close...but not this time.
My Phyllacanthus texanus partial test



Late into the fading light, we searched to no avail. The cool wind and darkness ended our efforts, and we congratulated each other with our goodbyes. Hopefully, with some weathering and heavy rain, we will get another chance to track the rare fossil urchins of the Glen Rose.
JohnJ
October 3, 2009
We have all had those mornings when it seems that our timing is off just a little. This day started that way. Usually, I adjust by trying to focus more on what I'm doing than other things. Dan and I were teamed up for a return to one of our most productive jungle areas. The possibilities of what we might find crowded my thoughts. However, I think it was the forecast for storms that had me a little preoccupied.
There were times along the twisted road that I could see Dan's headlights disappear in my rear view mirror. Fortunately, he was in sight when I discerned a vehicle pulled off the road in the opposite lane. I slowed down to see what was out of the ordinary when I noticed a large tanker truck stopped about a quarter mile further down the road. That wasn't normal. I still felt like I was a cup of coffee behind...but that soon changed. Shortly after passing the tanker, I noted a trail of liquid in his lane of the road. Aha, now things started to make sense. It was tracking the liquid on the dark road that allowed me the seconds needed to avoid a large dead black cow in my lane! I tapped my brakes several times to signal Dan, and he made it safely around the heifer. Crisis avoided, and we were back on our way.
Totally focused in the present, I mentally reviewed the logistics ahead. Dawn was late in the overcast skies, but a large column of smoke was clearly visible several miles away. My thoughts were soon interrupted by distant flashing lights and more smoke. All kinds of scenarios played in my mind: someone's house on fire; burning trash; or a car crash.... When we pulled to a stop behind the fire trucks, the roadside brush fire was intense. They closed the road...add 10 miles to the morning. That's how the day started.
It was good to finally get in the water. We figured our weather window was short, so we rapidly assessed each site we encountered. Small fragments of bone and the occasional flint spall teased us in our journey. Finally, a high terrace bank revealed more flint debitage to Dan. It was misting when he called out, "hey, I think I found a Clear Fork tool!" Indeed, it was.
Further on, a small movement caught my attention. "Cottonmouth!" Close to three feet long and a couple of inches thick, it was a reptile large enough to have no regard for our presence. Its head was raised alertly as it stopped along the bank. It was a handsome snake. We cautiously snapped a few photos before continuing our quest.
Agkistrodon piscivorus

The skies darkened more with the first drops of rain. Dan donned his rain jacket. I had layered clothing and decided to see if the shower would last. As it slowed to a drizzle, I smiled at my decision...then, it really started to rain. Dan laughed while I fumbled with my poncho. "Did you decide to trap those damp clothes under plastic?" he chided. I smiled sarcastically. It was pouring. The rain cycled from light to heavy all the way back to our vehicles. We still had half a day left. It was time for plan B.
I called my wife, who was graciously monitoring the weather radar, and asked how things were looking. She said we didn't have any major storms headed for "plan B", so we put it into action. When we descended into the canopied stream, I reminded Dan this was where I had accidentally smacked him upside his head with a paddle handle. He returned a sarcastic smile.

However, the sarcasm faded in the damp gloom as he occasionally picked up a few cool, old bottles. Then, in the shallows, I spotted a treasure...
Archaic knife

…it was a beautiful Archaic blade! As I pulled the camera from my pack, Dan cried, "Mosasaur vert!" Less than 8 feet away, there it was...the vertebra of a 70 million year old marine reptile. It was an exciting double find! Both discoveries rewarded our efforts. The day had shifted from a "step behind" to being in sync with our surroundings.



Downstream, while crossing one of several log jams, Dan noticed a raccoon disturbed by our efforts. Seconds after his observation, I watched a deer mouse scamper from beneath his feet. The tannin stained water continued to hold promise as we worked our way through the stream-bed. Soon Dan called out again, "I got a vert! It’s a good one!" The fossil fish vertebra was perfectly framed in the gravel. Our initial identifications settled on Xiphactinus, a large tarpon-like fish of the Late Cretaceous, due to the strut like features on the side of the vertebra. If true, it was his best one to date.
Unidentified fish vertebra

We didn't really notice the light rain. Tantalizing clues and the aura of recent finds kept us focused. Our eyes swept like radars over the terrain before us. "What's that next to your foot?" I asked.
"Where?" Glare blocked Dan's vision. Out of the water came a puzzling small bone. It was suggestive of a hoof or claw core. The latter would be very significant for the location. We were excited by the possibilities as I bagged the find for later research.
pathological bison / cow hoof core


With a damp end to the day, Dan and I shook hands on another successful adventure. Night fell; an hour or so later, I was doing a little research on the mystery "core" when my phone rang. It was Dan.
"Hey man, you're not going to believe this, but on the way home...." Fortunately he was safe, and it did not involve a burning road or a dead cow...but that's his story to tell.
JohnJ
March 6, 2010
It was time to paddle one of my favorite places. The water had finally receded from recent rains to make the trip manageable. It was also a test for a shoulder injury that I had been working back into shape. So I waved to my wife and slipped the boat into the cold water.
As I negotiated the twisted channel, I noted many changes to familiar stretches of water. A new tree down here, a missing log jam there and fresh, untracked gravel soon became part of things behind me. Yet the water still had its surprises as I dealt with the first of four major, new logjams. Slippery mud banks, ripping briars and budding poison ivy greeted me on every portage around the chaos of flood debris. But at the same time, I started to make a few finds and a jaw fragment with a tooth root made the morning a little easier to bear.
Late Cretaceous fish jaw/tooth fragment -
cf. Pachyrhizodus sp.

In familiar territory, the memories of past finds kept me optimistic. Anticipation generated the excitement I felt when I reached under the water to lift out a dark object. Most of the time it was nothing; this time it was part of a fish. The unidentified bone fragment was soon followed by a vertebra from another Upper Cretaceous fish (possibly Xiphactinus).
Fish bone fragment

Xiphactinus (?) vertebra

After going around another 20 yard logjam, I found my first mosasaur vertebra of the day. Although it was slightly eroded, I could still make out the eye-like scars where the caudal chevrons of the tail attached. It was still a nice find; I’ve learned to appreciate that what may be a common find in one geographic area can be rare to unknown in others. So any time I have the chance to pick up a 70 million year old reptile bone, I generally do. Within the next two hundred yards, another mosasaur caudal vertebra, this one in a little better shape, laid just under the water. It was already a good day.
The solitude of my solo run allowed me a state of mind which made it easy to imagine walking on the bottom of the late Cretaceous sea or hiking through somewhat familiar Pleistocene terrain. I pictured complete fossil skeletons just a few feet inside the Taylor Group clays and mammoth herds lingering on the banks above me. However, on a steep descent back into the water, a slight slip on the muddy bank focused my attention to the reality of the risks involved while alone. I moved on with heightened senses.
I am often amazed at how some finds are made. When I turned around to lift the boat off a sandbar, something caught my eye. Straight lines contrasted with the rounded gravel and this time it was a fractured horse tooth. Yet a few minutes later, that “contrast” was a nice, resharpened Pedernales dart point. My fossil hunting mojo continued over the next hour or so and I added two more mosasaur vertebrae to my cargo.
Mosasaur vertebrae, horse molar and previous finds


Chevron attachment scars on mosasaur caudal vertebrae

Then, it happened; I saw tracks…aarrghh! I switched hunting modes as I looked at the size 10 footprints. They were fresh enough to be from the morning or the previous day. I studied the directional patterns to see if I was following a fisherman or fossil/artifact hunter. After a few hundred yards, I concluded it was a hunter; the weaving imprints left me with little doubt. When it happens, I try to look where they haven’t or look even closer where they have. It was time to be both tracker and hunter.
With my adjusted viewpoint, I kept moving on. Scanning and tracking, in and out of the boat, I found a few tidbits missed by the other hunter. Smudges on the algae coating the underwater gravel indicated I was still “following”. Yet after about a mile, the pattern of the tracks started to change from a wandering to a more linear path. Ahhh…they might have been tired or running out of time. Either way, it allowed me more unexamined gravel to search. The reward for persistence came only 4 feet away from the tracks and…


One of the largest flint knives I’ve found

With overcast skies and late afternoon approaching, I became more selective in the areas I comprehensively searched. On one of the last large gravel bars of the trip, I stepped out of the boat to pull it from the current and, several feet off to the side, I caught sight of another dart point. (The adrenaline was still in my system from the previous find!) I felt a big smile as I reached for the camera. My wife and friends would be surprised by all the finds when I got home; but, I would enjoy telling the story of each one.
Who was the last person to touch this before I did? What happened that day?


I finished photographing the Hoxie point and started to scan the bar. About 15 feet away, I reached for what I thought was just a chert flake and I pulled another artifact from the sand. This one appeared to be older than the others. It may be a variant of a late Paleo San Patrice point. Impact damage was the likely cause of the flake scar on the tip.

I chuckled on the way back to the canoe. At the water’s edge, I looked down and spotted a broken, crudely flaked point. The chuckle turned into a laugh.
Broken point/scraper

What a day! I lifted my paddle and gear in one hand and hefted the 16 foot boat on the other shoulder then purposely made my ascent up the bank at the take-out. My heart pounded by the time I reached a spot to drop everything. However, with the exertion came the satisfaction and reward of persistence in the field.
JohnJ
December 7, 2009
Damp cool bordering on cold, breezy overcast was the atmosphere Bob and I charged with anticipation. A day off and a few hours from Central Texas found us in a Lower Cretaceous quarry. Here, the Albian aged Washita Group formations could offer up some uncommon echinoids and other marine fauna. Bob thanked me for the invitation and the chance to find some different species for his collection. He had just shown me an intricate, Edwards Formation matrix piece that had a crisp, silicified Goniopygus echinoid tucked into a crevice. It reminded me of a few discoveries I had made at our current location. So, as we wound our way through the outer areas, I worked off my adrenaline with an orientation of what had been found at the site and what potentially could be found. Bob patiently listened, but I could see that his fossil detector was red-lining.
The formation alternated between a soft limestone and blue-gray marl. We dropped to our knee pads at the base of a small spoil pile. A few months of rain had weathered the marl into a mound of fossil studded hoo-doos. The series of "ooohs" and "aaahhs" coming from the other side of the pile sounded like a 5th grader on a field trip! Fragments of pyrite covered Neithea texana and delicate Plicatula dentonensis fossil shells perched on small pedestals. Along with a few of these, Bob plucked a fat, quarter-sized gastropod cast and a large cidarid urchin spine from the clay for a good start.
Neithea shells



We finally moved into the heart of our search area. I pointed out the site where my eyes were going to vacuum the ground. Last April, a friend and I had discovered some Globator whitneyae echinoids in this spot. Then, on a subsequent solo trip, I figured out the stratigraphic key to finding these Globators. It was like working a successful pattern while bass fishing. However, in the excitement of bagging several of these uncommon urchins, I accidentally unlocked one of the site's real treasures when a knobby, walnut-sized echinoid rolled out of a rock that I had just split. It turned out to be a species of Tylocidaris (probably new) that is undescribed in any literature for North America. Since then, I had been here on a periodic mission to find another one.
Various views - probable new species of Tylocidaris fossil echinoid

While there was not any mist falling at the time, it seemed like the wind whipped humidity reminded me of every weak point in my layered clothing. I flipped my 4X visor down and crouched between the rocks. "Wow, the rain has been good for this site," I whispered to myself. Bob agreed as he crawled through the rocks nearby. The ambient moisture in the rock and clay created great contrast with the fossils. In places, it was like looking at a treasure chest just opened; you had to force yourself to slow down and absorb the information in front of you. "Goniopygus!" I whooped! "Really?! Let me see it!" Bob replied from behind a few large rocks.
Hidden treasure - Goniopygus sp.

Close-up and actual size

I barely noticed the wind as I photographed the small echinoid. Back in May at this location, Goniopygus budaensis became one of my favorite little urchins when I found one with associated spines. This species doesn't seem to be a common find - likely due to the lack of exposed strata and their small size.
May 2009 discovery with spines - Goniopygus budaensis

Within ten minutes, I had worked my way back to the edge of the rock pile and looked up at another Goniopygus peeking from the side of a large boulder. "Bob, you're not going to believe this, but I found another one." I thought I heard something from his direction, but I wasn't sure if it was my bandana flapping over my ears, or him mumbling.... Thinking it may have been the latter, I didn't even mention the Globator whitneyae echinoid barely showing in another rock two feet away. He came over to glance at the small Goniopygus and gathered more inspiration for his search.
2nd G. budaensis

1st Globator whitneyae

It wasn't long before Bob called me over to look at something. "Is this one of the Globators?" he inquired. It was. Although slightly damaged, it was still a nice find. Now that he was "on the board" with a different species added to his collection, Bob began to settle into a grid search of another large, marly rock pile. I reminded him of some noteworthy finds that came from the rubble he was working, then I settled back into the rocks. A small, tree-shaped, form immediately caught my attention. It was an echinoid spine...unlike any others I had found at the site! I'll have to do more research, but my initial thoughts had me wondering if I had found a spine to my elusive Tylocidaris! I found it in the actual rubble of my original discovery, and the characteristics reminded me of the spines on European-found Tylocidaris species.
17 mm echinoid spine - possibly Tylocidaris sp.

Several minutes later, I spotted another Goniopygus in a foot-sized rock. This was starting to be 'one of those days'. "Another one," I hollered. There was little movement in the rock pile next to me, but I clearly heard some mumbling. I grinned at Bob's humorous sarcasm and positioned myself to photograph the little echinoid. Silent disbelief and a big smile merged at the sight of yet another G. budaensis in a small rock by my knee! I didn't say anything, but I picked this little 5 mm gem up and photographed it first. Pyrite crystals had erupted through the test like golden micro mountains; a very cool find. It was one of 'those' days.
Pyrite G. budaensis

G. budaensis in matrix

After prep

I returned my attention to snapping a few shots of the other echinoid when Bob called out, "Hey, I've got something over here!" His jacket looked like one of the rocks until he rose up with a smile. "I think I found another Globator!" This one was in excellent shape when it popped free of the matrix. He added an exclamation point when he revealed some crab claw fragments he had picked up. The best trips - when quality finds are made by everyone.
Globator whitneyae found by Bob C.

The wind had picked up quite a bit more. I had already wrapped my bandana over my head and ears; so I geeked it up even more by buttoning my collar and flipping it up...at least it was warmer. I thought I had detected mist in the air, but it vanished - just leaving the damp wind and cold. I split more rock to generate some warmth, taking care to scan both of the newly created surfaces. Doing so, revealed two more slightly damaged Goniopygus urchins about 5 mm in diameter and my best Globator of the day!
Close-up of worn G. budaensis

My best Globator sp. find of the day

Bob wandered the site, taking in its various features. I stayed a little longer where we had been. A nicely sutured Mortoniceras sp. ammonite rewarded my efforts. Shortly after, the mist returned, and my hunting partner thanked me again for the invitation. He made it to the vehicles before me and left. Incredibly, as I side-tracked along the rim of the site on my way out, I found the blade of an Early Archaic / Late Paleo dart point! The impact damage on the tip and snapped base had their own story to tell. The search was over and the rain began, but I'll remember this tale as a marly trip with Bob.
Mortoniceras sutures

Late Paleo/Early Archaic broken point

JohnJ
September 20th, 2009
 
In the search for fossils and other treasure, rain can be friend or foe. However, given the historic drought that is affecting most of Texas, you cannot complain about the rain these days. A friend and I decided to see if we could leverage the rain's recent effects on a heavily collected waterway in our state. We ended up rescuing several finds from nature's grinder.
 
During our excursion, I tried to take advantage of the digital video capability on my camera...it might have taken advantage of me. I cobbled together a montage of video, photos, and text to give you a chance to see a memorable trip....

 
We were hoping for some mosasaur material and Pleistocene presents, but if you want to take a look, we found...


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