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Southern Comfort

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About this blog

Fossil collecting in the southern states

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The Problem with Siphocypraea

For millennia, humankind has been fascinated by the hard-external shell of the organisms classified within the Phylum Mollusca.   Consumed first as food, their empty shells have served multiple functions in the past; as tools in many ancient cultures, in religious ceremonies by the Aztecs, and money by Pacific Islanders. During the Age of Discovery, sailors could supplement their meager incomes by selling exotic seashells to wealthy gentlemen for their Cabinets of Curiosity.  Today many people f

MikeR

MikeR

Caloosahatchee 2015

A topic early last year in the Fossil Forum asked “What are your goals for 2015”. My response in that discussion was a desire to collect from the Duplin Formation in South Carolina to expand upon the species list within my Pliocene Project. Although I did not have the opportunity to bring those specific goals to fruition, I did add significantly to that list with unplanned collecting trips to two sites exposing the Golden Gate Member of the Tamiami Formation containing a number of species not

MikeR

MikeR

The Tamiami Fossil Reefs

Belying its status as the third most populous state in the nation and America’s self-proclaimed vacation wonderland, Florida was perhaps the last paleontological frontier in the lower 48 states. South Florida in particular was thought of as a vast impenetrable swamp and it was not until the Academy of Natural Sciences 1886 scientific expedition led by Angelo Heilprin along Florida’s southwestern coast and interior that it was discovered that South Florida until quite recently was submerged. It

MikeR

MikeR

Pliocene Project Part 2

Part of the fascination with fossil shells is the excellent preservation which occurs under the proper conditions. With the exception of color, specimens whether shell, coral, or echinoderm, many times look as if they were picked off of a beach. Yet careful examination reveals differences between fossil and recent related species which demonstrate changes within taxa through time. Often overlooked however, are the geological processes which form shell beds. A principle of global geology is trans

MikeR

MikeR

Chowan River Formation Revisited

My first experience with the Chowan River Formation was during a collecting trip in 2011 to collect Zone 2 Yorktown sediments along the Roanoke River in North Carolina. The paltry fauna that I collected from the two Chowan sites stood in stark contrast to the molluscan-rich Yorktown Rushmere Member exposed further upstream. Since I had been writing about the Upper Pliocene deposits of the Eastern United States, I was looking forward to collecting these youngest Pliocene deposits but with a tot

MikeR

MikeR

Smr Aggregates 2013

In early 2013 after two years of work, I finally completed the preparation, identification and curation of my extensive Upper Pliocene collection from the Eastern United States. My intent afterwards was to quickly use the same method to knock out my Pleistocene collection so I could start on a new large Cretaceous project. But as John Steinbeck once wrote “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry” applies here as I continued to add to my Pliocene collection throughout the remainder

MikeR

MikeR

The Early Pleistocene Marine Fauna Of The Southeastern United States

The glaciations which are a hallmark of the Pleistocene, actual began sometime in the late Pliocene. The extent varied but each of the three largest Ice Age glacial events produced noticeable marine fauna changes along the Western Atlantic coast. As temperatures warmed during the first major interglacial of the earliest Pleistocene, rising sea levels formed the rich shell beds of the Caloosahatchee, Waccamaw and James City Formations that we see today in the quarries and river bluffs in the Ea

MikeR

MikeR

The Caloosahatchee Marl

In 1886 a young adventurer scientist by the name of Angelo Heilprin (1853-1907) made his first expedition of many in a short but event filled career. He would later ascend Ixtaccihuatl and Popcatepetl volcanoes in Mexico and was the first scientist to arrive at the city of Saint-Pierre, Martinique after the eruption of Montagne Pelee killed 30,000 in 1902 and would return four years later descended into its crater. He embarked with Robert Peary on his expedition to Greenland in 1891 and led th

MikeR

MikeR

James City Formation

In deciding upon a title for this post, my first inclination was to name it “The Fossil Shells of the Lee Creek Mine.” As mollusks are found within the entire 20 million year span of deposits at Lee Creek, that title does not fit into the theme of my recent posts about the Lower Pleistocene of the Southeastern United States. For the vertebrate collectors who once visited this fossil nirvana, the type of mollusk shells indicated the particular layer one was collecting. The presence of massive

MikeR

MikeR

Gelasian Stage Eastern United States

Primary amongst the various indicators that define the Quaternary Period is the cyclic global cooling known as the Ice Ages. Although cyclic glaciation happened throughout the Cenozoic, the shear number of occurrences in the Pleistocene are notable with no less than 13 different events. As would be expected, the constant rise and fall of sea level controlled by the amount of water caught up by glaciers and the resulting changes in temperature and aridity would play havoc with biological commun

MikeR

MikeR

Galerie De Paléontologie Et D’Anatomie Comparée

I made my first trip to France in 1997 while working as a bench scientist in a R&D group at a small biotech company. At that time I was performing research in DNA polymerases from thermophilic bacteria found in geysers and deep ocean vents for the use in DNA sequencing when I had the opportunity to attend an international scientific conference; Thermophiles 1997 in Brest, France. A scientific meeting on the European continent with exquisitely catered lunches served with wine, bike excursio

MikeR

MikeR

The End Of My Pliocene Project

When I began this blog late in 2010, my intention was to report on recent field trips however, with the exception of one excursion each into the Upper Miocene, Lower Pliocene and the Calabrian Pleistocene, all of my posts have concentrated on the Upper Pliocene of the US Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains. I already had an extensive collection of Florida Upper Pliocene invertebrates that I had collected while a resident of the state in the late 80s and early 90s. The fossils from these beds are

MikeR

MikeR

The Black Layer

The end of the Pliocene epoch was a very tumultuous time along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions of the United States. With the rise of the Isthmus of Panama, global climate patterns and ocean currents changed. Global change was nothing new and can be observed in the fauna differences between the Lower Pliocene Zone 1 ( Zanclean) and the Upper Pliocene Zone 2 (Piacenzian) Yorktown Formation when a cool temperate fauna was replaced by warm temperate/subtropical species. This local turnover howe

MikeR

MikeR

Chuckatuck

Anyone who has avidly collected fossils for any length of time will have those localities which stand out as their all time favorites based upon the richness or uniqueness of its fossil content. My list includes the APAC mine in Sarasota which I have described in previous posts, the Upper Cretaceous coon Creek deposits of Mississippi and Tennessee, and the subject of this post, The Lone Star Quarry near the town of Chuckatuck, Virginia (fig. 1). This quarry exposed the Moore House Member of th

MikeR

MikeR

Return To The Rushmere

In a previous post (http://www.thefossil...ushmere-member/) I described the Upper Pliocene fossils from the Rushmere Member of the Yorktown Formation in North Carolina and late last year (that is how far I am behind in my cleaning and curating) I returned to two of those Rushmere sites on the Roanoke River (my localities 1011 and 1012) as well as a new site (locality 1019) on the Tar River. On that particular day locality 1012, which is primarily explored for a lag deposit at the base of Rushme

MikeR

MikeR

Jackson Bluff Formation

Many of my posts have mentioned the work of Wendell Cooke Mansfield, one of the giants of early 20th century molluscan paleontology. Among his many accomplishments as a geologist with the United States Geological Survey, Mansfield was the first to publish a biostratigraphical zonation of the Yorktown formation (posthumously in Julia Gardner’s Yorktown publication), describe Pliocene fossils from the sands and limestones which were coming to light in South Florida during the construction of the

MikeR

MikeR

Stichting Schepsel Schelp

This year I have been on fewer fossil trips than at any time in my 30 years of collecting. This is mostly because my work is now taking me around the world as far east as Kuwait and as far west as China. This June I was working once more in Brussels, Belgium. With a free day on my hands and having seen much of Brussels on previous trips, I decided to visit a fossil friend and one time trading partner, two hours away in the Netherlands (Holland) in the city of Utrecht. I first started corresp

MikeR

MikeR

Cougars And Big Cypress

During your next Florida vacation, pick up a handful of sand. Each beach will have a different story to tell. The sugary white sand of the Florida panhandle, which I consider the best beach sand in the world originated from the once high and mighty Appalachians, while that from the sheller’s paradise of Sanibel Island and Southwest Florida is from millennia of shells ground down to a fine grit. The beach at Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys is a limey calcium carbonate mud which might one day b

MikeR

MikeR

The Lower Pinecrest Beds, Tamiami Formation

Three million years ago the Mid-Piacenzian warming stage was in effect for South Florida. The cool water fauna exemplified by Chesapecten found in Bed 11 of the Tamiami Formation was replaced by a warmer more diverse fauna, which formed extremely fossiliferous shell beds in the Sarasota and Kissimmee River regions of Florida. These deposits are called the Pinecrest beds after the tiny city of Pinecrest, Florida where they were first described by Axel Olsson in 1964. The Pinecrest is known to

MikeR

MikeR

Tamiami Formation, Bed 11

Between 2.5 and 4.5 mya most of Florida south of St. Petersburg was submerged under a cold but warming sea. The series of sand, shell and limestone deposited during this time is named the Tamiami Formation. In April 2011, I visited one of the famed Sarasota shell pits exposing primarily Beds 10 and 11 of the Tamiami Formation, my locality 1016 (fig. 1). My earlier days at APAC were spent collecting from a mixture of beds 1-11, so I was excited that I could collect in a biostratigraphically re

MikeR

MikeR

...and Now For Something Completely Different !

Business travel through the years has been very good for me in regards to fossils. My entire collection of Texas Cretaceous and Eocene and west coast Cenozoic was collected when time was available in afternoons or late evenings after work. My latest trip took me to London and Cambridge, England. I cashed in some airline points to take the Mrs. along and the plan was to sightsee in London on the weekend before moving on to Cambridge to work. I consider myself a natural history museum junkie a

MikeR

MikeR

Pliocene-Pleistocene Molluscan Species Identification--Part 2.

When I first began this blog, my intent was to post field reports and species lists from my collecting trips. Since I was working on my North Carolina material at the time, I started there and was preparing to report on my Alabama trips into the Paleocene and Eocene. Two separate events however changed my directed course. Foremost of the two was my trip to two shell pits in Florida exposing the fabulously rich shell beds of the Tamiami Formation. I have enjoyed researching and reporting abou

MikeR

MikeR

Yorktown Formation, Zone 2, Rushmere Member

Approximately 4.5 million years ago, the Albemarle basin in North Carolina was a cool temperate ocean much like that off the coast of Alaska today. Although cold, the offshore waters supported a rich and diverse ecosystem due to the upwelling of deep nutrient rich water. Placopecten clintonius scallops along with young Chesapecten jeffersonius clapped their shells together in an attempt to escape from shell crushing rays. Chesapecten as they aged would eventually develop thick heavy shells an

MikeR

MikeR

Yorktown Formation, Sunken Meadow Member

If anyone comes away with a message from reading my blog, it should be that things change. The earth is constantly going through periods of warming and cooling which affect not only sea levels and ocean currents, but also organisms adapted to their environment. Profound environmental change leads to extinction, but pushes evolutionary factors to refill empty niches with new species. Rivers in the Albemarle basin of northeastern North Carolina cut through four distinct shell beds that trace mo

MikeR

MikeR

Eastover Formation, Cobham Bay Member

In 2010, I had the opportunity to collect on the Roanoke and Meherrin Rivers which feed into Albemarle Sound in northern coastal North Carolina. Boating on both of these rivers is always enjoyable due to large numbers of bald eagles on the Roanoke and extensive stands of Cypress trees on the Meherrin (fig. 1). Besides their natural beauty, between the two are exposed a little more than six million years of strata stretching from the Upper Miocene to Upper Pliocene. Figure 1. Cypress swamp

MikeR

MikeR

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