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The Three Kings Stationary epifaunal suspension feeders Heliophyllum is an extinct genus of corals that existed predominantly in the Devonian. Heliophyllum is of the order Rugosa and can be referred to as horn corals. This is what the internet tells you about this well known and popular fossil coral and that's about it. I'm fortunate to have collecting sites here in NY with excellent examples of this very cool fossil. I thought it would be neat for you to see examples of three types of Heliophyllum that I find. Of course the most common species I find is Heliophyllum halli (Edwards and Haime 1851) the solitary rugose. This is The King of Heliophyllum corals and are common to find here in NY at certain localities. Complete or "fresh" specimens are uncommon. A fresh coral would be one that has just weathered from the formation and is undamaged, unworn/tumbled by a stream. The majority of the Heliophyllum halli corals I find are 1-3 inches long with many being between 3-6 inches and a few over 6 inches in length. I find some with perfectly preserved epibionts that help tell a story of that paleoenvironment Heliophyllum halli lived in. The next King of this story is Heliophyllum confluens (Hall 1876) the colonial rugose coral. This species is much rarer then the solitary Heliophyllum halli. Confluens can form large colonies made up of several individual coralites that form a solid coral head. Each colony is different and many fantastic shapes can be found in this species. The third King is Heliophyllum delicatum (Oliver and Sorauf, 1994) a budding colonial coral. Delicatum is only found in the lower Deep Run Shale Member of the Moscow formation. This is my favorite of the three kings. They are the rarest Heliophyllum to find and complete undamaged colonies are near impossible due to their delicate nature. Unlike Heliophyllum confluens, delicatum coralites do not grow together to form a coral head. Instead each coralite individually grows out of a single main corals calyx. This can happen several times within the same colony forming a bouquet of fossil corals. I am not an expert on corals past or present. These are my observations over years of fossil collecting in New York. I hope this helps in your fossil ID or clears up some confusion when talking about these Kings of horn corals. mikey
The Trip That Nearly Didn't Start (Lengthy image-intensive trip report follows) Tammy and I had planned a fossil hunting trip to Wyoming for the third week of September to redeem our day of digging (splitting rock) at the Green River Formation quarry that @sseth had earlier so generously offered up as a prize on an auction to benefit TFF. We had our airfares, a rental car reserved, and a series of hotels booked across the state ready for a monumental fossil hunting trip. The one small problem was the not so small storm named Hurricane Irma that tore through the northern Caribbean and had its sights set on the Florida and being wider than the peninsula, no Floridian was going to miss the effects of this storm. Earlier in the week the forecast had the centerline of the cone of probability for the track of the storm hitting Miami and traveling up the eastern coast where Boca Raton sat squarely in the cross-hairs. I guess that if you are going to be in the path of some major destruction it is better to be the target early in the week rather that toward the end when the storm is at our doorstep. Thankfully (for us, but not so for those in the Lower Keys and Southwest Florida), the storm's turn to the north was delayed and though we were now on the stronger NE quadrant of the storm, the eye was significantly far away to the west that we escaped the strongest of winds. The storm unleashed squadrons of tornadoes and micro-bursts which had us ducking into our safe room for cover. During the storm unidirectional winds first blew from the east and then from the south as the storm passed us to the west but the tornadic winds were something else as the trees started whipping around in all directions quite violently. Luckily for us, the house survived with no structural damage. The newer more sturdy pool cage that replaced the original one that Wilma had crumpled and stuffed into the pool back in 2005 (shockingly) did not even lose a single screen panel. The damage on our property was limited to toppled trees and broken limbs and branches. We lost power even before the eye wall had made first landfall in the Florida Keys. As soon as it was safe to go outside, we started the portable generator and ran extension cords throughout the house to keep refrigerator, freezer and a box fan and a few lights powered. We've cooked on our outdoor grill and Coleman camp stove in previous power outages caused by the rash of hurricanes in 2004/05 and so we were well prepared and never at risk of starvation (we actually ate rather well). While Wilma had run over the house in late October, 2005 when the temperatures had cooled somewhat from the hot muggy Florida summer, we were not so lucky this time. Outdoor temps in the low 90's were soon matched by the 88 degrees inside which made sleeping difficult (even with a fan). We spent the days cutting up the downed foliage and stacking it into many piles along the street in back of the house as well as a towering mount in the cul-de-sac in front (which is still growing in size to this day and is due to be cleared by FEMA sometime in the next 2-3 weeks). Taking frequent breaks inside to lay down on the floor in front of the fan to avoid all-out heat exhaustion, both Tammy and I worked to clear the property as much as we could and monitor the progress of power restoration in our county. Over 70% of homes and businesses were left in the dark after Irma but Florida Power & Light had learned a few things after performing poorly in the 2004/05 hurricane seasons. They had staged a bunch of replacement parts and crews fresh from working in Houston were in the state working to get the grid back online. We couldn't leave on our trip unless we got power back and we watched the percentage of customers without power slowly but steadily decrease until one evening our power flickered and within a few minutes was restored for good. I had been waiting till the last possible minute to cancel my plans and try to get refunds for the reservations we'd made for this trip. I was tired of a week of hot sweaty yard work clearing debris and I was ready for some cooler Wyoming temps.
I would like to expand my overall collection. I have collected a ton of SW Ohio Ordivician fossils over the years. I believe that most non-Ohio collectors are unaware of how great this area is for collecting. I'd like to get other specimens from other areas. I have 10 "mini-collections" (samplers?) made up of typical SW Ohio fossils, minus the trilobites (they aren't really so widespread). The collections (similar to that pictured below) will include 2 horn corals (one with beekite), a gastropod, a cephalopod, the top valve of a rafinesquina, and 6 complete brachiopods...a hebertella, a vindlandostrophia ponderosa, 3 different kinds of lepidocyclus, and one of the following... a glyptorthis, a plaesiomys, or a retrorsirostra (I say one of these three because I struggle to tell them apart). I would like to trade to different people from different areas other than SW Ohio/No KY/E Ind. Or from the Devonian in NE OH and around Penn-Dixie...I'm pretty good on those already. All pieces will be in very good condition, prepped and ready to go. I would like the same in return. Just because I'm offering 11 pieces doesn't mean I want 11 from you....I want a good quality representation of what is commonly found in your area...we can discuss/negotiate it. Of course, send a photo. If you want to suggest other trades/sales I'll listen. Right now I will not consider overseas shipping. PM me if interested.
Last week I made my third annual pilgrimage back to the Chicago area to visit family, do a little fossil hunting, gorge myself on great ethnic foods and treat myself to some Chicago-style deep-dish stuffed pizza for my birthday--yum! I had hoped to pick up some more Pit 2 (Braidwood Biota) Mazon Creek nodules from Fossil Rock campground in Wilmington but sadly it is now closed and up for auction with the distinct possibility that it will never again allow fossil hunters to gather nodules from the spoil piles at the back of the campground. Instead, I figured on focusing back on the Pit 11 (Essex Biota) nodules in the Mazonia/Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area where I first had hunted nodules since learning about them several years ago. I had hoped on meeting up with some TFF members but unfortunately this turned out to be a busy weekend for them and we never managed to get out for a group nodule hunt. I did make it out to Mazonia/Braidwood for a couple hours of the weekend. Luckily, this location in Braceville is only a short 45 minute drive from where we were staying so it is quite convenient to pop over there. The weather report did not look good for Saturday afternoon and soon after we arrived the low clouds and mist turned to drizzle and then to rain and we were chased out with little to show for our efforts. We did a little better on Sunday and I have a small cache of nodules soaking in a bucket at the moment before their first freeze/thaw cycle on a shelf in my freezer. I had suggested to the TFF members in the greater Chicagoland area (including far western cities and extending into Wisconsin) that if there were other fossil hunting opportunities in the area that I might be able to replace Fossil Rock campground with some other novel (to me and my wife, anyway) location. Rob Russell suggested a small road cut in north central Illinois as a possibility but stated that a much more certain location would be the St. Leon roadcut in southeastern Indiana. We considered how we wanted to plan our week in Chicago and decided that Friday would be the best day for a roadtrip to Indiana. Google Maps (for some unknown reason) showed this trip as just under 4 hours. I figured that would be only an hour more than we normally drive to get to the Peace River here in Florida and that we could do it as a day trip. We got up early on Friday (easy to get out of bed with the prospect of fossil hunting ahead) and were on the road before 6am. Being reasonably close to the Summer Solstice and at a much more northerly than our normal South Florida latitude, the days were long and we were able to depart in daylight. We ducked under the southern tip of Lake Michigan and once in Indiana headed southeast on I-65 toward Indianapolis. Right away I could see that the Google Maps estimate of arrival time was optimistic. Large swaths of I-65 were under construction and there seemed to be as many large semi trucks on the road as cars. We stopped off along the way for a quick breakfast and continued to make steady progress toward Indianapolis. We had planned on stopping there because in my haste to pack for the Chicago trip I had forgotten to pack a long sleeve shirt. I have had more than my fair share of solar radiation as a kid spending my days shirtless and shoeless running around the country roads of northern Wisconsin with the local kids during my youth and now prefer to spend my time in South Florida covered up from the sun as much as possible. Rather than lathering up armfuls of sunblock I tend to prefer long sleeve shirts for their abrasion protection as much as their SPF. I set the GPS for the address of a Target store in Indianapolis as we had left the Chicagoland area before they were open. Unfortunately, we got the E or W prefix wrong on the street address and ended up some 16 miles away from the store. We managed to find a discount store in the area and after about 5 minutes of shopping (twice my normal preferred extent) I came away with my new "in the field" shirt for the extravagant price of $2.50. Back on the highway again and heading toward the town of St. Leon. We were making reasonable time (as best we could with the traffic and construction) but realized that 4 hours was a hopelessly unrealistic travel time. When I double-checked the distance I realized that it was around 280 miles and a 70 mph average speed would be needed to make this journey in the specified time. As that was the limit on the fastest parts of the highway we would not be arriving mid-morning as I'd originally planned. In the end we arrived for an early lunch in St. Leon where we (surprisingly) found vegetarian food at a restaurant called Skyline Chili. Chili they had--several large cauldrons of it bubbling away in the open kitchen area--but skyline? The only skyline visible in this open rural area was that shown in silhouette on their sign. Post lunch we headed north on Old State 1 till we saw the splendor of the extensive roadcut that I'd seen in Google Maps satellite imagery or in the trip photos of other groups that have hunted here before us. This roadcut through the 450 million year old Upper Ordovician deposits seems to have been an effort to minimize the slope of the highway running through its middle. We parked well off the road on the extensive shoulder near the drainage area and could hear the frequent trucks and cars go by. On their way up the incline we could hear the trucks shifting into low gear to climb the grade and the engine breaking of the trucks making the opposite trip. We were the only ones there, the sun was shining, the weather was pleasant and within minutes of parking the car we saw that the rocks around us were virtually carpeted with brachiopods and other fossils--it was going to be a good day. It had taken us 6 hours to get here (50% longer than originally estimated) but with the prospect of a new and exciting hunting opportunity, we couldn't be happier. For those who have not yet seen the roadcut at St. Leon here is what it looks like looking down the sloping highway with terraced slopes flanking the road. You'll notice the wide shoulder and the shallow drainage trough which make for safe parking well away from the traffic. The photo of the brachiopod slab right next to where we parked the car indicated a productive day was ahead of us.