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Found 1 result

  1. After a year and a half of searching followed by 6 months of time and effort related to buying, packing, moving, unpacking, and selling, Tammy and I are finally translocated to the Gainesville, FL area and out of South Florida. Hopefully, we'll have less hurricanes to deal with and significantly less year-round yard work to tend to. I'm leaving the riding lawn mower behind and hope to do less weeding and yard work in the new house. We specifically looked for a house without a lot of grass to mow and our house has only a narrow strip adjoining our neighbor's lawn. Our neighbor's son owns a lawn and landscaping business and is nice enough to cut his dad's lawn. It would be literally 2 passes with the mower so we're working out a deal with him so I never have to cut the grass again. The new house is on a little less than an acre but is surrounded on three sides by dense trees. The backyard slopes down to a creek that delimits the back boundary of the property. I had it on good authority that this was a fossiliferous creek and a few minutes a couple days back with a shovel and a sifting screen were sufficient to prove that assertion. Pretty fine gravel and so the shark and ray teeth are mostly pretty small (megs may be scarce here) but as a proof of concept I can state that I now have a continuous supply of fossils from my very own yard. Not the deciding factor in choosing this property (location, the neighborhood, and the wooded low-maintenance lot were more important) but nice to be able to have friends with kids over for a fossil hunt without leaving the yard (when that becomes a reality again post-pandemic). Other than to escape hurricanes and yard work, our motivation for relocating to a slightly higher latitude was to be closer to the University of Florida. We enjoy going out to the volunteer fossil digs and I've been eager to start volunteering more with the FLMNH (Florida Museum of Natural History). Due to the unusual times we find ourselves in the midst of presently, the volunteer program at the FLMNH is somewhat suspended. They can't have volunteers coming into the prep lab to work on jacketed specimens or doing the other volunteer efforts for the museum. Fortunately, I enjoy picking fossils from micro-matrix--I've processed countless 5-gallon buckets of matrix from Cookiecutter Creek, the Peace River, and other locations. I have a stacked set of sifting screens for classifying matrix and very functional lighted magnifier for looking through the more coarse material. For the finer (millimeter scale) micro-matrix my digital camera microscope and a large flat-screen TV monitor make efficient work of picking the finest material for interesting tiny treasures. http://www.thefossilforum.com/index.php?/topic/95821-optimizing-my-search-technique-for-picking-fine-micro-matrix/ I've been waiting nearly 2 years to be able to volunteer some effort into working down the large backlog of accumulated bags of matrix from the volunteer dig sites. One of these days I'm sure I'll come across a bag of micro-matrix from one of the grid squares that I myself have dug at some time in the past. Till then I've just gotten started looking through my first batch of washed and dried matrix from the Montbrook dig site SW of Gainesville. This is a really interesting late Miocene site with some really remarkable finds. A goodly amount of the described taxa in the faunal list for this site are represented only as micro-fossils. It is very interesting to see what is hiding in the micro-matrix as usually we only see the larger "macro" fossils that turn up while digging in the assigned grid square (ubiquitous turtle pieces, gator teeth and bones, the occasional large gomphothere bone, and other interesting species). Picking through the screen washed and dried matrix (which removes the sand, clay and fine silt) turns up lots of tiny bone fragments but aslo surprising number of complete toe bones (phalanges) from turtle, gator and other species. These weight-bearing bones are often very dense and fossilize unusually well as complete specimens. There are also enough ganoid garfish scales to pave an airport runway. One of the most common millimeter-scale fossils is the extremely abundant stingray (Dasyatis) teeth which along with tiny Rhizoprionodon shark teeth make picking the finest matrix continuously interesting. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/montbrook/faunal-list/ I'm still learning the faunal composition of this matrix (different in many ways from Cookiecutter Creek) and hope to soon find some the less common taxa like rodent teeth and some of the more unusual amphibians. I did start seeing an unusual type of fossil turning up with regularity. I had no idea what it was but a continuous supply of these tiny (just a few millimeters) cupped structures which look like microscopic canoes kept showing up in the finest size class matrix. I took a group photo of these little oddities and inquired with Richard Hulbert to see if they had been identified. Richard thought they appeared to be part of some invertebrate and sent the specimens to Roger Portell who is in charge of the invertebrate side of the FLMNH collection. They did analysis and found them to be composed of calcium phosphate which is usually (but not always) associated with vertebrate fossils (inverts tending to use calcium carbonate more commonly for their skeletal structures). For a while they thought these might be some sort of mouth part from a shrimp or other type of crustacean but that lead didn't pan out. Finally, they managed to contact someone who was well familiar with these objects and a certain identification was made. I'd have never guessed what these were in a million years thinking initially that they sort of resembled some sort of botanical seed pod (which they clearly were not based on their composition). It turns out that these little ovoid cupped structures are from frogs and are the vomerine (upper palate) teeth located behind the maxillary teeth which are embedded in the jaw. These teeth are thought to help in grasping prey items. None of the frog's teeth are actually used for chewing as prey are swallowed whole. I don't believe frogs shed vomerine teeth the way sharks go through a continuous supply of renewable teeth so I'm guessing that frogs must have been pretty common in this fossil habitat and that these solid vomerine teeth preferentially fossilize better than the thinner and less calcified other bones of the skeleton which are not as well represented at the site. Frog vomerine teeth! Who'd have thunk it? This nearly rivals the famous Merritt Island micro-matrix in which Julianna @old bones found her tree frog phalanx, thus giving it the alternative name of "frog toe micro-matrix". Cheers. -Ken
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