Monday, 13 February 2017

Sunday, 12 February 2017

SCAPHOPODA: TUSK SHELLS

The Oligocene Lincoln Creek Formation has produced several dozen different species of infaunal molluscs, burrowing worms and is well-known for crabs.

This specimen is from the massive, tuffaceous siltstone and sandstone that runs through the town of Porter on the east side of the road.

The fossil-rich bedding planes are well-exposed with concretionary beds throughout.

Collecting was possible in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s but may be forbidden (or heavily discouraged today) as the site is on a busy roadway. I made multiple trips to Porter back in the day with folk from Vancouver and Washington State. The primary focus in the early 2000’s were the crabs. They were just in the early stages of being written-up and much excitement surrounded them.

But to each his own -- as it happens, this wee tusk shell is one of my favourite fossils from the site as my trips to Porter were focused mainly on the molluscs.

Tusk shells, are members of a class of shelled marine mollusc with a global distribution. Shells of species within this class range from about 0.5 to 15 cm in length. This fellow is 8 cm end to end, so near smack dab in the centre of his cohort.

The Scaphopoda get their nickname "tusk shells" because their shells are conical and slightly curved to the dorsal side, making the shells look like tiny tusks (picture a walrus or mammoth tusk in your mind’s eye). The scientific name Scaphopoda means "shovel foot," a term that refers to the "head" of the animal, which lacks eyes and is used for burrowing in marine sediments.

The most distinctive feature of scaphopods, however, and one that differentiates them from most molluscs, is the duo openings on their tubular shells. Most molluscs are open at just one end.

We could call scaphopods the great deniers. They live their adult lives with their heads literally buried in the sand. A tiny bit of their posterior end sticks up into the seawater for water exchange. Water is circulated around the mantle cavity by the action of numerous cilia.

When the available dissolved oxygen runs low for this fellow he ejects water from the yop end of his shell by contraction of his "foot."

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

EXPLORING WRANGELLIA

Douvelliceras spiniferum, Cretaceous Haida Formation
Haida Gwaii or the Queen Charlotte Islands lay at the western edge of the continental shelf due west of the central coast of British Columbia.

They form Wrangellia, an exotic tectonostratiphic terrane that includes Vancouver Island, parts western British Columbia and Alaska.

The Geological Survey of Canada sponsored many expeditions to these remote islands and has produced numerous reference papers on this magnificent terrain, exploring both the geology and paleontology of the area.

Joseph Whiteaves, the GSC 's chief palaeontologist in Ottawa, published a paper in 1876 describing the Jurassic and Cretaceous faunas of Skidegate Inlet, furthering his reputation globally as both a geologist, paleontologist as well as a critical thinker in the area of science.

The praise was well-earned and foreshadowed his significant contributions to come. Sixteen years later, he wrote up and published his observations on a strange Mount Stephen fossil that resembled a kind of headless shrimp with poorly preserved appendages. Because of the unusual pointed shape of the supposed ventral appendages and the position of the spines near the posterior of the animal, Whiteaves named it Anomalocaris canadensis. The genus name "Anomalocaris" meant "unlike other shrimps" and the species name "canadensis" referred to the country of origin.

Whiteaves work on the paleontology of the Queen Charlotte Island provided us with excellent reference tools, particularly his work on the Cretaceous exposures and fauna that can be found there.

One of our fossil field trips was to the ruggedly beautiful Cretaceous exposures of Lina Island. We’d planned this trip as part of our “trips of a lifetime.” Both John Fam and Dan Bowen can be congratulated for their efforts in researching the area and ably coordinating a warm welcome by the First Nations community and organizing fossil field trips to some of the most amazing fossil localities in the Pacific Northwest.

With great sandstone beach exposures, the fossil-rich Haida formation provided ample specimens, some directly in the bedding planes and many in concretion. Many of the concretions contained multiple specimens of typical Haida Formation fauna, providing a window into this Cretaceous landscape.

It is always interesting to see who was making a living and co-existing in our ancient oceans at the time these fossils were laid down. We found multiple beautifully preserved specimens of the spiny ammonite, Douvelliceras spiniferum along with Brewericeras hulenense, Cleoniceras perezianum and many cycads in concretion.

Photo: Pictured above is Douvilliceras spiniferum with his naturally occurring black, shiny appearance. Proudly part of my collection. He is 6 inches long and 5 inches deep, typical of the species. 

As it happens, I have yet to prep most of the concretions I collected on Lina. I’ve left them intact and perfect, waiting for technology and time to advance so I can give them the love and attention they need in preparation.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Monday, 6 February 2017

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Saturday, 4 February 2017

LATE OLIGOCENE SOOKE FORMATION

Desmostylus, Royal Ontario Museum Collection
The late Oligocene Sooke Formation outcrops at several coastal localities along the South-west coast of Vancouver Island. The most well-known and most collected of these are the exposures to the west of Muir Creek.

The formation contains marine fossils including a diversity of intertidal and near shore gastropods, bivalves, abundant barnacle (Balanus) plates, and rare coral, echinoid (sand dollar) and mammal (Desmostylus) fossils.

When these fossils were laid down, the Northeastern Pacific had cooled to near modern levels and the taxa that were preserved as fossils bear a strong resemblance to those found living today beneath the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In fact, many of the Sooke Formation genera are still extant.

We find near shore and intertidal genera such as Mytilus (mussels) and barnacles, as well as more typically subtidal predatory globular moon snails, surf clams (Spisula, Macoma), and thin, flattened Tellin clams.

In several places, there are layers thickly strewn with fossils, suggesting that they were being deposited along a strand line. The rock is relatively coarse-grained sandstone, suggesting a high energy environment as would be found near a beach.

The outcrops at Muir Creek make for a great day trip. This is a family friendly site best enjoyed and collected at low tide.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Thursday, 2 February 2017

LATE JURASSIC CADOCERAS TONNIENSE

Cadoceras tonniense, Mysterious Creek Formation

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Thursday, 26 January 2017

MIDDLE TRIASSIC-ANISIAN AMMONOID

A specimen of Grambergia sp., a Middle Triassic-Ansian ammonoid from the Toad Formation of northeastern British Columbia.

EOCENE LOVE BUG

The Love Boat, soon you'll be sailing away... Well, perhaps you will but that ship has sailed for this wee fellow.

This is a Fossil Love Bug, one of the most satisfying fossils to collect in the Eocene deposits of Princeton, British Columbia.

Love Bugs or March Flies are hardy, medium-sized flies in the Order Diptera, with a body length ranging from 4.0 to 10.0 mm. The body is black, brown, or rusty, and thickset, with thick legs. The antennae are moniliform. The front tibiae bear large strong spurs or a circlet of spines. The tarsi are five-segmented and bear tarsal claws, pulvilli, and a well-developed empodium.

As it is with many species, these guys included, the teens of this species are troublesome but the adults turn out alright. As larvae, Bibionidae are pests of agricultural crops, devouring all those tasty young seedlings you've just planted.

Then, as they mature their tastes turn to the nectar of flowers from fruit trees and la voila, they become your best friends again. With their physical and behavioral transformation complete, Bibionidae become a welcome garden visitor, pulling their weight in the ecosystems they live in by being important pollinators.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

WANNERIA DUNNAE. EAGER FORMATION.

Wanneria dunnae




















Trilobites were amongst the earliest fossils with hard skeletons. They were the dominant life form at the beginning of the Cambrian.

This specimen of Wanneria dunnae is from the Lower Cambrian Eager Formation in the East Kootnays of British Columbia and is typical of the group.

He's from the Rifle Range outcrop near Cranbrook. The site is just a shade older than the Burgess Shale, Middle Cambrian deposits though the species found here are much less varied.

Back in the late 1990's and early 2000's, it was a glorious place for fossil collecting. I have many beautifully preserved Wanneria and abundant Olellenus from here along with a few rare and treasured Tuzoia.

The shale matrix lends itself to amazing preservation. This specimen of Wanneria is a big fellow. Five inches long and four inches wide. Wanneria are slightly less common here than Olenellus. Olenellus are slightly smaller in size with a large, semi-circular head, a body of 15 segments and a long spine on the 15th segment with a wee tail. You find a mixture of complete specimens and head impressions from years of perfectly preserved molts.

The Wanneria are their bruising cousins by comparison with their large heads lacking conspicuous furrows and a robust body without an expanded third segment.

As luck would have it, the plate he is in split him right down the centre. Bless the hardness of shale for preservation and it's sheer irony for willfully cracking exactly where you least desire it.

Trilobite eyes were compound like those found in modern crustaceans and insects. The eyes of these earliest trilobites are not well known. They were built in such a way that the visual surface dropped away and was lost during molting or after death throwing a wrench in studying them. We may learn more from the Burgess Shale and the lovely soft mud that was the foundation of their preservation.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

TUMBLER RIDGE DINOSAUR TRACKWAY

Heidi Henderson with Daniel & Charles Helm, Tumbler Ridge
In 2000, Mark Turner and Daniel Helm were tubing down the rapids of Flatbed Creek just below Tumbler Ridge.

As they walked up the shoreline excitement began to build as they quickly recognized a series of regular depressions as dinosaur footprints.

Their discovery spurred an infusion of tourism and research in the area and the birth of the Peace Region Palaeontology Society and Dinosaur Centre.

The Hudson's Hope Museum has an extensive collection of terrestrial and marine fossils from the area. They feature ichthysaurs, a marine reptile and hadrosaur tracks.

The tracks the boys found were identified the following year by Rich McCrae as those of a large quadrupedal dinosaur, Tetrapodosaurus borealis, an ichnotaxon liked to ankylosaurs.

Closer study and excavation of the area yielded a 25 cm dinosaur bone thus doubling the number of dinosaur bones known from British Columbia at the time.

The dinosaur finds near Tumbler Ridge are significant. Several thousand bone fragments have been collected, recorded and now reside within the PRPRC collections, making for one of the most complete assemblages for dinosaur material from this age.

Some of these precious fossil sites are threatened by the Site C Dam. More than the fossils, the Dam will destroy one of the world's precious wildlife corridors and submerge valuable carbon sinks and agricultural land therein threatening instead of promoting food security in the North.

The true reveal for the paleontological significance is still to come. There are Triassic marine outcrops in northern British Columbia that extend from Wapiti Lake to the Yukon border. I'm excited for the future of paleontology in the region as more of these fruitful outcrops are discovered, collected and studied.

Monday, 16 January 2017

AMMONITE CRUSHED BY PREDATOR

Here a partial ammonite with lovely oil-spill colored nacre (ammolite) shows several bite marks.

One of the natural predators to ammonites were the marine reptiles, particularly elasmosaurs, a genus of plesiosaur that lived in the Late Cretaceous. With their long necks, the could move unseen in the depths then chomp down with their cage-like teeth to munch on fish and those unfortunate enough to be the tasty bounty of ancient times.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

FLORISSANTIA SP. (STERCULIACEAE)

Florissantia, an extinct genus in the Cocoa Tree Family
Beautifully preserved specimens of Florissantia can be found in the Eocene deposits near Cache Creek in the Tranquile Formation, Kamloops Group, at Quilchena, Coldwater Beds, Kamloops Group and near Princeton, British Columbia in the Allenby Formation.

This specimen is from the Allenby Formation, which is predominately fine-grained shales and mudrocks. Florissantia are quite commonly found here alongside other plant remains and rarer, insect and fish fossils.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Friday, 6 January 2017

SHELTER POINT, VANCOUVER ISLAND

Shelter Point on northern Vancouver Island is a lovely beach site and part of the Oyster Bay Formation, located just off the Island Highway, about 10km south of downtown Campbell River.  

At the northern end of Shelter Bay, turn east onto Heard Road, which ends at a public access to Shelter Point. A low tide is necessary in order to collect from these shales. I also recommend rubber boots and eye protection. This is a good family trip.   

The fossils, mainly the crab, Longusorbis and the straight ammonite Baculites, occur only in the gritty concretions that weather out of the shale. Aside from the fossils, check out the local tidepools and larger sea life in the area. Seals and playful otters can be seen basking on the beaches.

CRETACEOUS STEW: INOCERAMUS CLAMS

These oyster-like clams were common through the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The presence of certain fossil Inoceramus species allows geologists to date specific formations.

The entire group went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, as did the ammonites and the dinosaurs.
This specimen from Hornby Island is approximately 67 million years old. They were was found a perfect sunny day while collecting with Graham Beard, author of West Coast Fossils and Chair of the Vancouver Island Museum Paleontological Society. Graham has a keen eye and knack for finding the best specimens on the island.

Visit his collection at the Qualicum Museum on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It is well worth the trip!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

THEROPOD TRACK, TUMBLER RIDGE

Rich McCrea, Dinosaur Track Specialist & Heidi Henderson

Monday, 2 January 2017

ANKYLOSAUR TRACKWAY

After an exciting hike in the dark through the woods and down a steep incline, we reached the river. The tracks in this photo are from a type of armored dinosaur that date to the very end of the Cretaceous, between 68-66 million years ago.

Imagine a meandering armored tank munching on ferns and low-growing vegetation.

This is a photograph of an ankylosaur trackway filled with water and lit by lamplight along Wolverine River, a research site of Lisa Buckley, one of two magnificent paleontologists working in the area. 

Some of the prints contain skin impressions, which is lucky as many of the prints are so shallow that they can only be recognized by the skin impressions.

There are two types of footprints at the Wolverine River Tracksite - theropods (at least four different sizes) and ankylosaurs. Filling the prints with water and using light in a clever way was a genius idea for viewing tracks that are all but invisible in bright sunlight by day.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Monday, 26 December 2016

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

DRAGONFLIES: ODONATA

Dragonflies, from the order Odonata, have been around for over 250 million years. The most conspicuous difference in their evolution over time is the steady shrinking of their wingspan from well over two and a half feet down to a few inches. 

Voracious predators, today they dine on bees, wasps, butterflies and avoid the attentions of birds and wee lizards -- but back in the day, they had a much larger selection of meals within their grasp.

Time has turned the tables. Small lizards and birds who today choose dragonflies as a tasty snack used to be their preferred prey.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Sunday, 11 December 2016

MOSQUE-CATHEDRAL, CORDOBA, SPAIN




















A mix of Muslim and Christian architecture can be found in the stunning, and oh so grand Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba, southern Spain. Originally a small temple of Christian Visigoth origin, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins has an unusual and collaborative history. When Muslims conquered Spain in 711, the church was divided into Muslim and Christian halves.

This sharing arrangement lasted until 784, when the Christian half was purchased by the Emir 'Abd al-Rahman I, who then demolished the original structure to build the grand mosque of Córdoba on its ground.

Córdoba returned to Christian rule in 1236 during the Reconquista, and the building was converted to a Roman Catholic church, culminating in the inclusion of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the 16th century. If you are visiting Andalusia, it is well worth a day trip. Bring your camera and comfortable shoes.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

PALEONTOLOGY MUSEUM, FLORENCE, ITALY


OLD HABITS

Nuns stepping out from the palace, Cordoba, Spain




















A group of nuns stepping out in Cordoba, Spain. The nuns earn their living selling sweets and confections using recipes handed down from the Romans and Moors. Many convents are closing because they have fewer nuns so this art may one day be lost.

The procedure for buying the sweets is archaic, but charming. You enter the convent into a very small room with a lazy Susan installed on the wall.

While we did see some nuns in the street, many do not leave the cloister or appear in public. You never see the nun with whom you do the transaction, since these are cloistered nuns who avoid direct contact with the public.

On the wall beside the lazy Susan will be a price list. You look it over and decide which sweets you want to buy. Then you ring a buzzer on the wall. After a while you will hear the voice of a nun greet you and ask you what you want to purchase.

You tell her your order and after a few minutes the lazy Susan will turn and you will find your order on it. You then put your money on the lazy Susan and turn it so that the nun can get it. If there is change, the nun puts it on the lazy Susan and you then can get your change.

Friday, 9 December 2016

CARNOTAURUS SASTREI

Carnotaurus sastrei, a genus of large theropod dinosaur that roamed, Argentina, South America during the Late Cretaceous period, 72 to 69.9 million years ago.

This fellow (or at least his skull) is on display at the Natural History Museum in Madrid, Spain. He is the only known genus of this species.

The skull is quite unusual. Initially, it has a very marine reptile feel (but make no mistake this guy is clearly a terrestrial theropod). Once you look closer you see horns that imply battle between rivals for the best meal, sexual partner and to be the one who leads the herd. I'll be interested to see his cousins once more specimens of the genus are unearthed.

ALHAMBRA PALACE: GRANADA, SPAIN


Thursday, 8 December 2016

DIPLODOCUS CARNEGIEI

Craneo Diplodocus carnegiei, Morrison Formation, Jurassic

Tuesday, 6 December 2016