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Brewcuse

"starfish" Location Research Finger Lakes/cny

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Brewcuse

I've been doing research into fossil locations for the Middle and Upper Devonian in the Finger Lakes area. I live just outside Cortland and I've collected mostly in Onondaga, Cortland and Madison counties in a few different places and I've visited Portland Point and Kashong Creek as well,

Overall, I am happy with the various brachiopods, bivalves, gastropods, cephalopods, crinoids, horn corals and such, but I'm always on the hunt for trilobites and ammonoids and other more rare fossils.

In the past couple weeks I've run across references to Ophiuroids (brittle stars) and Ptilonaster princeps (although one discovery on the Cornell campus was called the "second" ever discovered, so this specific ID may be in question) being found in the Cortland-Ithaca-Yates Co areas (what I would call the Lower Finger Lakes).

I'm pretty good at research, I'm decent at geography and I'm not worried about taking the time to do this myself, but I'm wondering if either anyone else has already done some research or knows about locations? Does anyone want to collaborate on finding some of the more "rare" Devonian creatures?

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Brewcuse

For example, brittlestars have been found in the sandstones of southern Yates County, Italy Hollow is named specifically as a place.

From Charles Schuchert (1915)

"Preservation and occurrence. Starfishes are most often preserved in sandstones and muds tones and least often in limestones. Thereason why they occur less frequently in limestones is partially accounted for by the fact that during the weathering process they are almost always ruined. Those found in such deposits nearly always occur in the thin shale partings between the bedded limestones. In coarse sandstones they are less often seen, probably because these sediments are so much moved by the storm waves action that destroys the skeleton by separating the plates. Unless a starfish is quickly covered by sediment it is sure to be broken up and jumbled into a mass of unrelated ossicles, because the skeletal parts are rarely coossified. Hence the best preserved specimens are found in mudstones and especially in the fine-grained, somewhat muddy sandstones. Here they usually occur as fine molds, since all of the calcium carbonate has been dissolved out by the atmospheric waters. Such material is apt to be fairly abundant in individuals, and although a little difficult to study is often well preserved. Its interpretation is dependent on artificial casts or squeezes in wax or gutta-percha.

When found in black slates, as at Bundenbach, the skeleton is preserved in iron pyrite, and even though these sediments have been subjected to mountain making, the specimens can be cleaned mechanically of the adhering slate. The process is, however, a laborious one and has been successfully used only by Stiirtz and his two preparators. In the calcareous shales asterids are often well preserved, with the original skeleton more or less permineralized and the ossicles cemented together so that parts of the individuals weather out as free fossils. This is particularly the case in the Bichmondian deposits of Ohio and Indiana.
As a rule, starfishes are obtained in single specimens and as accidental finds, and for this reason they are among the rarest of known Paleozoic animals; they are the " fancy fossils" of the local collectors and the " choice specimens" of the museums. All of this is, however, due to the accident of preservation plus their great destruction through weathering. That starfishes and ophiurids were common, though probably not so abundant as aulurids, is proven when they are located in their entombing sediment and then quarried for. This is best seen in the well-known Lower Devonic slates of Bundenbach, where the quarrying for roofing material has produced as many starfishes as all other localities put together. A great variety has also been secured here, so that it is the only locality and time of which we can say that we know the starfish fauna. The most remarkable starfish find, however, is that made near Saugerties, New York, where over 400 examples of the Middle Devonic Devonaster eucharis were found in a fine-grained, somewhat muddy sandstone, extending over an area of 200 square feet. They occur as natural molds, and as the animals are found closely associated with Grammysia, it is thought that while feeding on these bivalves…"
Edited by Brewcuse

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Brewcuse

Of course, Saugerties is far east of the area I'm talking about, but the east-west orientation of NY strata leads me to believe that there's some spectacular finds waiting for someone in our area :D

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MarleysGh0st

I'm not familiar with any localities in the Finger Lakes region, but you might want to check out this paper for a species found in Schoharie county:

Sumrall, C. D., Brett, C. E. and Cornell, S. R. 2006. The Systematics and Ontogeny of Pyrgopostibulla Belli, a New Edrioasteroid (echinodermata) from the Lower Devonian of New York. Journal of Paleontology 80 (1): 187–192.

>>LINK<<

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piranha

The classic monograph including Devonaster eucharis and many other Paleozoic starfish of New York:

 

Schuchert, C. (1915)
Revision of Paleozoic Stelleroidea with special reference to North American Asteroidea.
Smithsonian Institution, United States National Museum, 88:1-312

 

LINK

 

 

 

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Brewcuse

Thanks for the help, gentlemen. More details about NY Devonian asterids only help fuel the search… and the Hudson/Mohawk locales aren't that far away ^_^

The first reference was the Fossil Sites website, which lists "Italy Hollow" in Yates County as a possible location. From there, further Google work turns up various NY Geology reports about sandstones in that vicinity.

I'm also going to try to visit the Cornell site to scope the strata and see how/if it correlates with the earlier report of Ptilonaster princeps… There's also a report for Brookton, but no locality info.

Edited by Brewcuse

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MarleysGh0st

Was that Cornell Daily Sun article your original source for information on this specimen, Brewcuse? I've found a citation for a scientific report, eleven months earlier.

Wells, J. W. 1952. A specimen of the starfish Ptilonaster from the Upper Devonian of central New York. Journal of Paleontology 26 (1): 120–122.
That specimen should have ended up in the PRI collection. I'll check to see if I can find it when I'm volunteering, tomorrow.

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Brewcuse

Marley, it was one of the sources, but it had the photo, so that's what I linked. It would be really cool if it is at PRI :) The listing I had said Wells 1952, but I hadn't had a chance to search it, thanks for that.

Edited by Brewcuse

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Brewcuse

Research Update:

13 verified localities

Silurian (1) Niagara Co

(Rochester Shale exposes from Ontario Canada east to at least Middleport, NY. Several locations are mentioned, one being Caleb's Quarry, others along the Erie Canal)

Ordovician (3) Herkimer, Oneida Cos

Devonian (9) Herkimer, Madison, Tompkins, Yates, Ontario, Steuben, Seneca, Chemung Cos

(plus Ulster and Schoharie which are outside my research area and are not included in my locality research except as paragons)

10 of the localities were verified in Schuchert (of which 3 double checked at Yale, 1 at Harvard); 1 additional specimen is at Harvard, one at Smithsonian and one was described in a NY Museum Bulletin.

A slew of unverified listings to dig through today...

Still zeroing in on precise locations, I have several places to explore and inquire about. Always looking for good leads :-)

Edited by Brewcuse

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Brewcuse

Using G.J. Retallack's database of lagerstatten (Supplementary data for "Exceptional fossil preservation during CO2 greenhouse crises?" by G.J. Retallack), I have identified a further 14 Devonian and 5 Ordovician (of which 2 are Beecher's and Walcott-Rust, so off-limits anyway) CNY/Finger Lakes sites [one site in Alleghany Co to the west and one in Otsego Co to the east have extended the borders, but I'm including them for completeness' sake].

Retallack has cited references for sites, but few if any have anything specific about them. He has posted his article online and if you're interested in paleoclimatology, it's an excellent read.

I would recommend Retallack's database as it has a wealth of info for the collector. I'm going to use it to look for more than stars.

so, the totals...

27 Devonian sites to try out

6 Ordovician sites to consider

1 Silurian exposure in WNY that I may someday wander

Edited by Brewcuse

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MarleysGh0st

Well, I downloaded the paper I cited earlier and found a Cornell catalog number for the specimen (CU 39057). Everything from the Cornell paleontological collections should be part of the PRI collections, now, but I couldn't find this specimen when I looked for it, this morning. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong drawer. (Part of the problem relates to an issue recently discussed in another thread: the vast majority of our specimens have not been given a PRI catalog number or entered into our computer database, yet. The specimens below only have old Cornell University numbers and/or a PRI Accession number.)

I did find some other specimens from the Finger Lakes, including the following:

  • Urasterella sp. Ithaca, NY, CU 4664, PRI ACC 1099.
  • Mesopaleaster (?) clarki, Beebe Lake Dam,Triphammer Shale, CU 42281. (This locality is on the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, NY.)
  • Lepidasterella gyalum (Clarke), Enfield fm., University Quarry, Ellis Hollow Rd. (Ithaca, NY), CU 42244.
  • Lepidasterella sp., Glen Springs of Padua, Watkins Glen, NY. Middle Devonian? Hamilton Group? PRI ACC 1522. (This locality appears to refer to the old Glen Spring Sanitarium, which has been demolished; see its Wikipedia page for details.)

Here's a photo of this last specimen, which was particularly nice. (I placed my pen in the box for scale, approx. 14 cm.)

post-7334-0-09749800-1408676249_thumb.jpg

These particular localities may not be accessible for collectors today, but they should provide some more data about what species might be found in this region. Good luck with your search!

Edited by MarleysGh0st

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Brewcuse

Thanks Marley! Every piece of info helps, whether the locality is accessible or not.

Knowing that there are at least 10 species in several different local formations means that I can start to learn better where to look.

Thanks for sharing the photo, what a great looking specimen :)

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MarleysGh0st

You're welcome, Brewcuse!

I was in the museum today and found one more local specimen on display on the big "Life in an ancient sea" wall.

post-7334-0-60020400-1408751500_thumb.jpg

This specimen is identified as:

Lepidasterella sp.

Newfield, Tompkins Co., New York

Late Devonian Period

PRI 49379

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