Before my teaching duties resume tomorrow, I was able to squeeze a few more preps in the last couple of days. Nothing significant, but certainly learning moments for me as I better refine my nascent skills.
Already, I can count a few preparation bouts that turned out fairly well: an Illaenus sinuatus, Asaphus lepidurus, Flexicalymene croneisi, and the Flexicalymene senaria / Fusispira nobilis association. So far, so good, and it seems the normal state of things is to be covered in a fine coating of dolomite!
I probed other finds as well to see if there were other things there, and even popped out a headless Thaleops sp. from Bowmanville. Working with sometimes less than ideal equipment can be its own challenge, but I manage. There are still inefficiencies in my preparation "style" whereby it will take me twice or three times as long to complete a specimen than it would a more seasoned professional preparator with a wider array of tools.
So my task queue has been shortening, but by no means at the point where the lab will be going idle for the rest of winter. My next task was to "fill in a gap" in my "prepertoire": restoration. My first attempt was a mixed result on an Isotelus "mafritzae" back in November that has since been finished but I have been remiss in posting said result. This second attempt would be making use of Milliput again, but on a smaller and more expendable trilobite, the commonly found Eldredgeops rana from Penn Dixie. I've got loads of these in just about every orientation.
This bug was never going to make the cover of Trilobite Vogue. It is twisted with tons of crush damage to the glabella and the right side. For added "character," it is also missing a lot of shell. For preparators, this would be the kind of example one would find in a box of rejects to be harvested for parts.
At this point, a bit of scribing around and blasting followed by applying a good glob of Milliput. Some carving and let to cure for a day.
And the last two stages of the process. If you're wondering, the genal area of the cephalon is largely tucked underneath at an angle (super fun to prep - not!). As far as a clean restoration attempt, it is a pretty obvious attempt (but in certain lighting conditions it is a bit tougher to tell). In my weak defense, I don't have tiny tools or tiny fingers to do this kind of detail work. What this needs is a a pin-sized sander to grind and smooth down the transition between the restored area and the original shell. The pygidium itself is a real mess. But, hey, this was already consigned to the chuck-it bucket anyway, so may as well take the opportunity to practice on a piece that I could royally botch.
An incomplete Leviceraurus mammilloides that Deb found in October in Bowmanville. I may have screwed up in an earlier scribing attempt, not figuring that the tail spines would be sitting on top of the bug's plane, so all but the stubs vanished. It was already missing the left genal and part of the right genal, as well as the right eye that I could not save from the impression side, sadly. But it looks a lot crisper now that I've taken the matrix down on all sides and cleared up some of the inter-pleural gunk on this "zipper bug."
While I had the compressor running, why not do a quick blast of this long-tipped Mucrospirifer thedforensis? They clean up fairly easily, but are usually just a waste of dolomite and time.
And these are teed up for their time at the bench: four enrolled Greenops widderensis (one almost completely pyritized) that will be no picnic to prep. The goal with these will be to expose the other side and have them appear as if "draped" over the rock. These are incredibly delicate and flaky, so having at least four on hand to get it right is a good thing as I anticipate at least a few catastrophes with these ones!
DAY 1: Penn Dixie
Returned Monday evening from four fabulous days swinging hammers, slabbing and splitting in the field. We managed to hit two sites, with plans for a third site falling through due to weather and site conditions.
We left home on the Friday morning to arrive at Penn Dixie, in Hamburg/Blasdell NY (south of Buffalo) by noon time. It was not a public collecting day at the site, but members of the Hamburg Natural History Society are permitted to enter the site.
A group of us digging through some fresh material
Of particular note was just how much PD had changed since last season, and that is due almost entirely to some well-directed excavations at some key spots to reveal more of the Smokes Creek trilobite layer, but also opening up other on-site locations such as the Bayview brach layer and the North Evans limestone. We had the excavator on site for the second day, with the previous day ripping up a new spot in preparation for the annual Dig with the Experts event. We did not touch those piles, and focused on other spots.
I found this piece of Devonian wood, and it is a fairly healthy size for this location.
One of the excavated spots we spent the most time working on was fairly thin on trilobites, which suggests that they appear in deposition pulses on the seabed. There's no way knowing in advance if there will be a lot of trilobites, and so you hope to hit paydirt by attacking the Smokes Creek layer.
A fairly large Goniatite, sadly all busted up.
Later in the day, we migrated to a new gully area where some of our other collectors on the Sunday previous had found a few examples of the rare Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi trilobite. Sadly, that lead dried up and no Bellas were found. For the most part, trilobites were mostly appearing as disarticulated bits and moults, with not much in the way of assemblages or complete prones and rollers.
Full prone, but containing shell on both sides of the rock. This will need to be glued together and prepared.
I did have some luck despite the parsimonious nature of the slabs we were splitting. However, the "trilo-bonanza" was still eluding us all. A little before sunset we decided to leave and check in to our motel, grab some pub food, and rest up for day 2 of our trip.
DAY 2: Deep Springs Road
At around 6 am the next morning, our friend Jay picked us up at the motel to begin our first ever trip to Deep Springs Road in Central NY (Madison Cty). DSR, as it is known, has a shale outcrop that rests at the farthest edge of the Windom Formation, but the fauna is quite different than what is found at Penn Dixie. For example, instead of bountiful Eldredgeops rana, they are much rarer here, and in their place are more Greenops sp. and Dipleura dekayi. Also, the real stunner is the enormous diversity of bivalves and brachiopods. It is also quite abundant in Devonian plant pieces, larger cephalopods, phyllocarids, and other goodies.
Our crew gearing up to work.
We arrived just after 10 am, having gone through the scenic rolling hills and farmlands of Central NY. We were greeted at the site by so many of our Fossil Forum friends, some of whom I got to meet in person for the first time. There was no shortage of fun-loving personalities here, and the amount of camaraderie, sharing, and helpfulness was exceptional.
Jay and me ready to start wrecking it all up to do some serious landscaping.
Within five minutes, I was ready to get to it. In the picture above, that wall behind me would be the first to be ripped out to generate a lot of slabs for splitting. By the end of the day, I would have cleared an area 2 m x 2m x 1.25 m.
This slab simply has to go, 150-200kg or not.
Unlocking fresh stuff requires some slabbing, something I tend to enjoy doing. After some overburden was cleared, it was time to maneuver this one off the ledge. As can be seen above,. the rock is heavier than me as I sit on the pinch-point bar which was bending. Eventually, I was able to work from the left wall, wrestling it out, and driving it with my boots down the hill for others to split.
Group shot. From left to right: Dave, Jay, me, Mike, Tim, Dave 2, Jeffrey, and Leila (who fed us scrumptious homemade cookies).
The weather had been promising to make this trip a real bust, but fortunately we only had some intermittent drizzle, with the rest of the time being clear and not too hot. Everyone came away with lots of interesting finds, and friendships were formed or strengthened in breaking rock together.
Bivalves and gastropods. I'm not really up on the taxa, but these are fairly typical finds for this site.
More neatly ridged bivalves.
Large spiriferid brachiopods are fairly abundant at DSR.
On the left is a nice association piece: a spirifer, a Greenops pygidium, and a Devonochonetes sp. . On the right is a high-spired Glyptotomaria.
A well-preserved Cimitaria recurva.
Deb found this wee Greenops that might be complete once I can remove some matrix. This one is barely a few millimetres long.
As Eldredgeops rana are not common here, I bucketed this roller.
Large cephalons from Dipleura dekayi. Finding them full as opposed to moults and disarticulated bits is an event. I think only one of us found a complete prone that day, while someone else found a complete one with the head disarticulated.
More Dipleura dekayi. I'll need to probe this piece a bit more to see if they might be complete (but I somehow doubt it).
A nautiloid and an ammonoid fragment.
With the collecting day over, it was time for us to get back to the Buffalo area. As is natural for us fossil collectors, we never miss an opportunity if we're collecting together to share some gifts. A massive amount of gift exchanges ensued! I was sure to hand out plenty of goodies from Arkona, as well as whatever Ordovician extras I had lying around. Pictured up here is a lovely Herkimer diamond from Dave. These quartz crystals are quite spectacular, and regularly have inclusions of anthraconite.
Another of Dave's wonderful gifts: an assortment of mostly brachs, bivalves, and gastropods from Cole Hill Road.
The other Dave put out a box for all of us to take whatever we fancied. This is a fern from the St Clair site, a site that is no longer open to public collecting.
Of course, little did I know that Tim remembered that Deb really liked those St Clair ferns, and so she received some pieces as well!
Tim gifted me a plethora of trilobites. Two new species on my list: Crotalochephalina gibbus (the Devonian phacopid from Morocco at the very top), Changaspis elongata (a wee corynexochid from the Cambrian, China), a full Greenops sp. from DSR in case I had no luck, and three nodular Eldredgeia venustus from Bolivia.
And the second bunch from Tim. A large Elrathia kingii with cheeks intact + impression, and the rest are Eldredgeops rana.
And Jay gave me a copy of the reprinted classic, Geology and Palaeontology of Eighteen Mile Creek by Grabau. The taxa listed in this one is pretty much the same as what is found at Penn Dixie, and some of those taxa are now outdated or reassigned. But it is indeed a classic from a real pioneer and giant of palaeontology.
DAY 3 - Penn Dixie
After two days collecting with Fossil Forum friends, it was now time for Deb and me to hit out on our own. Plans to visit another site on Sunday were nixed on account of weather... Yes, it was snowing in the Buffalo area! Deb went shopping in the morning, but by the afternoon the sun was out, so we figured we may as well play at Penn Dixie again. Although it was 10 C, the winds were bitterly cold.
Deb standing in the newly excavated zone we were all working on the Friday.
We decided to make a go of trying to find the elusive trilobite layer. This involved a great deal of hauling out slabs. Again, we treated the piles for the Experts event as off-limits.
The Smokes Creek layer is usually at or below the water table. This is what one of the gully areas looked like before I came in to rip out about 2 m wide of slabs. Sadly, the rock was far too dense, and shattered rather than split. Much of what was coming out was just bits and pieces anyway.
This trio of images shows the process required to access fresh material. As these slabs at the contact layer tend to interlock, it is important to kind the keystone slab to unlock them. In this instance, I've used the chisel to exploit and widen a crack running vertically. This one is tucked under another rock, so I had to use the pry bar to wiggle and jiggle it out. After that, I flip the rock over and scrutinize the underside; if there are trilobites or impressions thereof, I then carefully inspect the mini-domes at the site of extraction. As the water is muddy, this is largely done by touch. After that, it is time to remove another slab or split the ones I have.
Probably my best find of the day. The split runs right through the trilobite, but some crazy glue and prep will make this fairly large one turn out just fine.
This one came with a small price to pay. As I was tossing down a slab, it hit the pick end of my rock hammer, which then came at my face like a bullet. It struck and split my cheek, not far from my eye! It could have used a stitch or two, but I simply clamped it together with a bandaid.
Day 4 - Penn Dixie (Again)
After three days of slabbing, splitting, pounding with sledges, wrestling with pry bars, shovelling tons of overburden, my body just about had it! It was also our departure day, which meant we needed to get back on the road by 2 pm at the latest. So we agreed to inspect the newly excavated Bayview brachiopod area where, last October, we were pulling out buckets of brachs.
This stuff splits fairly easily - sometimes just with your hands. Trilobites like Greenops are much more common here, but the shale is so thin and fragile, and the trilobites usually only come out as disarticulated bits.
Brachiopods come out easily from the shale, if they haven't already weathered out and make for some easy picking. These are from about a minute of searching. Inasmuch as we agreed that we'd just do some light surface collecting, after 20 minutes we were getting bored with the brachs (we still have several hundred of them from October's visit),.so we went exploring back to the trilobite beds in search of a plentiful area.
Going through my splits, Deb finds this beauty.
A spot-check on some nearby rocks indicated that this particular area on the site might prove productive. Pictured here, after I removed the covering slab, is a very large dome. Domes at PD can either be full of trilobites or full of nothing.
Paydirt! We finally found the productive part of the layer. Although none of these are complete, it is strongly indicative of the presence of more assemblages in the depositional environment. Of course, it was almost time for us to leave just when we found the sweet spot. But we did manage to pull out a few rollers and near-completes that I haven't had a chance to photograph yet, but I think I've got the real highlights here in this post anyway.
And so it was back to Canada after a four day adventure. I was beyond sore, of course, but overall it was great to collect with friends old and new, enjoy the outdoors, and come away with treasures found and gifted.
Upcoming digs will likely be in the Arkona/Thedford area, and a trip to Bowmanville at the end of this month. Until then, time to manage some new backlog on the prep bench!
Given the heavy grading work at the backend of this year, and the dodgy weather, I am having to call it on the collecting season. November has been a fairly poor month for collecting: if it wasn't raining (or snowing), the nicer days frustratingly coincided with days I had to be on campus.
But as I lay down my trusted tools in my move from labour to refreshment, I can look back on this year having been my absolute best. And, perhaps, much credit is due those reliable tools that have served me so well in breaking through hundreds of tons of rock. Of course, credit is mostly due my lovely partner Deb who not only added thousands of clicks to the car, but for being such an enthusiastic co-collector.
This year's trips included:
* 2 to Penn Dixie (Devonian)
* 2 to Brechin (Ordovician)
* 1 to Bowmanville (Ordovician)
* 1 to Collingwood area (Ordovician)
* 12+ to Arkona (Devonian)
* 30+ to my nearby honey hole (Devonian)
Many of those trips have reports posted here in the blog. It has also meant meeting plenty of new collecting friends with whom to break rock with. If that were not in itself fantastic, I also got into preparation courtesy of having purchased an air eraser and air scribe. I've upped my game considerably, turning a casual hobby into a true passion. It was not that long ago that I may have made a few short visits to Arkona and in my backyard with little more than a nail hammer and a wood chisel. Now, with the right tools, I carved out hundreds of feet of benches and cracked hundreds of tons of rock. The collection has grown by an order of magnitude.
I also purchased or was gifted several delightful pieces this year. Another aspect that has made this a banner year would be a surge of trilobites where 2017 added no fewer than 29 new species, a few of them very rare and not reliably reported in the literature.
Above is a snapshot of many of the new species in my display.
So, last year I made a "best of" post for each category. This year is going to be immensely difficult to make those choices as so many of them are deserving of the honour. But try I must.
Best trilobite of the year
Despite all the lovely ones I've purchased, received, and found - particularly from the Ordovician - I'm giving the nod to this lovely plate of three full Greenops widderensis. Certainly this species is not new to the collection, but the rarity of finding so many clustered together like this in a difficult matrix makes it worthy. My runners-up would be Mannopyge halli, and Isotelus, Ceraurus, and, well, all the other ones I found!
Honourable mention goes to this beauty, expertly prepped by Malcolm Thornley.
Best cephalopod of the year
It's a three-way tie. It could have been four if I included the the big nautiloid whoppers I found at Brechin. Clockwise from top left: a lovely Goniatite from Arkona, some lovely Jurassic ammonites from Roger, and an exquisitely pyritized nautiloid from the Widder shale.
Best PISCES of the year
Amidst some cool placoderm pieces, and some really neat Diplurus pieces from Tim, the prize this year goes to Deb and her huge chunk of placoderm armour belonging to Protitanichthys.
Best gastropod of the year
Plenty of contenders this year, including some nicely preserved Platyceras, and some rarer spired gastros from the Verulam Formation, but I'm settling on this long one from the Verulam for its size alone.
BEst bryozoan of the year
I always pick up interesting looking bryozoans, and this year saw quite a few. However, hands down, this Constellaria from the Verulam Fm will take the prize if only on account of its exceptional rarity in that formation.
Best ichnofossil of the year
I don't really get jazzed about ichnofossils, but this broom-headed one was so worth picking up that even Deb found one on our second trip to Brechin. This one is Phycodes ottawensis, and these are formed by worms burrowing from the same spot repeatedly taking different pathways in the muck.
best phyllocarid of the year
Another fantastic find by Deb at Arkona, a thick phyllocarid jaw. This would be our first.
best brachiopod of the year
No point making a decision. I've pulled quite a few nice brachs this year, but this smorgasbord of about 1,000 intact ones spanning 6 species from Penn Dixie will have to be the winner this year.
I'm begging off the best coral of the year, and a few other categories. I can say the fossil I collected that came from the farthest distance from home would be the Cretaceous oysters and sundry bits from Magoita Beach in Portugal.
But this year would not have been anywhere near as spectacular if it weren't for the people whose time, company, and generousity truly made it shine. Apart from Deb, I can certainly add to the roster of great fossil companions, Tim J., Malcolm T., Roger F., Jay W., Kevin B., Kevin K., Jason R., Ralph J., Marc H., Ron B., and others I may have neglected to mention.
Best year ever! And thanks to the visitors to this blog for reading. Perhaps more posts will be in the offing as winter time means being holed up indoors and engaging in some prep.
UPDATE: Malcolm just showed me a few bugs of mine and Deb's that he prepped. A true master. The left one is Ceraurus and the right one is a Greenops.
Pictured here is the very inviting forest path that leads to my little honey hole out behind my home. I have to say that this spot has treated me very well this year. Just as I think I've picked it clean and there are no new things to be seen, I get a surprise. No surprises this time, though.
Having spent four years coming back to this place, each year has presented something new. But it is perhaps in this last year that my finds from there have really been great. Back in 2013, I was shocked to find some Eldredgeops rana, but this year I've been able to be more systematic in identifying some of the imported fill by rock type, and direct my efforts accordingly. No fewer than three new trilobite specimens (all partials, sadly, but still interesting) have been logged into my collection: Anchiopsis anchiops, Mannopyge halli, and Trypaulites erinus.
(Pictured above: an apparent large, albeit incomplete, gastropod steinkern)
I must have picked over these rocks in the pit, hill, and surrounding area about 30-40 times this year - if only because it is conveniently just beyond my backyard. Rocks from the Dundee, Amherstburg, and Bois Blanc formations abound. Of course, there are hardly any larger rocks left to split so perhaps a good winter will weather out some promising rock for next season. I do secretly wish that more rock gets imported, but it has been a few years now.
(Pictured above: a few brachs, including some lovely vermillion-coloured Leptaena - a brachiopod that is fairly abundant in this area).
I have a soft spot for this location ever since I found some coral and a spirifer back in 2013. I had been walking the trails back there since 2010 or so every autumn, but finding those fossils rekindled a childhood passion of mine, and at a time when things were particularly very challenging in my life.
(Pictured above: more Leptaena)
How far I've come since, and as I've changed and grown, so too has the site itself. Every year it takes on a radically new appearance, with new exposures, new lines of undergrowth. When I started picking things over here, all I had was a rusty old nail hammer and a wood chisel. Today I have my arsenal of precision rock hammers, sledges, and cold chisels. With better tools, better knowledge, and a better eye, better specimens have been the happy result.
(Pictured above: trilobite pieces (cephalon fragment, pygidium fragments, thoracic fragment).
I've collected at locations that have far more diversity, fossil abundance, and more interesting specimens, but this collecting location is special to me. It is the place where it all began (or at least picked up where I left off in childhood). It is the place that provided me with respite during very bad times. A place of solace and surprise, situated where I am the happiest: in nature, among the rocks and trees.
This site has been exceedingly kind to me this year, and even if next year's finds may be minimal, it has been generous enough already. And although I may only come back with something of interest to me once out of every 4 or even 10 visits, it is still a place where I never feel the time spent was time wasted. And just when I least expect it, that there is really nothing to be found on a visit, it just takes one rock split to transform a casual visit into a trip to remember.
Day two saw Deb and I make the 3.5 hour drive to the quarry in Brechin with its diverse Ordovician fauna in the Verulam Formation. We had quite the crew with us, and about four are missing from this picture (actually, five, as Deb is the photographer).
Deb and I were the late arrivals (11:30 am), while just about everyone else had been there probably since sunrise! I actually didn't meet up with everyone until the day was done; they were done at the base of the quarry hacking things out of the blast piles and the underlying Bobcaygeon Fm, while I was busy on the upper ledges doing some surface collecting. I've never had much luck splitting at this quarry.
In about four hours of collecting, I barely made it even a quarter around that one long ledge. I climbed a slightly higher ledge and saw that someone had been there before me hacking some layers out. We use marking tape (or actual markers and piles of stones) to let other people know that these specimens are claimed. It would be considered bad collectors' etiquette to take someone else's claimed finds. We do this when our extraction equipment is parked on the far side of the quarry with an intention to return later. Pictured here is a very long crinoid stem.
Another "off limits" beauty: a damaged but still impressive Endoceras proteiforme, the biggest nautiloid species in this formation.
A typical hash plate to show a snapshot of the marine floor from 450 million years ago.
Although just the impression of a partial pygidium, any piece of this rare trilobite Amphilichas ottawensis is worth picking up. This is a new species for me.
Probably the biggest Prasopora I've found at this site. They are fairly common, but this one stood out for its size.
The nautiloid fragments here can get quite massive.
Assorted goodies here. At the top is a nautiloid fragment, to the left is a trilobite burrow (rusophycus), and on the lower left is a tiny shell hash.
Top row: mostly Rhynchotrema capax - quite abundant in the formation.
Middle row: some gastros, including Lophospira, Fusispira etc.
Bottom row: two pelecypods (from Bowmanville!), two trilobite fragments, and a bryozoan.
Another assortment. Of note in this piece would be the very nice gastros here, but also the Ceraurus cephalon at the lower left next to a 2/3 complete Isotelus gigas and another nautiloid fragment.
Did someone say Isotelus gigas fragments? Here are a few I picked up. The fork-looking piece in the lower middle is the hypostome (a kind of biting mouthpart that appears on the ventral side below the cephalon).
My prize finds for the day: a finger-long gastropod, a small but 2/3 full Isotelus gigas, and two full Flexicalymene senaria rollers. The one on the left is quite inflated and looks like a fat cartoon duck when looking at it from the side.
So began my three day, three quarry adventure. On the first leg of the trip was a visit to my usual haunt, Arkona, but this time it would involve some great visiting friends and fossil comrades (Malcolm, Dave from Philadelphia, and Joe K.). Dave was more keen on plumping up his brachiopod supply, and was eager to get collecting in the south pit. Dave is no slouch on the trilobite front, though... He has gorgeous specimens that I would certainly like to have in my collection.
Malcolm made the long drive to my place and arrived around 7:30 am, and off we went to Arkona to meet up with Dave. But before we left, Malcolm showed me a Moroccan trilobite he had prepared for Dave:
Definitely big props to Malcolm's prep skills. This one has spines coming out in 3D, including a crazy trident protruding from the glabella. Just wow.
This picture was taken halfway through the day. While Dave was off in the south pit, Malcolm and I didn't really budge from our bench in the Widder. Malcolm was heading west, and I was heading east. We moved a heck of a lot of shale. I do not look forward to what will have to happen next once we run out of the left and right areas as that will mean cutting into the cliff, and that will mean chopping out a lot of overburden. I was already having to approach the Greenops-rich layer from the top, cutting out 4-6 feet of shale that only contains bits and brachs.
But the search was a success in many ways. I came away with three Greenops, and Malcolm with two. That's pretty stellar results when finding one full specimen is a trip-maker.
This one is a bit of a bummer given that some parts have flaked off. Still, not a bad piece that I can gift or trade.
I have a habit of picking up nautiloids from the Widder given how nicely they can pyritize. I did find a Tornoceras uniangulare, as can be found in this layer, but it is so pitted and in such bad shape that I'm not going to bother posting a picture of it here.
But the real trip-maker for me was a plate with two Greenops. It also had impressions of other full ones. This must have been quite the death assemblage, and it is a little disappointing that only two survived. But here is how I found it:
Nervous as I was in attempting to prep what would be a $1,000 plate, I just need to make the attempt.
After about an hour using the Dremel to carefully remove some bulk matrix, and a sewing needle to work carefully around the specimen to reveal more of it.
And this after another hour using more sewing needle and the Paasche air eraser using baking soda at 25-30 PSI. Not perfect as this pair has a few problems, but not a bad first try on a very tricky piece! I might do some fine touches on it later.
In all, a good first leg of the trip, and great to meet up again with Malcolm, and meet both Dave and Joe for the first time after only knowing them via the Fossil Forum.
My fossil forum friend, Jason, had sent me a great assortment of fossils which arrived on the first day of my three-day fossil trip. Have a look: these are mostly from Calvert Cliffs, and includes some great Miocene shells and plenty of teeth, plates, and... on the far right is the Cambrian exception: the tiny trilobite Perenopsis (actually: Itagnostus interstricta).
We had started around 4 pm the previous day in "brach city," an area that is close to the small tributary. This is an ideal spot to find a lot of Spinatrypa spinosa, Mucrospirifer audaculus, Athryris sp., Orbiculoiodea sp., Pseudotrypa sp., Rhipodomella sp., and Mediospirifer... The shale here is very crumbly, so these ones pop right out of the matrix. Trilobite pieces can be abundant here, but very rarely complete (comparable to the high energy coral biostrome of the Hungry Hollow member). The Mucrospirifers can be quite fragile and a challenge to find intact, but we got a bunch. We filled a bucket and planned to spend our final half day before leaving just focusing on this area. It is also filled with crinoid stems, bryozoans, occasional pelecypods, and other marine bits.
And thank goodness for easy pickings! My hammering arm was sore and my grip strength felt pretty weak.
A bit of a mucky layer, but you can pick out the shells in these pieces, along with the impression of a Greenops cranidium and an Edredgeops cephalon.
Not the most exciting picture, but it gives insight into what the layer looks like with all the brachiopods just waiting to pop right out.
There are clustered areas in the layer where the bigger shells congregate, and this is one of them.
A sweet and uncommon find in this layer: a full Eldredgeops rana that is very tough to find in these crumbly layers. Pictured on the right is what it looks like after some delicate work with a dental pick.
We filled buckets with brachs. This is just one of them.
We managed to collect about a thousand intact brachs. It will take me some time to clean and sort them all.
A small pile of spirifers (Mucrospirifer and Mediospirifer). For scale, most of these are almost two inches wide.
A small pile of Spinatrypa spinosa. Some can be quite large (about the size of a silver dollar) and came out either thin or plump, single or dual valved.
A small pile of Pseudotrypa sp. They come out either somewhat flattened or very plump, a bit bigger than cherry tomatoes.
Again, hardly representative of all the examples collected of each species, but cleaning and sorting of 1000 brachs will take time! We have here some Athyris sp., Rhipodomella sp., and another species I have to double check.
My next post will be the "aftermath" portion where I actually go through the large number of buckets filled with fossils, and get those to the prep table! Stay tuned...
It was just a week ago that we spent all day carving out big slabs of Widder shale from the productive Tornoceras layer above the brachiopod layer. With the weather holding on to summer by its eye teeth, it was an impromptu invitation from a fellow TFF member, Kevin, who is part of a fossil club that saw us loading up our tools and spending our Saturday in the sun.
We began in the south pit. I spent the morning digging into the high energy coral biostrome of the Hungry Hollow Member, picking through the softer, shale layers. Apart from large rugose corals, there are brachiopods, pelecypods, bryozoan colonies, and trilobites. Because the deposition conditions were turbid, high energy environments, most trilobites only appear as fragments.
Pictured here is one of many of the large trilobite fragments that can be found in this layer. The most common species in this layer is Eldredgeops rana. This one is fairly large, even for this site as evidenced by this plump and inflated glabella. Prepping it a bit more, this one is nearly 2 inches wide.
When I first found this one in the biostrome, all that was showing was the glabella. After some prep with a Dremel and then sewing needle, I uncovered more of the cephalon, but also discovered another cephalon to the bottom left. Sadly, neither are complete, but I was happy to bring out some detail.
The second most abundant species in this layer is Crassiproetus candadensis. Pictured above is how one usually finds them: mostly pygidiums. The crushed one on the right has a slim chance of continuing into the rock, but I am skeptical.
By the afternoon, we made our way to the north side, and I took others to my favourite cliff exposure. This spirifer is quite nice as they can be very delicate, so it is not common to acquire a matrix-free one with its wings intact. This one is over 2 inches wide.
I spent almost four hours in the same spot extending a bench and moving about 30-40 cubic feet of shale. I mostly had to remove a lot of overburden and layers of less productive shale to get to my coveted low energy layer that rests atop the hard brachiopod layer, but also has a chance of finding very nicely preserved ammonoids and nautiloids. The productive layer is about 3-6 inches thick. Again, I failed to find a fully complete and pristine Greenops widderenesis, although the fact that they appear mostly complete as opposed to lots of shredded bits increases the probability of encountering one. I collected this for practice prep as I am expecting a Paasche air eraser in the mail in the next week or so.
Of the 4 or 5 I collected on this day, this one was in the middle of a large slab of shale. It took a lot of careful finesse to extract it without having the shale split through it, or the vibration of the extraction process knock off any of its delicate and flaky shell. This one will clean up fairly nicely.
I don't usually bother with fragments unless they have something special about them. In this case, the cephalon is much larger than one typically finds for a Greenops. This one is over an inch wide. Typically, the species is a little over an inch long. On the right is an impression with some of the shell sticking to it.
Last week I found a large and inflated Tornoceras uniangulare. So why not find another one? This one is slightly smaller and thinner than the one I previously found, but the detail on this one is fantastic. I think it is a gorgeous specimen.
Not pictured would be my usual assortment of odds and sods I always found at Arkona. Although once again I was skunked on finding a pristine Greenops, I still made out very well, and got to collect with two members of the Fossil Forum, too.
Lastly, this piece was not found in Arkona, but I rediscovered it while going through a trip bucket. I picked this up from the Verulam Fm in Brechin. Is it a big crinoid head? Nope. It is an ichnofossil; i.e., a trace left by an organism or organisms. In this case, it is Phycodes ottawense. This mop-headed piece is caused by worms burrowing repeatedly into the sediment from the same spot. Worm burrows bore me to bits, but this one was worth picking up due to its neat appearance.
But stay tuned: there will be at least three major events coming up: 1. Cleaning up a lot of fossils with the new air eraser once that comes and I get a good air compressor; 2. A multi-day trip return to Penn Dixie in October; 3. A possible trip back to the Ordovician on the hunt for Isotelus in Bowmanville in late October. Even without those upcoming events, this has already been the best collecting year ever.
A fossil friend of mine on the Fossil Forum, Jason Rice, recently sent me a package of goodies in trade for some spare material I had on hand from Arkona.
The top row has some mouth plates and shells, while the bottom four rows are all fossil shark teeth. These are quite special for me as they represent the first shark teeth in my expanding collection. These are from the Miocene period, 6-20 million years ago.
The teeth are definitely worthy of a close up image.
This large fossil scallop is Chesapectens nefrens - a fairly popularly sought out one.
The trilobite Elrathia kingii from the Wheeler Formation in Utah. Middle Cambrian (~550 million years ago).
Another Asaphiscus wheeleri, with impression. It is fairly common that one finds these without their cheeks as they moulted their old carapaces and exited through their cephalons.
The most iconic of the Utah trilobites, and the one you see most commonly sold in rock shops, here we have Elrathia kingii with a tiny friend - a "mini-me" version, if you will.
All very exciting stuff! Not only does this boost my trilobite species count for the year, but particularly Cambrian trilobites (see my post on the ones I acquired from Marcus here). As there are no Cambrian exposures anywhere near me, these are a real treat.