Having just finished teaching a week-long course, and with no work currently penciled in the schedule until late June (although that could change), I can dedicate some serious time to fossils. This means collecting, prepping, and drawing.
I'll be prospecting some new possible sites. Once a site has been picked over, tapped out, or shuttered, it's time to do the work of exploration and field survey. That means extending the search and testing the layers (or the heavy work of exposing them). Once that is done, an assessment is made as to the site's productive life-span: is it something that will last several seasons, or something an individual can clear out in a few trips?
Apart from that, I got word that we are a go for a June engagement at one of the last quarries that still lets collectors in, so I'll have that to look forward to.
It's also time to get some prep done. First up is this 80 mm asaphid, but there are a bundle of Penn Dixie bugs to work on as well.
This is where it stands after about six hours. Apart from some sticky calcite on the right cheek, this has been a delight to work on, but having the ME-9100 makes matrix removal much easier. In fact, since I'm waiting for a replacement stylus for my Aro scribe, I did all of this with the ME-9100, and it is great that I can dial down the BPM when I get close to the shell. There's still some work to do, such as removing matrix between a few segments and the base matrix smoothing, but I'm awaiting some scalpels in the mail to do the inter-segment and touch-up work. As an expert Russian preparator told me, never use abrasion: it burns and lightens the skin no matter what medium or PSI; it must be done by hand. That was my error on the last Asaphus lepidurus I prepped.
I was far too busy and tired this week to put pencil to paper, but I have two WIPs, a few sketched concepts, and Deb bought me some black paper so that I can try out drawing white pencil on black background. At this point, I'm pretty much looking at a 20 hour backlog of bugs to doodle.
Update: Managed to get three since Friday.
The last bit is some tidying up of the trilobite catalogue. I recently acquired this piece, which is a Cambrian Hamatolenus sp. from Morocco.
This post is more a stub, and I'll update it when I've rolled up my sleeves for some of the stuff I mentioned above.
Been a while since I updated the blog, but winter is a slower time on the fossil front. Compared to last winter, even purchases are down as I either have most of the stuff on offer, it's too expensive, or it's not in pristine condition. But I do have a trilobite coming in a few weeks, and one other I received not long ago. This post will be a potpourri of odds and ends. Lots of stuff coming up...
Pictured here is a wee Acastoides sp. from Morocco. It was cheap and very nicely articulated, so I added it to the trilobite family. I've also had a bit more cash in the PayPal account due to selling some surplus trilobites.
I also managed to spend an afternoon adding to my trilobite sketchbook with these two Russian beauties.
It's a rock! No, not just a rock, but a Russian rock, and a Russian rock containing an asaphid I am currently preparing. Due to the nature of the matrix, and my current tools, this is a 100-200 hour job. I'll create a separate post when it's done.
Hobbling my preparation efforts has been a clogged air hose, likely in the built-in moisture trap for my Paasche AECR. One might think a basic air hose with a 1/4" - 1/16" would be a cinch to replace, but three hours of hardware store visits and plenty of time searching the web says otherwise. I finally got my part and am ready to get to the next critical phase in the prep, which involves swapping between scribing and abrading due to the stickiness of the matrix.
And that wasn't the whole of my prep equipment frustrations, either. I had just been talking with my friend Kevin, saying that I've gone over a year without needing a filter on my lines. Well, no sooner than I said that, the scribe starts acting more like a garden hose. So a trip to Princess Auto to fix that, and to locate a replacement hose (see above). I was also having serious air leak issues, and teflon tape for my big clumsy fingers usually results in my exhausting all the blue words I know, so I've gone for thread sealant instead. The filter/desiccant has already made for a much drier scribing experience. Nothing can be more frustrating than doing precision work under the scope while maintaining critical control of the tool than when it sprays water all over the fossil, turning scribing dust into cakey, opaque mud. And also pictured is a resupply of those handy nitrile gloves.
So when is the first dig of 2019? I'm hoping this weekend, weather and opportunity pending. I've got some other trips planned, too. It will be fantastic to get this season rolling and spend time with my favourite field comrades again as we swing hammers as spring clamours!
Snow-free until January 10, and then it clobbered us. More time spent indoors and thinking that it will take a while for this snow accumulation to melt and get the collecting season back into gear. So that leaves prep and postal formation.
This is a return engagement with a bug I started a few months ago. It is a giant for the location (Penn Dixie) that measures over 45 mm from genal to folded over genal. What is not shown in this image is the folded over/under side that took a ridiculous number of hours. I also took the time to level and smooth the matrix -- something I am learning to get better at, and which also takes a lot of time and patience.
A very lovely full prone Scabriscutellum furciferum from Morocco.
The seller was also kind to add an unexpected brachiopod surprise to perk the package.
My 100th trilobite species! Asaphellus fezouataensis from a really nice seller who also threw in a little enrolled phacopid.
Still trying to relearn my old drawing skills that have been neglected for nearly 20 years, a pencil rendering of an Isotelus.
A Greenops widderensis...
And an Eldredgeops rana with all the crush/distortion flaws.
So, for now, that's about it. I'm somewhat running out of trilobites to prep, and only expecting one or two bugs in the mail. I really hope winter won't be too long!
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.
Made a trip to the post office to pick up a backlog of packages that couldn't be delivered at the door, and it was a lovely little bonanza of bugs.
Although a bit beat-up and sticky, this will be added to my winter preparation queue. This Ordovician corynexochid is Illaenus sinuatus, a new species for the collection. The cephalons on these kinds of burrowing bugs tend to be fairly robust, so there is considerable matrix to be removed. I'll post the complete results once I get this in the lab.
Another Ordovician trilobite, the phacopid Pliomera fischeri, from Kinnekulle, Sweden. Trilobites from the Swedish part of Baltoscandia do not tend to preserve as well, and can come out fairly weathered.
From Haellekis, Sweden, an enrolled Ordovician phacopid, Nileus armadillo.
Although I already have two other examples of this species, a small and enrolled Asaphus kowalewskii will nicely complement the Russian asaphid display.
Top prize for this bug bonanza would go to this lower Devonian Moroccan phacopid, Wenndorfia planus. Nicely enrolled, and uniquely prepared in a tilted pedestaled fashion to show off its "assets," this trilobite was reassigned by Sandford (2005) to Wenndorfia from the species Parahomalanotus... which in itself was possibly mistakenly elevated to genus status. For those interested in some of the twitchy taxonomic tango see:
Sandford, A.C. (2005)
Homalonotid trilobites from the Silurian and Lower Devonian of south-eastern Australia and New Zealand (Arthropoda: Trilobita: Homalonotidae).
Memoirs of the National Museum Victoria, 62(1):1-66
Basse, M., & Franke, C. (2006)
Marine Faunen aus dem frühen Unteremsium (Unterdevon) des Givonne-Oesling-Antiklinoriums (Luxemburg).
Chatterton, B.D.E., Fortey, R.A., Brett, K.D., Gibb, S.L, & McKellar, R.C. (2006)
Trilobites from the upper Lower to Middle Devonian Timrhanrhart Formation, Jbel Gara et Zguilma, southern Morocco.
Palaeontographica Canadiana, 25:1-177
A number of trilobites came in the mail, with several more waiting at the post office and some in transit. First up is a Paralejurus dormitzeri
This fairly common Devonian corynexochid from Morocco does appear fairly often for sale, but a lot of them are the victims of quick and brutal preparation. This one has very good quality preparation, with some minor restoration on the lower right pygidium. Finely detailed with the eye lenses, terraced growth lines, and pedestaled to show the cephalic doublure. Only a few scribe dings, and measures close to 80 mm.
A cute and small Asaphus kowalewskii. Although I already have an example of one (semi-prone), this young holaspid stage specimen was too adorable to pass up. Some slight compaction between the third and fourth axial ring, but virtually no restoration of this stubby-eyed example of the species.
Hooray! Another winter prep project to keep from going bonkers from fossil hunting withdrawal. This is a relatively small semi-prone Asaphus lepidurus.
Until tomorrow when a few more trilobites join the collection...
Starting off the week with a bang, I had no fewer than three packages waiting for me when I got home. Two were purchases, and one was a gift from a dear Fossil Forum friend from the Netherlands.
First up, a "gold bug":
This phacopid is Metacanthina barrandei from the Couche Rouge, Maeder Region of Morocco. The trilobites in this layer are entirely replaced by chalcopyrite. In this case it is likely that the trilobite during preparation was painted or polished/buffed to appear in this fashion. It has two interesting features that distinguish this species: a tiny "spathe" at the end of the glabella (looks like it is sticking out its tongue) and a distinct occipital spike just below the cephalon. This one is not tiny, either, at about 90 mm tip to tip.
Similar to the trilobite I featured first last week, this is of the same genus. I welcome Gerastos ainrasifus to my collection. Just like the other proetid, it is fairly small at around 30 mm.
And now for the splendid gifts from my friend Pat overseas. This first is the classic, glabella-bulging Moroccan phacopid, Reedops sp. Some fabulous eye detail, yes, but that "shnozz" is something else!
This one is a bit tough to make out until I hook up the digital scope, but this barely 5 mm wide cephalon belongs to the very rare Diacanthaspis (Acanthalomina) minuta, a Silurian Odontopleurid (my first!) from Lodenice, Czech Republic. It has the tuberculate cephalic markings somewhat similar to various species of Ceraurus, but is more closely related to various Lichid trilobites.
And another lovely gift: the Ordovician asaphid Ogyiocaris dilatata. This was collected from the Oslo fjord area in Norway and are considered very rare.
And this one, well, this Belgian trilobite has yet to be formally described! It comes from the Hotton area, Ardennes, Belgium. I am guessing a phacopid of some kind, and it looks like I might give some matrix removal a try to see if I can find more of it in there.
And apart from these lovely trilo-gifts, I also received a cool Roman coin from the reign of Constantine II (337-340 AD), and shrapnel from the battlefield of the very famous - and one of the bloodiest - Battle of the Somme, which took place between the British (+Canada!) and the French against the Germans, July to November 1916. These are two pieces of non-trilobite history I very much cherish. It's been a fantastic day indeed!
It is raining today, and looks to be mild and almost springlike going into March... But I will err on the side of caution and say it is a false spring just so I don't get my hopes up if the polar vortex returns.
A good haul of things came for me today:
A common, but welcome Gerastos tuberculatus marocensis from Morocco. Many online dealers misname this as Gerastos granulosus, but no such species is identified from Morocco.
This is Coltraneia oufatenensis, a very distinct Devonian phacopid from Morocco, and the only trilobite named after a musician (John Coltrane). Note the tall eyes on this crazy looking trilobite
I desperately needed a new fossil hunting backpack. My old one, which was really just an appropriated school backpack, had to be turfed after my terminally ill cat Portia had peed on it. And cat pee almost never goes away. But this one is extremely sturdy with loads of compartments, handles, and clips. It is going to be a great mobile kit to carry my expanding range of tools and containers.
Winter is still dragging, and so one is forced to trade in the rock hammer for the credit card, or otherwise engage in some friendly fossil trades. Today was a good one for receiving a few new delights.
This might not be exciting to, well, anyone, but I quite desperately needed this prep tool. This is a double-collared pin vice that will make any of my pin-prepping much easier. Up until now, I've been holding the sewing needle between my fingertips, and after a while my hand starts to cramp. This tool will give me much more control. This tool didn't quite break the bank at about a dollar, free shipping.
This was part of a marvellous package sent to me by Hong Chan Ui from South Korea. I had sent him a package of trilobites last month with a few other fossil goodies, and he in turn sent me two trilobite species I don't have and also perked the package with some South Korean coins and tektites. How cool is that! The specimen above is a partial pygidium of the rare Ordovician asaphid, Dolerobasilicus sp. from Taebaek, Gongwon-Do, South Korea.
This glorious Devonian phacopid in the same package is Mrakibina cattoi from the El Oftal formation Jebel Mrakib, Ma'der, Alnif, Morocco. A near cousin of Greenops. The preservation detail and preparation is just remarkable.
This large Silurian phacopid was an eBay steal. Meet Coronocephalus gaoluoensis, coming in at 7 cm, or 3 inches long. Note the impressive pygidial spikes, if not the crazy number of segments. You usually find these as pygidia only. This is from Hunan Province, China.
These new acquisitions surely take a bit of the grinding gloom out of winter. But, as always, stay tuned: six or more bugs are still on their way, and it isn't even the official start of the 2018 collecting season yet!
Last I checked, it's still winter, and that means no possibility of getting out to collect. However, needs must when the devil drives and all that, so I have been doing some collecting indoors.
I am going to kick this post off with something very close to home (as in, at home!).
This pygidium was found among the many pieces I collected from my honey hole in town. When I first found it, I thought little of it and just threw it in the bag. However, now that the snows keep my troublemaking relegated to the indoors, I decided on a Sunday afternoon to look a bit closer at stuff I stuffed into containers from the previous year. This one is bereft of an identity at the moment. I've searched the literature, from Ludvigsen to Lesperance, to Levi-Setti to Whittington, and can't seem to get a proper ID on this lower Devonian trilobite. If anyone out there knows, I'd be grateful to hear from you in the comments.
So, setting aside mysteries, I purchased a few trilobites - one from eBay and two from a fellow forum member.
This is the eBay acquisition that I got very cheaply: a Declivolithus ?alfredi from Morocco. This is a neat looking asaphid trilobite from the Ordovician with a kind of textured "fan" that reminds me of harpetid bugs.
Adding another Moroccan trilobite to the collection (recalling I also have a Drotops megalomanicus acquired in July, 2017), this is an exquisitely well-preserved Hollardops sp. I got from a fellow forum member. The eye lenses show great detail, and I can tell it's genuine as opposed to the many fakes out there because of one very telling detail: notice the crack that travels across the specimen? The first picture shows it best. That is known as a discovery crack, and that is how these trilobites are found in Morocco. The matrix is ridiculously dense, so trilobites do not come out nice and clean. Instead, diggers will find a whisker line that shows the presence of a trilobite. From there, they glue the two pieces together and prep it out. This one looks very similar to Greenops, but this style for phacopids was quite popular in the Devonian!
From Russia with love! Yes, this is an Ordovician trilobite from Russia, Asaphus kowalewskii. It is a commonly sought after specimen due to its long eye stalks, or peduncles. Sadly, despite all noble efforts from my friend on the forum, the postal service still managed to damage this one, so it took an hour of trying to reattach several pieces of the peduncles. They may not be in their proper orientation, but you haven't explored your full lexicon of expletives until you try to use crazy glue and tweezers to try and restore broken peduncles. Despite its current state, it still finds a home here.
These trilobites, for some reason, developed long eye stalks. It has been reasoned that it was to be able to see in highly turbid waters, or to be able to continue their benthic existence safely while being buried up to their eyes. What is particularly unique about them is that they are only found in Russia.
And that isn't all. Yes, wait, there's more! - But that will have to wait until packages arrive. I have traded some spare trilobites with forum members in the Netherlands and South Korea who have some lovely bugs to send me in return. I also have another exotic Moroccan bug coming from England. I'll update this post or make a new one when they all come in.
Apart from that, I did some online shopping for fossil necessities. Coming in the mail will be a pin vice, which will spare my poor hands and fingers in using sewing needles for fine prep. I'm also awaiting a tactical backpack to replace my rather worn backpack that is pretty much unusable now as a cat peed on it.
But, so far, 2018 has seen the arrival of three new species to my collection, and one mystery unknown! I anticipate from between 4-8 new specimens in the next few months. Starting off the collecting year - in pre-season - strongly!