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.
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!
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!
A very brief reprieve from the biting cold has meant a small thaw. I did do some poking around at my nearby honey hole, but didn't come away with anything worth showing. So, instead, I've been fiddling with my own fossils at home and exploring the productive postal formation. Let's have a look at prep fun first...
Readers of this blog may recall this slab that has undergone a bit of transformation since I found it back in October. Initially, there were two in the slab, and then I found a third one. Well, I probed some more and this rock keeps on giving.
So what's new? This close-up image tells the story. This is not an impression, but a ventral (underneath) side Greenops. Keep in mind that these guys are very delicate and have a tendency to flake easily even if you breathe too hard on them! This was a nerve-wracking experience as I've never prepped from the ventral side before. I suspect it is complete, but it is uncomfortably too close to a full specimen on top that is not laying directly on top, but that there is a few millimetres of matrix separating the two. If I go too close on the ventral bug, it may shatter the top one. Of course, I can shave it a bit closer, which is what I plan to do when I get the nerve!
Speaking of prep that can make one nervous, this is my new acquisition from the postal formation, courtesy of a trilobitologist in the UK. This is from Mt. Isshamour. Morocco, a Ceratarges sp. nov. from the middle Devonian. It is my second lichid trilobite. Although the pygidium is disarticulated from the main body, it does have those very nice "horns" that at the moment look like mouse ears until I can prep the matrix off (carefully!). The genal and pygidial spines are quite impressive, and it is likely these were developed as a form of protection against predation.
I am waiting on no fewer than four (and possibly more) packages from the postal formation in the next while, which will have to sustain my trilobite fever until winter ends and the collecting season kicks off in earnest.
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!
Today's special surprise was the arrival of some lower Devonian trilobites from Bolivia. Many of these are preserved in nodules, and so it is neat to keep the impression as well. Looking outside to see the new blanket of snow was a bit depressing, but there's nothing like a few trilobites to brighten the day.
From top to bottom, we have Malvinella buddeae, Eldredgeia eocryphaeus, and Eldredgeia venustus. The first one is rare, and the other two are fairly common - but not excessively so. These are found in the Belen Formation, way up in the La Paz region at an altitude of about 4000 ft. The seller I purchased these from seems to specialize in this region's fossils, and the prices were very reasonable. The E. venustus does have its tail tucked in behind, and from a side view looks like a slipper. I've added more detailed pictures in the trilobite gallery.
Recently, Ralph J., a Fossil Forum friend, had made a trip to Georgia to collect some fossils from the Conasauga Formation, which is Cambrian in age. After he had posted his finds from the trip, I expressed delight at the seeming abundance of trilobites in the mudstone-shale, and he very kindly offered to send me some of the trilobites and some matrix to split. I was absolutely floored with his generousity - and this was only exceeded by the size of the box. There will be enough for Deb and me to split for a while.
And none too soon, either! The forecast is calling for flurries this Friday, which hopefully does not prematurely bring closure to such a memorable 2017 collecting season. I am dimly holding out hope that there will be at least one day left where Malcolm and I can get out to Arkona... just one last kick at the can before the snows fly.
At the moment, I am completely buried under a lot of grading and other work, so this gift arriving in the mail was certainly a great respite. I have not yet had an opportunity to get at the matrix, but here is a four panel picture of the newly added species to my burgeoning collection, Aphelaspis brachyphasis.
The matrix itself has a kind of slick, smooth, almost velvety texture. It splits fairly easily, and has a nice olive and tan colour to it, some with a deep orange staining, sometimes yellow (a very colourful matrix!). This layer has virtually nothing else visible to the eye except for this species of trilobite, and more uncommonly small fragments of a very tiny agnostid trilobite that perhaps only a magnifying lens will be able to spot.
These guys can be pretty small. The biggest ones are about under an inch, with plenty of others barely a millimetre or so long. The preservation is new to me. The trilobites are replaced entirely by minerals and in-filled with a kind of mud, and so you may find more detail in the impression than in the positive.
I've made the attempt above to put one of the very tiny ones (~1.5 mm) under the digital microscope to show some of the diagnostic details. Not the best picture, but you get the idea. Once I find the time to go through the matrix, I may have some better examples to show - and even if not, these are welcome new specimens to the collection.
Stay tuned as I am expecting three species of trilobite from Bolivia, and eventually my air scribe to work on some of my previous finds in the hopes of discovering some surprises.
My fossil forum friend, Jason, had sent me a great assortment of fossils which arrived on the first day of my three-day fossil trip. Have a look: these are mostly from Calvert Cliffs, and includes some great Miocene shells and plenty of teeth, plates, and... on the far right is the Cambrian exception: the tiny trilobite Perenopsis (actually: Itagnostus interstricta).
A fossil friend of mine on the Fossil Forum, Jason Rice, recently sent me a package of goodies in trade for some spare material I had on hand from Arkona.
The top row has some mouth plates and shells, while the bottom four rows are all fossil shark teeth. These are quite special for me as they represent the first shark teeth in my expanding collection. These are from the Miocene period, 6-20 million years ago.
The teeth are definitely worthy of a close up image.
This large fossil scallop is Chesapectens nefrens - a fairly popularly sought out one.
The trilobite Elrathia kingii from the Wheeler Formation in Utah. Middle Cambrian (~550 million years ago).
Another Asaphiscus wheeleri, with impression. It is fairly common that one finds these without their cheeks as they moulted their old carapaces and exited through their cephalons.
The most iconic of the Utah trilobites, and the one you see most commonly sold in rock shops, here we have Elrathia kingii with a tiny friend - a "mini-me" version, if you will.
All very exciting stuff! Not only does this boost my trilobite species count for the year, but particularly Cambrian trilobites (see my post on the ones I acquired from Marcus here). As there are no Cambrian exposures anywhere near me, these are a real treat.
One of my fossil forum chums, Ron from Montana, shipped to me a big bug in a box. This thing makes all my other trilobites look puny!
He also threw in a sweet little ammonite with some opalescent lustre:
And here are some pictures of the big trilobite. It is from Morocco, and it looks like a Drotops megalomanicus. As there is a thriving cottage industry in Morocco in producing fakes, I've inspected this carefully. No resin bubbles, and these trilobites have some black calcite. It doesn't look like an restoration work was done on this one, and some of the prep was a bit rough. It is mostly covered with pustular little nodules, some of which seem to have been abraded off by a bit of sloppy preparation. Still, a very large trilobite at about 5 1/2 inches (12.5 cm).