Day 1 of 3: Craigleith Area
Deb was on vacation time, and so apart from a few beach days and staycation relaxation, we spent three days on the road. Our first stop was Craigleith near Collingwood, and we took the stunningly scenic route through Grey Highlands.
The Craigleith area is filled with Whitby Formation shale overlying the Lindsay Formation limestone. You cannot legally collect from the provincial park, but there are a few very tiny spots left outside of the park where one can split a few shales to find a lot of Pseudogygites moults.
At the park itself, there is a display area of fossils. Pictured above is a fairly large orthocone nautiloid - they got pretty big in the Ordovician.
A complete Pseudogygites latimarginatus. Full ones are exceptionally hard to find as it is more common to encounter enormous hash plates filled with moults.
A fairly representative hash plate of Pseudogygites latimarginatus trilobites and brachiopods. Pieces from over a dozen in this shot alone.
Another representative species of trilobite in the Whitby Formation is Triarthrus. I might be able to free up some of the overlying matrix on this one. It is partially pyritized, although it is tough to make out in this photo.
The pleura of an Isotelus sp. in the Lindsay Formation.
These small, feathery creatures are also common in this shale. These are graptolites.
This is indeed a complete Pseudogygites latimarginatus. A bit crushed and torn, but all the pieces seem to be there. Nice!
Day 2 of 3: Oro-Medonte to Gamebridge and beaverton
After staying in Oro-Medonte / horseshoe valley, we made our way to our B&B in preparation for the big quarry dig on the following day. Although not a fossil collecting day as much as simply a touring of small town Ontario, there were a few rocks around. Deb took lots of pictures of some living creatures like sand pipers, geese, monarch butterflies (so many!), and a cormorant. In Beaverton, we took a stroll along the pier where the sides were shored up by Verulam Formation riprap.
The Beaverton riprap: weathered gastropod hash.
Crinoid hash plate as part of the landscaping toward the old mill park in Beaverton.
We took a walk to Gamebridge's locks system, and then upriver where there were pockets of Verulam limestone. Pictured here as an appetizer to the main event for the next day in the quarry is a brachiopod hash with a piece of Prasopora on the right.
By the same river, a crinoid stalk terminating with half a calyx showing, plus the impression of arms flowing from it. A neat piece!
Last river piece: a hash of mostly brachiopods and bryozoans
Day 3 of 3 (The Main Event)
I was so excited to get into the quarry that I was up at 4 am and left the B&B at around 5:15 during nautical twilight to make the five minute walk to the quarry. I deposited the legal waiver forms, suited up with the hardhat and reflective vests, and poked around to look at the rocks the best I could until the sky lightened up a bit more.
Those who have read my previous post on Brechin's JD Quarry (here) already know the place is incredibly vast and overwhelming. Top left: a large cephalon and genal spine of an Isotelus (fragments abound here, while full ones are very hard to come by). Top right: more Isotelus bits with a Flexicalymene senaria cranidium in the centre. Bottom: typical busy hash plate of assorted crinoids, trilo-pieces, bryozoans, and brachs.
First blood is a prize find: a semi-prone Flexicalymene senaria in the scree at the top level of the quarry. I found it in two pieces and had to stabilize it with crazy glue. Unfortunately, the pin that functioned as the stopper for the nozzle had snapped off, so my glue bottle would be one use only. This piece is still, however, lovely and quite robust.
Eventually, I was joined by Malcolm, Kevin B., and Jabali. We split some new blast piles, and also worked on the new area hauling out tons of rock where Malcolm had found some exceptionally rare cystoids. Sadly, it looked like what he had found the weekend before was an isolated death pool, but it felt good to move enormous slabs of Bobcaygeon Formation limestone. Just to give you a sense of how serious we can be, one piece we moved had to weigh over 700 lbs, and I ended up snapping a steel pry bar. Groar!
I spent the rest of the day trying to cover ground, going through weathered piles of scree along the upper ledges and wandering the immensely mountainous crush piles.
We don't screw around. Jabali snapped Malcolm and me trying to pry this big rock into the pond. We needed to remove from the top down by a good six feet to see if the cystoid layer was going to continue.
Bottom of the quarry, new blast pile. Crinoid stalks can run forever here.
Close up of crinoid stalks.
In situ photograph of a full prone trilobite, Flexicalymene sp. Sadly, as I didn't have any glue left, I wasn't able to stabilize it. The tail piece of this one is now missing.
What survived transport. I might be able to very delicately tease out the left side.
The pustular glabella is poking out at a vertical angle on this piece. Not sure yet what species this is, but will update when I find out. Update: it is looking like I have myself a Calyptaulax callicephalus.
Trilo-pieces. Top right: impression of a pygidium with a margin (to be identified). Centre: Possible Flexicalymene cranidium (to be confirmed - actually no: see picture below). Bottom left: pygidium and some pleurae of an Isotelus.
Well, what do you know? I get to add another species to my collection. Thanks to Don C. from the Forum in planting the bug in my ear that this might be an Achatella achates, an uncommon phacopid trilobite. I just picked off some of the matrix here to reveal the telltale diagnostic features of this species.
Both plates contain partial Ceraurus.
Assortment of trilobite pieces: Flexicalymene, Isotelus.
The big Flexicalymene found at the beginning of the dig is joined by a Flexi roller I found in the afternoon.
This one in need of identification. I have some ideas, but it's just guesswork at the moment.
Some big honkin' pieces of orthocone nautiloid. The one on the lower right I make have to photograph independently as it is the very end of the taper, and with a brachiopod association. The middle one may be Geisonoceras.
A hash plate with a gastropod on the left, and some trilobite pieces throughout.
A close up of this hash. The cranidium belongs to Calyptaulax callicephalus.
Deb found this tiny pygidium. Species needs identification!
I love these high-spired gastropods! The majority of these are Fusispira sp., (and others like Hormotoma and possibly the thin one being Subulites) and the cluster on the lower right with the pinched spires is likely Lophospira sp.
I can't help but to pick up crinoid pieces.
Low-spired gastropods that weather out of the matrix. The one exception is the corkscrew-shaped high-spired gastropod I missed when I took the initial "family photo" of high-spired gastros earlier.
A collection of brachiopods. The bottom two levels are a very typical heart-shaped species - various types of Rhynchotrema.
Odds and sods: top two rows are sponges and bryozoans. Bottom two rows are trilo-pieces.
Before Malcolm left for the day, he gifted Deb and me some fossils. The trilobites I had found and given to him for prep, and I now get to see them in all their expertly prepared glory - my thanks, Malcolm!
This is one of the many pieces Malcolm gave us: segments from a eurypterid (a sea scorpion from the Silurian). The are likely from the quarry in Fort Erie, and so are very hard to come by these days.
Readers of the blog will already be familiar with this Greenops widderensis.
Some Eldredgeops rana I found at Penn Dixie, after Malcolm's masterly touch. The next three images are closeups to show the exquisite detail.
Stay tuned: on Monday I am receiving a gift of fossils from fellow fossil collector Jason Rice, from Utah!
So today I decided to spend part of the morning at that site near my house, the infamous "riprap hill" and associated pit. I've long suspected most of the rocks I split there were trucked in, and have confirmation of that due to the three different kinds of trilobite I've pulled from it (two in the last four months - Anchiopsis anchiops and Mannopgye halli).
I had been finding examples of rock from the Hamilton Group, Dundee Formation, Bois Blanc Formation, and the Amherstberg Formation. A good and wide range of Devonian age rocks.
As can be seen above, the usual assortment of brachiopods and a gastropod. My expectations were low as I'm running out of rocks to break after four years of scouring the place.
Ok, but what about this? I get the line by Morpheus in the Matrix in my head saying "what if I told you everything you knew was a lie?" So at first I was in disbelief: this must be a shell impression, not the impression of a trilobite pleura. But I've seen this before. In the Ordovician. Yes, it is a fragment of a Pseudogygites. The nearest Ordovican outcrop is 300 km away.
If I needed further proof, I flipped over this piece of shale and saw a fossil barely bigger than the head of a pin. Putting it under the microscope, it is indeed the cranidium of a Triarthrus.
Oookay, then. Confirmed: dumped rocks that span over 100 million years. From a field perspective, this is going to make things much tougher in terms of certainty over finds, but I suppose it means a veritable potential bonanza of finds spanning a much broader range of geologic history.
I was able to spend a solid two hours in the south pit at Arkona this past weekend. The rain went from drizzle to downpour, and as mucky and unpleasant as it might make a sustained outing, the weather this season has been so erratic and rain-soaked that it is nigh impossible to plan collecting trips around (unreliable) forecasts.
Still, I made it fairly well in what was mostly a surface collecting operation. The rain brought out the colours of the weathered out fossils very well, making their browns and blacks "pop" for easier spotting.
Weathering out of the Arkona clay, I spotted quite a few of these goniatites. On sunny days, at the right angle, the sunlight makes their pyritized surfaces shine and become easily found; in rain, they show up as dark brown against the Arkona shale's light grey. But these are all full specimens. I've arranged these in ascending order of size, and I was quite impressed to find such large ones when a lot of them tend to be hardly larger than the head of a pin.
Finding full Eldredgeops rana rollers is not unheard of here, but the place does get picked over so thoroughly that they certainly are tougher to find. This roller (pictured at the bottom) had its pygidium sticking up and my eye was immediately drawn to it. As finding disarticulated pieces are the norm, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out this one was complete. Pictured above it is a small piece of fish plate.
This bumpy piece is a bryozoan. I don't find many of this particular type, and its constellatory arrangement reminded me of when I found that very rare bryozoan at the JD Quarry in June.
The amount of coral one has to sift through can be exasperating, but from time to time one encounters a nice piece worthy of putting in the collecting kit. In this case, a multi-cup example where the calyxes are very nicely articulated.
A collection of Platyceras spinosum. The one on the far left has still retained some of its stubby spines, while the one in the middle is a juvenile. One little fact about these gastropods is that they were coprophagous (they ate poop!), and so it is common to see them fossilized as being a symbiotic attachment to various creatures, particularly crinoids (although I do have one that affixed itself to a coral).
I always manage to pick up little goodies, even if I already have plenty of examples of these already. This assortment is heavily dominated by crinoid ossicles, some with cirra, but if you look closely you will find some tiny nautiloids, brachiopods, and the "button coral" Microcyclus on the upper left hand side.
And, finally, below is a short slideshow of some of the above finds under digital microscope at x75 magnification. In all, not a bad haul for two hours collecting in lashing rain!
I was able to spend a lovely week in Portugal. In Lisbon, many of the buildings are composed of locally quarried limestone, so you can just look at the walls and see fossils. Sadly, they are mostly oyster fossils with very little detail. I didn't find anything rare or spectacular (but being in Portugal was spectacular enough!).
This is a view of Magoita beach. It is rarely visited by tourists, and I am obliged to a Portuguese Fossil Forum member who told me about the place. As one can see, those are massive cliffs, and they date to the Cretaceous period. The deposits are all marine and mostly dominated by oyster shell fossils. I collected at the base of the cliffs where stuff would weather out. We were only there for two hours, so not a lot of time to find all that I wanted.
On the way down to Magoita beach, I walked past the fossilized sand dunes - a world heritage site. These have all been hardened by several years of wind and surf.
A closeup of the base of the cliffs.
From the base of the cliffs again. At the bottom are some weathered out rocks.
Some typical oyster shell fossils at the base of the cliff.
A nice hash of more oyster shell fossils.
A jumble of neat looking turitellid gastropods.
Not a fossil, but a pretty cool looking and entirely desiccated little snake.
Back in Lisbon, this is from the keep of the Castelos do Sao Jorge.
Select pieces from the stuff I brought back home. The two on the right are oyster fossils : Ostrea sp. (Ostrea edulis?). The next one is a deer-heart kind of massive bivalve, possibly Pholadomya sp. Not sure about the clam on the far right, but clams are always a bit trickier to identify because they don't change much over millions of years.
This last one is not mine (oh, if it were!). It is Eopelobates sp. on display at the Oceanarium in Lisbon.
Nothing too remarkable about the finds from two trips to Hungry Hollow, the first with Roger, and the second with my Deb. But I may as well post some finds.
On the Tuesday trip with Roger, we did scour the north pit, hacked out some slabs from the north river exposure, and ended by doing some surface collecting in the south pit. On the Sunday trip with Deb, we focused on the south pit since the north is filled with deer flies in the dense bush.
I looked in vain for the other half. This was worked out of the coral layer of the Hungry Hollow member.
Deb splits a coral to get a look at the structure inside.
A typical hash plate from the Hungry Hollow member, the layers without as many corals. You can see some trilobite cephalons in there.
Brach-encrusted shell pavement from the Arkona Formation. Found with Roger on the north pit part of the trip.
Not entirely sure what this is yet (to be updated). Could it be a Basidechenella trilobite glabella? About an inch long.
A pelecypod from the coral layer.
Lots of stuff going on here. Trilo-bits, a possible fish plate, tons of crinoid bits, a Platyceras conicum (lower left), brachs, etc.
Next up are a few of Roger's pictures and finds after he cleaned them up:
Roger snaps a picture of me up in the bench.
We were finding a few of these pyritized orthocones in the Widder shale. Not in itself a rare thing, but this one is intriguing.
These Tornoceras arkonense really clean up well! You can pick them out of the Arkona shale, but they also come out a bit bigger in the Widder shale. One must just be on the lookout for a bit of metallic glint, suggestive of something pyritized - and it could be one of these.
This one is a bit of a mystery. It is about 7 mm, but has some strange suture patterns. We're not sure which of us found this in the Arkona Fm, but that is immaterial. It is not a Tornoceras, and neither of us can find this ammonoid described in the usual places (such as the Stumm and Wright checklist or on the UMMP database). Could this be a new and undescribed species?
Deb and I made the four hour drive up to the east side of Lake Simcoe to dig at a quarry in Brechin. This was my first time working an active quarry, and it was exciting (and potentially fairly dangerous if you don't properly observe some common sense and safety precautions). It was about a day and a half of rummaging through the rocks on mostly sunny and hot days. But we didn't come away empty-handed!
Deb and me ready on our first day. We arrived shortly after 2 pm. Francie from the Ohio Dry Dredgers and a few of their members were just finishing up. They had just come up from Penn Dixie, and we thank Francie for snapping our picture.
I cannot stress enough that this is an active quarry with regular blasting and areas that are not entirely safe, so there is no messing around here. Full safety equipment (steel-toed boots, hard-hats, and reflective vests are absolutely mandatory), and it requires signing a legal waiver before entering the site. On the right is the entrance.
On the left is just some of the mountainous crush piles. To the right, I'm hauling our wagon full of gear to the uppermost tier flanked by some gullies.
This is a view from the second level overlooking a part of the pit. For a sense of scale, a person standing at that back wall would look little bigger than a dot in this picture. The machines below are quite large. The stratigraphy is mostly Verulam Formation from the Ordovician, with some Bobcaygeon Formation now being dredged out from the base.
Again, a bit tough to make out scale, but the drop here is precipitous. That rock near the top could fall at any time, so it is generally a good idea not to be poking around directly at the base of any of the walls. The usual rule is to keep about no closer than a 45 degree angle from the top of the wall. A lot of loose stuff out there just waiting for any tremor to send it all down - and no hard hat is strong enough to save you from a few hundreds tons of limestone crashing down!
A typical hash plate rich in crinoid and other bits. I tend to either photograph or take home interesting hash plates, and particularly from places I don't get to collect from very often. It gives a sense of the marine bed.
Another hash plate. The Verulam limestone itself is mostly storm-tossed debris as opposed to just the quiet deposition of organisms and sediment over time. In some rocks, you can see the violent wave/ripple of mud having had churned everything.
Two more hash plate with some rich biota. If you look very carefully toward the upper right of the second one, you can pick out the tail piece of a tiny trilobite.
One of the hash plates I brought home of a storm depost of brachiopods and some trilo-bits.
Last hash plate pics, I promise! These are just a few I brought home. The one on the left that is brown fell from the uppermost part of the Verulam and has a good collection of gastropods and a few brachs.
A few members of our crew. From left to right: Roger, Malcolm (with the rock saw), and me. Deb took some video footage of Malcolm in action cutting out a nice multi-plate crinoid slab. Malcolm has been a regular at this quarry for several years, and there is very little he hasn't yet found in terms of the large faunal variety present here.
Malcolm's infamous no-fooling-around rock saw beside a multi-plate of crinoids (picture by Malcolm)
I've been tasked with turning the rock over so that Malcolm can continue his cut to free the crinoids (picture by Malcolm).
Some high-spired gastropods (Fusispira sp) and flatter ones. These weather right out of the rocks. New material depends on the quarry to be blasting out new stuff. Deb and I found that splitting the blocks was not getting us very far - most of the stuff to be found is either weathered out, or appears solely on the exposed parts of the rock. The rock itself alternates between thinly bedded mudstone/shale and very dense encrinal layers. Splitting the mudstone usually had traces or were just blank for us.
Malcolm found this cystoid (Pleurocystites?), and was kind enough to give it to us. I'll try to confirm the species when I update this post.
Crinoid stalk. Certainly not the longest you can find here!
Closeup of a branching bryozoan (Stictopicorella?).
Malcolm tells me that this is a bit of rare one at the site. I found this in the fallen materials on the second level. It is now been confirmed by veteran fossil collectors Kevin K. and Joe K. as the bryozoan, Constellaria - and this may be only third one ever found at this site.
Closeup of a trilobite I pulled from the bottom level. I was really coming for trilobites on this trip, and I was not disappointed. The first one I found in the upper level gullies was a Flexicalymene senaria roller, but this one is a prone and partially/maybe disarticulated one?
One of the most common trilobites in this formation is Isotelus, but full specimens are a bit tricky to find. Just about every rock has bits of them. On the left is a collection of tail pieces, with the one on the extreme left a fairly large (4 inches wide) example that Deb found. On the right are some other pieces, mostly of a genal spine, a hypostome (the mouthpiece, which looks a little like a wrench head) and some head pieces (cranidia).
This I found on the second level: a ventral view (underneath side) of an Isotelus - or what remains of it. You can see the hypostome.
This is a virtually complete Ceraurus missing only its pygidial spikes. It is currently with Malcolm who will be prepping it for me.
Trilobite rollers! I had very much wanted to find a complete Isotelus, and I was not disappointed. The "Kermit" looking one on the left is virtually complete and found lodged in the strata on the second level of the quarry. The one of the far right is a Flexicalymene that I had found minutes upon exploring the site, and the middle one is a Ceraurus sp.
A closeup of the middle one.
I still have a bucket of stuff to go through, and some IDs to put on the finds. In all, it was a fantastic and exciting trip. My thanks to Malcolm for being our gracious and knowledgeable host.
The site boasts a heck of a lot of variety for trilobites alone. Below is a table of identified and described species found in the Verulam Formation by B.A. Liberty (1969) Paleozoic Geology of the Lake Simcoe Area, Ontario. Geological Survey of Canada, Memoirs 355. Since then, Ludvigsen (1979) describes a few others, including Amphilichas (a pygidium of which Malcolm found just this weekend, and is considered a rarity - and never found whole).
Update: I just performed a bit of light cleaning of the rollers and snapped slightly better pictures of them here:
I spent the entire morning on Saturday at the hill & pit just beyond my backyard. My expectations were fairly low given how much I had picked the place clean over the years, so it was my goal instead to take pictures and record some of the fossil fauna there for posterity. How plans can get upended - sometimes in unforeseen yet lovely ways.
This picture is not exciting, nor was it meant to be! I began on the southwest portion of the hill (which is now pretty weedy with burdocks and spiky plants, by the way!). I had not spent a lot of time in that lower quadrant as I always seemed pulled to the upper southwest and southeast areas. Pictured here is a typical brachiopod assemblage - some spirifers, an atrypa-type, a Leptaena, and other assorted kinds. As I said, the purpose was to photo-document the typical stuff of the Bois Blanc Formation.
Another very typical assemblage from another distinct layer of the Bois Blanc. This tiny brachiopods can be quite numerous (I forget their name at the moment). So numerous, in fact, that some of the rocks bearing them actually are more shells than matrix, and just crumble. There are several examples of this type of assemblage in the area where the brachiopods are stained a kind of vermillion.
A similar assemblage to the first picture - some atrypas, a leptaena, and a large ?Strophodonta. Bored yet?
Performed a brief scan of the upper south quadrants and assembled a few of the specimens I had set aside from previous visits. If you zoom in for detail, you'll see, left to right, a rather chunky brach assemblage (name escapes me at the moment!), a lingulid pelecypod, a horn coral, and a typical (for particular layers in the Bois Blanc as a signature feature) cherty rock with a few corals showing cross-section. By this time, I had enough of the hill and was ready to give the adjoining pit another try.
Oh, but wait - I was distracted by a rock I had split and left behind some weeks ago. I decided to break it down to pluck two bryozoan specimens. The first pictured above is a typical fenestellate bryozoan. The next is a bit more peculiar...
Now what the heck is this? I made inquiries on The Fossil Forum, but at best we might describe it as Sulcoretepora. As described by a single specimen in the Amherstburg Formation by J.A. Fagerstrom:
"This specimen is a short bifoliate stem with three rows of apertures on each flattened side and none on the edges. Slightly raised longitudinal ridges separate adjacent rows of apertures. Apparently no mesopores are present between apertures but they may have been destroyed by recrystallization" (17).
Fagerstrom, J.A. (1961). The fauna of the Middle Devonian Formosa Reef Limestone of southwestern Ontario. Journal of Paleontology 35(1):1-48.
There are some interesting branching, radiating patterns in this one, with two zooecial apertures near the upper left and upper right corner (the dimply stuff). Colony form here is likely remnant of bryozoan encrusting substrate (with thanks for our experts on the forum). But why are we even talking about Amherstburg Formation? Let's keep this flagged for the time being.
I was not expecting to find any trilo-butts, but I managed to find about six. So now I am in the pit and can confirm that it contains Bois Blanc formation rocks. I dug this rock out of the wall of the pit, and pictured above is the pygidium of the dalmanitid trilobite Anchiopsis anchiops (which only appears in the Bois Blanc), but missing its full trademark pygidial spike.
Some in situ photos from the pit as I work the same rock. The top picture shows some typical assemblages, while the two lower pictures are closeups of the most frequent brachiopods.
Trilobite impressions (Anchiopsis anchiops). I took the positives home.
After I patrolled the rest of the pit and did not find much more to my liking, it was time to go home and take stock of the finds. Pictured above is a gastropod steinkern (the inner whorl occurs on the reverse side). Beneath that is a nicely inflated clam, and on the right is another spike-deprived Anchiopsis anchiops.
This specimen, found on the hill, is the real "meat" of this post. This is not a trilobite that appears in the Bois Blanc, but solely in the Amherstburg formation. The Amherstberg is a younger formation, contiguous with the Bois Blanc if there is no Sylvania formation intervening. Note the nodules on the fringe of the pygidium.
Consulting Ludvigsen's 1979 text, Fossils of Ontario. Part 1: The Trilobites, there is a specimen reported that looks nearly identical to this one, but it is simply called Dechenella halli. The name was updated by Ludvigsen in 1986 and recognized as a new genus: Mannopyge halli.
Here is a plate from the Ludvigsen 1986 text on the left, compared to my find on the right:
Quite exciting, as this makes the 19th species of trilobite in my expanding collection (I've more than doubled it since March of this year alone). Let's learn more about it:
"A warburgelline with pear-shaped glabella, deep sigmoid 1s furrow, narrow (tr.) and faint 2s and 3s furrows; no preglabellar field, tropidium, or tropidial ridges. Large eyes located anterior of cephalic midlength; genal spines short. Semicircular pygidium iacks a flat border,-axis with 9 - 10 node-bearing rings, eight faint pleural furrows and incised interpleural furrows, each pygidial rib terminates abaxially as a rounded node isolated by moderately deep paradoublural furrow. [...] No other warburgelline has a semicircular pygidium, and none possesses a conspicuous row of fringing nodes such as that of Mannopyge. The pygidial pleural ribs of M. halli, however, are of the flat-topped warburgelline-type (Owens 1973, Fig. 2), and there is no reason to doubt that Mannopyge is a late member of the subfamily Warburgellinae." (Ludvigsen 1986, 683).
Ludvigsen, Rolf (1986). Reef trilobites from the Formosa Limestone (Lower Devonian) of southern Ontario. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences (24): 676-88.
Two remarks: First, this tells me that there are some Amherstberg formation rocks in the mix at this site. Second, trilobites in the Formosa reef limestone are not particularly common, dominated as it is by coral and stromatoporoids. Of the uncommonly found trilobites in that limestone, it is mostly dominated by Crassiproetus, followed by frequency occurrence Mannopyge halli, followed - in descending order of frequency - by Mystrocephla, Acanthopyge, and Harpidella.
I'll leave off today with a few more pictures, mostly to underscore that my picture-taking ability has seen a little boost in quality on account of having acquired the third-party app, Camera+, so that I can take proper macros. Using an iPad to take closeup images can be a bit unsatisfactory, but the app I purchased allows me to get in much closer and increase the resolution (which is probably why those of you with slower bandwidth are cursing me right now). As a test, pictured above are two sides of the same piece of crinoidal limestone found at Penn Dixie.
And this is a closeup of a coral piece from Arkona. I'm pleased with the detail.
Ok, enough from me until next weekend, when I'll be headed to a quarry east of Lake Simcoe for some serious Ordovician collecting. Until then, thanks for reading!
Now that the course I was teaching is done, and the heavy rains are behind us, thoughts turn back to the hunt. The heavy rain system that lashed a lot of Ontario and western Quebec left a great deal of flooding. Fortunately, not as much here, but the rivers and lakes had been dangerously high, making any collecting near them too dangerous.
But as it is the long weekend, Deb and I got out to Arkona for a five hour hunt. Overall, not a hunt that bagged the best specimens, but we weren't skunked either.
This is the north bank. The photo does not show the proper scale for the bench I worked out. It was already started by someone else, but I was able to lever out two enormous slabs weighing maybe 300-400lbs each. The slabs were partially covered by overburden, so I underestimated their size until I started seeing a crack. But with a lot of grunting and levering with the pry bar, I freed them and rolled them down the hill to be worked on.
Anyone who has worked the Widder shale before knows all too well that one has to go almost quite literally through tons of it to find a full Greenops. Instead, hundreds of moulted bits are quite plentiful.
There are layers in the Widder almost entirely dominate by spirifer brachiopods, but they are trilobite-poor.
Patience and a lot of hammer blows / rock busting can be rewarded. I was able to call first blood on a likely near-complete Greenops widderensis after a few hours working the slabs. Sadly, this one is tucked in the matrix (but can be worked out) and is missing a chunk of its right cephalon.
But it seemed a pretty good day for nautiloids. Pictured above are three Michelinoceras sp.
This one may be a bit more of a challenge to make out, but if you look closely you can see the spiral shape, with a bit of the texture showing in the upper left (the brassy, pyritized stuff). This would be a Goniatites, and a fairly large one for this strata.
And last up: Deb found her complete Greenops (also tucked in matrix, but in better shape than the one I found). On the right is another semi-inflated pyritized Michelinoceras that I'll have to chip out of the rock.
Pictured above is a before and after picture of the nautiloid I found, prepped with a Dremel. Came out fairly well, but this is as far as I dare to take it using an engraver. One day, air scribes and compressors will be needed!
So that's about the long and short of the five hour Arkona trip. Below are some other odds and sods:
Paid a visit to my local rock shop run by two very nice folks. I picked up these two Flexicalymene ouzregui (Ordovician) from Morocco's Anti-Atlas mountains.
A busy brach hash plate from the Bois Blanc Fm fill out in my back nine.
Nice big brach + impression from the same area.
And lastly, another example of Anchiopsis anchiops - pygidium missing its pygidial spike. Lower right I suspect is just a worn and partially buried Eldredgeops rana. Below is a close-up of the Anchiops with some diagrammatic details provided by our Fossil Forum's resident trilobite expert, Scott. "Anchee," as I will call it, is a dalmanitid trilobite, and the way to tell it is by such an incomplete specimen would be the incised axial rings, shown by the arrows in the re-cropped photo below:
I've been meaning to photograph some of the great stuff my fossil comrade from Connecticut, Tim, kindly gave me after our big dig in Penn Dixie
First up on the top left are specimens of the Devonian gastropod, Glyptotomariz retispiralede collected from Deep Springs Road, Earlville NY. To the top right is another from the same area, Grammysoidea arcuata. On the lower left are Bembexia sp. gastropods from Morrisville, NY. To the bottom right from Deep Springs Road is Paleozygopleura hamiltonensis
These lovely fish plates are Redfieldius gracilis from the Shuttle Meadow Fm (Jurassic).
These ferns come at a premium now, as they were collected at St Clair, PA where there is no permitted collecting at the site anymore.
The lighting and the faint impressions these generally leave may make this harder to make out, but these are partials and pieces of the fish, Diplurus newarki - a fish my comrade Tim has been studying and collecting for 20 years.
These are coprolites. Yes, fossilized poop. On the left is a coprolite (likely a reptile extruded this one) from the Triassic, while the ones on the right are from the Jurassic. We can learn a lot from studying coprolites, such as diet and environment.
I also have a few pieces of Otozamites latior that do not photograph well. Tim was also kind enough to provide me with two trilobite specimens I did not have (see last blog post).
Shifting gears in the same post, I took a trip to my local honey hole and was entirely skunked. At the very least, I got to be within 7-8 feet of a fairly trusting and majestic bird. I apologize for the poor pixel quality - I only had my iPod with me at the time, and I needed to zoom in a bit as it would have flown away had I approached any closer:
So the afternoon was spent at Hungry Hollow where I collected small bits. The river was too dangerous after all the rainfall to risk going to the usual spots, so we hunkered down in the south pit and plucked weathered stuff out of the Arkona Fm mud-shale. Although I have tons of this stuff, I can't help but to continue picking it up. You never know when someone might want some of it as a gift.
Typical fare from Arkona: an array of crinoid bits, some Aulopora, brachs, Microcyclus ("button coral"), tons of Bactrites, and on the right edge in descending order of size, Tornoceras (or is it Goniatites? - I'm not a cephalopod guy).
Below are some microscope shots to bring out details at 75x:
Deb and I just got back from an intensive four-day dig at Penn Dixie in Buffalo. We were joined by several Fossil Forum members, and it was great to put faces to names. We probably spent about 30 or so hours at the site in total, and cleared well over 150 square feet of virgin matrix of the Windom shale. I was also able to make use of some of my new tools, and by far the most valuable one was the 5 lb wedge. There simply wasn't a slab I couldn't yank out. Apart from just a brief bit of rain on the Saturday, the weather was ideal.
On the first day, when it was just me, Deb, and Tim, we plucked some pretty amazing stuff.
We arrived at the site on Thursday, meeting up with Fossil Forum friend, Tim. The site isn't officially open for the fossil collecting season until the following weekend, but as members we can enter any time. Pictured here is the entrance, and Deb's very great idea of adding a wagon to our collecting kit - which makes ferrying tools from the car to the north part of the pit much easier (and in bringing loads of fossils back to the car after a long day of turning rock into rubble!).
As we approached the productive trilobite pit, some white-tailed dear and wild turkeys in full display.
Below are some shots of our crew/chain gang at work if you ever wondered what it's like to work as a team breaking rock in search of great fossil specimens. Between everybody, we had all the right tools for the job and then some.
On Easter Sunday, while others ate chocolate, it was just me, Deb, and Jay working the pit - but it was by far the most productive day with shale that kept on giving. Quite literally hundreds of trilobites were collected on that day. Easter in 'Murica wouldn't be complete without the percussive sound of the shooting range next door, cuz... 'Murica! Guns!
Below, Jay and I get into the real stuff by clearing out large shale slabs at the productive Smoke's Creek trilobite layer. There's a lot of overburden to remove, and some of those slabs can be stubborn... But stubborn is no match for my reputation of being a human backhoe. There's always a nice and satisfying crunch/pop sound when the slab is freed (and a sound you hope isn't coming from your body!).
Deb splits the shale for the win: a nicely articulated Michelinoceras. We were pulling out a lot of nautiloids that day, as well.
We're absolutely exhausted. It's hard to tell with all that rubble that we made, but that entire circle formed of our bodies and tools represents the removal of a heck of a lot of shale (8" - 15" slabs). We dug right down below the water table. These onlookers had just come by and were curious what we were up to.
A find from the very first day, a rare - yet beat up - Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi. If there is 1 Greenops boothi per 100 Eldredgeops rana, there is probably 1 Bellacartwrightia for every 100 Greenops. The Bellacartwrightia are similar in appearance to the Greenops, but with some key differences in the glabellar furrows, spines along the axial lobe, longer pygidial spikes, and more robust genal spines. A nice catch, if I say so myself!
This is hardly representative of the number of Eldredgeops rana rollers and semi-prones I pulled out. I still have a lot to go through and prep. I estimate that I probably found about 250-300 specimens of E. rana.
This one is kind of funny. On the left is a cephalon covering a full prone, making it look like it is wearing one of those oversized masks. To the right of that is a piggy pile of rollers.
This gorgeous full prone popped right out of the matrix. I stabilized it on site with crazy glue to prevent any accidental breakage in transit.
An example of a full semi-prone still in matrix. Won't need too much prep to bring it out, but there may be two rollers also buried in here that need some preparation work.
These two pictures hardly do justice to the number of trilobites that still need some prep attention. Some of them are quite large, too. This will keep me busy for a while!
A fairly representative array of brachiopods one can find at Penn Dixie.
This is an interesting one as it has a black trilobite on top of a brown one. If I can prep it right, it should really stand out and reveal some of those chromatophores.
Top row: a crinoid calyx and a horn coral with encrusted calcite. Bottom row: three fairly well preserved Platyceras.
The group dig provided our members with a great opportunity to trade finds native to our respective areas. Tim very generously gave me a big box of incredible stuff (fish, gastropods, trilobites, ferns, coprolites, etc.) that I will photograph and post as a separate blog entry. For now, I'll post a few new trilobite species for my collection that Tim has given me. This one is a Phalangacephalus dentatus.
And these are fragments of Dipleura dekayi, a very interesting Devonian trilobite. These were collected by Tim at Deep Springs Road, NY.
This has been a memorable and possibly the best fossil collecting trip I've ever been on. Meeting new people, working together to haul rock, sharing our finds, perfect weather, and an abundance of quality specimens really made this a remarkable one. The aftermath - apart from nursing a very sore body! - is to process the finds I have. I expect to be posting a few more entries on the finds I've yet to prep and photograph. Thanks for reading!