So I've returned numerous times to my new spot, but have not had the same level of success as my first two outings. I now have a ludicrous amount of Crassiproetus pygidia, but nothing complete and not even a whisper of another Terataspis. If all this material is indeed Bois Blanc Formation, I do find it curious that I haven't yet encountered even a tiny fragment of the dalmanitid Anchiopsis anchiops, which is fairly abundant in that formation. That may be attributable to the specific paleoenvironment in which these were deposited, just as one may encounter trout in one part of a river, but not in a smaller river nearby.
I've been able to identify six distinct types of rock at the site, with only one of those being trilobite bearing. I'll be giving the spot a bit of a rest for the time being while I focus on other projects (and get back to teaching).
I've two illustrations -- one complete, and the other in process -- that I can reveal in the next while. For now, I want to discuss this:
Seasoned trilobite collectors in Ontario are very familiar with this text, a veritable bible put together by the masterful Rolf Ludvigsen who passed away in December, 2016. He was an intellectual giant, a taskmaster, and an exacting top tier scholar. This book was published in 1979, and a lot has changed in Ontario trilobite knowledge since then: the genus Phacops in North America was reassigned to Eldredgeops, the great Bill Hessin formally described the cheirurid Leviceraurus mammiloides, Lieberman and Kloc reassigned Neometacanthus to Bellacartwrightia jennyae, and even humble amateurs like myself have put in tireless efforts in finding some trilobites that haven't been reported in over a century.
The state of fossil collecting in Ontario is mixed. With more site closures, places getting tapped out, suburban sprawl, areas now under provincial park designation, and other issues all too common in many parts of the world, the halcyon days are certainly over. Of course, the undaunted die-hards like myself will continue trying to locate new spots, to dig deeper and farther in unlikely locations, even if they are small and quickly exhausted.
I do think it is time to honour Ludvigsen's project in revising this text. Of course, that is a matter of expertise, time, and money. There is not a tremendous amount of research interest in such a niche project. That being said, some small and remarkable steps have already been taken. For example, Philip Isotalo's book on Ordovician trilobites of Ontario is exactly the kind of enterprise that we need more of. Bill Hessin's invaluable field guide to southern Ontario fossils has also quickly become a kind of bible for collectors in the GTA and surrounds.
There is still so much more work to do, and sometimes I regret not specializing in this field when I entered university. We still do not have a formal description of the Cobourg Fm Isotelus "mafritzae", which should be a top priority housekeeping item.
I can only do so much on my own given my limitations. I'm not a paleontologist, I do not have access to the granting structure. What I do have is the passion and energy. If someone reached out to me and asked if I wanted to play even a tiny role in revising Ludvigsen's text, I would very much take to it like a duck to water.
So, to that end, I've been combing through the literature to create a kind of "master list" of Devonian bugs in Ontario. There are plenty of known unknowns. There are species that should technically be found here by stratigraphic correlation, but have not been confirmed. I'm providing my list, a work in progress. I've been fortunate (and stubborn enough) to find examples of 15 of the roughly 25 species found in Ontario. If you are a trilobite worker in Ontario reading this, I'm more than willing to put in the work needed to revise the Ludvigsen text. We've already seen the resurrection of another of Rolf's projects courtesy of Fred Sundberg in the form of the rebooted Trilobite Papers.
It is a major ask for a major task, especially when we have yet to even see the second volume of the Treatise! But there are so many tireless trilobite workers out there today whose efforts are on par with the greats of yesteryear, such as Jonathan Adrain, Gerd Geyer, Richard Fortey, Joan Corbacho, Gerald Kloc -- just to name a few.
So here is my list so far. My thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Scott Morrison as the true trilo-lit archivist par excellence for putting key documents in my hand. I hope this list assists our collectors -- professional and avocational.
Pseudodechenella ?rowi / ?arkonensis
Widder (Hungry Hollow)
Eldredgeops iowensis southworthi
Crassiproetus sibleyensis* (corr. Michigan)
Pseudodechenella nodosa* (corr. Ohio)
Odontocephalus selenurus (?)
Coniproetus folliceps (corr. NY)
No rest for the weary! After the big multi-day dig, I was up in Barrie helping to downsize a house and got to keep some supplementary tools that will help at the prep bench and in the field. A selection of awls, sandpaper, tiny screwdrivers, and even a fish knife all come in handy when paired with the precision tools I use.
So began a bit of prep.
This is the placoderm plate that I chased to its end. I'm thinking it is a plate from Protitanichthys rockportensis.
I'm always looking to hone my preparation skills, so practicing on less than perfect trilobites is ideal. The one on the left is by far the best of the two, but could still use some restoration on the right side by grafting a bit of cephalon and the right genal spine.
Small and battered, this goniatite is now clean.
Although incomplete, this Tornoceras unioangulare has some stunning detail after I put it under heavy abrasion.
A pity this one is missing a few pieces, but not a bad preliminary prep if I do say so myself!
Some of the other trilobites are going to be much tougher work, and they are also missing pieces. The main thing is that my prep skills are improving with practice. Beyond that, someone from the University of Calgary has shown some interest in the placoderm pieces I pull from the Widder Formation. There is a remote possibility that I might have something new to science, but who knows? Just as a refresher, two previous placo pieces that might be worth studying:
It's just too darn hot to go out collecting these days, but I'm really hoping to get out there relatively soon, if not also a possible trip to Western NY pending Deb's work schedule.
Well, it has been a while since the last blog post, but a flurry of recent activity has seen me on multiple days out in the field with fossil comrades doing extensive excavation at our hide-y hole in the Devonian strata. Being bogged down with work has meant that things were quiet on the fossil front for much of the month of June, and a surge of fossil activity here at the end of the month has been exceptionally productive.
Of course, the first few days are about site preparation: digging out overburden, hauling out blocks to dry before splitting, and bench extension while searching for the productive horizon. All that hard work certainly paid off well, and I can safely say that I came away with at least twelve or so full Greenops, a few lovely pyritized cephalopods, and even two very significant examples of placoderm armour.
There were rainy days that made it a slog, but between the group of us (five of us in total, but with people pinching in and out), we moved and split a significant amount of rock.
What now remains is a lot of preparation. The images here are all field fresh, and should come out quite stunning.
Definitely a trip-maker. Finding a complete Greenops widderensis makes for a good day, but this lucky split yielded a multi-plate of three. As these were delicate, and it started raining, I had to douse these in cyanoacrylate quickly so that it would survive the trip home. It is right now in the hands of my friend Kevin who will prepare it and possibly poke around to see if there are any others hiding in the rock.
Loads of trilobites. The last image is of one that has its tail stuck under matrix in the negative, so I'll be gluing it together and prepping it down. Finding so many over a few days meant that we were digging at the right spot.
And yet a few more. The one on the top right is very small and tucked in nicely in the jagged fracture of the bedding plane. The one at the bottom was a very tricky one because the rock wanted to break in every which direction. I had to chisel groove around while another of our crew stabilized it with his hand. A slow process to tap gently, stop, and observe where the crack is going. Sadly, it came out a bit broken on one side, but we wicked the glue on the running cracks and collected any bits of shell that came off to be reapplied during prep.
We were coming across Devonian plant material a bit more often. This stuff is likely fallen pieces that the shore laps up and, after getting water-logged, falls to the sea floor.
Kevin found a real prize in this one. Nicely inflated, well preserved, and pyritized nautiloid.
Not anywhere near as dramatic, but two of my own cephs -- dirty Tornoceras.
A prize find: a good chunk of placoderm plate with that biggest piece being quite thick like a chunk of bone.
And yet another lovely piece of placoderm with full pustular surface. I'm still working away at it slowly on the prep bench, having yet to find where it ends in its companion rock.
In all, a fantastic trip. Great people, great finds. I have a lot of prep work to get to in the coming while.
Readers of the blog may recall a find from my Bowmanville trip back in late May, and the uncertainty of the species. Kevin excellently prepared this beauty, and although it is missing pygidial spines, it is indeed the rarer trilobite Leviceraurus mammilloides.