The snow has finally buried us after an unseasonably warmer and snow-free stretch. So that means more time spent in prep, and some hunting relegated to the postal formation. This short post is a quick update on newer additions to the trilobite horde.
New acquisition, the blind phacopid Ductina vietnamica. This genus was quite widespread, appearing in different faunal provinces. These regularly come up for sale, but most of them are preserved quite poorly. This one is a much better example of the species.
A semi-enrolled Paralejurus spatuliformis from Morocco. This one differs from other members of the genus on account of having a, well, spatulate kind of pygidium. This one has no colour enhancements, so appears "in the buff" without having been buffed with shoe polish or some other additive to make them uniformly black. The closeup is of the holochroal eye with its tightly packed lenses that appear, from a distance, to be entirely smooth.
While going through some boxes of old finds and turfing junk, I split a small and thin piece of Verulam Formation (Brechin, Ontario) to encounter this cephalon fragment of the rare lichid, Amphilichas ottawaensis. I haven't heard of anyone in my collecting circle who has spent a lot of time in Brechin find more than fragments. I had found a ventral pygidium fragment a few years ago, but nothing else... And now that the site has been shuttered to collectors, there's not much hope in the immediate future of finding more. The picture below is of a complete Amphilichas halli -- not the same species, but it gives a sense of the body plan and where my fragment fits:
And that is likely all that is fit to digitally print this week. The fragment was the big surprise find while the snows are blowing and the temperatures nosedive.
It's been at least a day since the last blog post! On this New Year's Day I decided to get into the lab for one last go at preparation of fossils before I have to hunker down and do preparation of courses for this semester (I rarely need air tools for the latter, heh).
I found this association piece back in 2017. Initially when I found it, just surface collecting the upper floors of the quarry in Brechin, I put it in my bucket thinking it was just a gastropod steinkern. A few weeks or so later, looking over my finds, I noticed this traveler after removing some dirt.
At the time, my only prep tools were a pin vise, a Dremel, and a lot of patience. A trilobite this small would require air tools as the matrix is too hard for a pin, and a Dremel would vibrate this to pieces. So it was left consigned to the "to-prep" pile and forgotten. After having some good rounds of prep in the last week, and a little boost in the confidence of my prep skills, today was the day I'd tackle this wee bug.
The trilobite is Flexicalymene senaria, which is one of the most common trilobites in the Verulam Formation (Ordovician). Hash plates are filled with their moulted cranidia and pygidia, and they are also frequently found enrolled and matrix-free. Full prone ones are a little less common, but in no way rare. What makes this one special, though, is its association with a steinkern of the gastropod Fusispira nobilis.
After four hours of very careful abrasion work, this one is done. It may seem counterintuitive, but smaller pieces do not necessarily equal faster or easier prep work. Much more care and attention is required, and the margin for error is much smaller than when working with larger pieces in similar matrix and preservation conditions.
And so here it is in all its close-up glory. Nice, prone, and robust with just a few minor problems. Prep for 2019 is off to a great start.
Today's post is another that beats the winter blahs. The first is just some tinkering with some of my finds from the previous year, and the second is a generous gift from a forum member.
I am definitely running out of material to explore and prep, so I took a look at some of my one-of-a-kind specimens and noticed that maybe, just maybe, I could poke around my little Achatella achates from Brechin a bit more. I knew it was not complete, but finding even a cephalon of this Ordovician phacopid is quite uncommon.
This is a before and after sequence. Using a pin vice and my fancy microscope, I was able to remove some of the matrix to uncover more of the cephalon, but also the characteristic long genal spines of this species. Finding a whole one would be a trip-maker, for sure, but having an intact cephalon of this species is not too shabby.
The next item is the result of a very lovely gift by one of our very great forum members, Dave A. from NY state. I've been wanting one of these for some time. The fragments my friend Tim gave me last April managed to make me pine in finding a fuller one of these very interesting holmonotid bugs. So here is Dipleura dekayi in its semi-prone, semi-enrolled glory:
This one measures 10 cm along the axis if full prone, and so close to the upper end for how big these got. It is speculated by Whittington that it was a benthic critter that buried itself in sand with only its turret-like eyes protruding, hunting in a manner reminiscent of modern day crabs. This is one great Devonian delight for me.
Will there be more trilobites? There will be more trilobites, as they are en route as I type this. Stay tuned!
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.
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!
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: