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My First Vertebrate from the Florissant Fossil Beds

Opabinia Blues

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Hi all,


Last weekend I took a trip, again, to the Florissant Fossil Quarry. The quarry doesn’t normally open until Memorial Day, but I went with the Colorado State University entomology club. I successfully lobbied for the club to take a field trip there, and the club got the trip funded by the student’s association so we got to go in as a by-appointment special group for “free” (at least for us). Perhaps this whole process is a story I’ll tell another time.


Anyway, for those not familiar in the upper Eocene Florissant Formation fossils of insects and plants are highly abundant, but fossils of vertebrates are exceptionally rare. This is despite being a superficially similar depositional environment to the Green River Formation, where fish fossils are abundant.


Well, after countless total hours of splitting in the quarry over the years I’ve finally come across a vertebrate fossil - the head of a teleost fish! This is exciting simply because fish fossils are very rare in this rock unit. The shale breaking split the fossil, so presumably the body is still out in the quarry somewhere. 





There are of course fish described from Florissant, but I’m not familiar with them. The only identification I can readily make is teleost.


Thought I’d share a rare find! My “white whale” for the Florissant Formation is still a spider fossil. There were three spiders found by entomology club participants, but of course I was not one of them. Of course I’d find the way more rare thing, but not the thing I wanted 😀

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“The worse the country, the more tortured it is by water and wind, the more broken and carved, the more it attracts fossil hunters, who depend on the planet to open itself to us. We can only scratch away at what natural forced have brought to the surface.”
- Jack Horner

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Excellent find! Congratulations. I hope you find your Florissant spider one day. Best wishes and thanks for sharing. 

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It looks like a possible match with the most common Florissant fish: Trichophanes foliarum 


Congrats! happy0144.gif


Meyer, H.W. 2003

The Fossils of Florissant.

Smithsonian Books, 258 pp.

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Excellent fish head.  I was there many years ago and Mrs. Clare gave me a fish they found that morning.  But it is nothing near as nice as yours.  Mine is completely blown apart... a pile of fish bones, which I assume, is why she gave it away.  (Mrs Clare ran the quarry back then.)


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  • 3 weeks later...


Life's Good!

Tortoise Friend.


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Fantastic find 

MOTM.png.61350469b02f439fd4d5d77c2c69da85.png.a47e14d65deb3f8b242019b3a81d8160.png MotM August 2023 - Eclectic Collector

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