Sunday, 30 July 2017

Monday, 17 July 2017

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Saturday, 15 July 2017

EOCENE FOSSIL FLOWER

Near the town of Princeton, British Columbia there are many fossil exposures. The fossils you find here are all middle Eocene, Allenby Formation and most have a high degree of detail in their preservation.

A crack of the hammer yields fossil maple, alder, fir, pine, dawn redwood and ginko fossil material. Several species of fossilized insects can be found in the area and rare, occasional fossil flowers and small, perfectly preserved fish. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

DEINOTHERIUM GIGANTEUM

Deinotherium giganteum















This partial specimen of Deinotherium giganteum hails from Cerecinos de Campos, Zamora from the Middle-Upper miocene (c. 15.97-5.33 Million Years)

The genus Deinotherium could reach a height of over 3.5 meters. Its structure and size are similar to those of the present-day elephant. Deinotherium first appeared approximately 17 million years ago and became extinct relatively recently, just 1.6 million years ago.

One of the distriguishing features of Deinotherium is their curved tusks inserted only in the jaw. One of the tusks from this fellow, on display at the Museo Nacional De Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain, while incomplete, was preserved rather nicely and shows the detail of where the tusk meets the jaw.

Monday, 10 July 2017

EQUUS FERUS CABALLUS

Small but majestic, these Icelandic horses have been bred to adapt perfectly to the rugged wilds of untamed Iceland. They hail from farther north, having been brought to Iceland by the Vikings.

Often mistaken for ponies, they are one of the oldest breeds of horses and while small, the registries do indeed list them as such. They boast a long life and an extra heavy double-layered coat, perfectly adapted to the harsh winter conditions of their homeland.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

RED-TAILED RAPTOR

The majestic Buteo jamaicensis are easily identified by the red upper surface of their broad tails. They are powerful raptors with strong hunting skills.

Most red-tailed hawks have rich brown upperparts with a streaked belly and a dark bar on the underside of the wing, easily viewed when seen from below. The fine detail in their plumage is breathtaking, like little-feathered works of art.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

MUIR WOODS, CRICKET THERMOMETER

Out in the woods and wondering what the temperature is? Slip down to the nearest stand of deciduous trees to search for the wee Snowy Tree Cricket, Oecanthus Fultoni, part of the order orthoptera.

Snowy Tree Crickets and their cousins double as thermometers and wee garden predators, dining on aphids and other wee beasties. Weather conditions, both hot and cold, affect the speed at which they rub the base of their wings together and consequently regulate their rate of chirping.

Listen for their tell-tale high pitch triple chirp sound in the early evening. Being in Canada, our crickets chirp in Celsius. Simply count the number of chirps over a seven second period and add five to learn your local temperature.

If didn't bring your calculator with you into the woods and you're still operating in old-skool Fahrenheit use this handy conversion. Double the temperature in Celsius, add 32 you'll get the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit.

This beautiful photo of Muir Woods outside San Francisco is by Aussie photographer, Paul McClure.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Thursday, 6 July 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."

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

TOPSY TURVY: PROCYON LOTOR

A wee babe finds his world upside down. I have a raccoon friend who lives in the base of the trees behind my place. He was the runt of last year's litter.

Everything you've read about them falls short of this wee fellow. While meant to be nocturnal, he's out in the day. I've read that they are shy and avoid human contact, but he's playful, curious and would love to be social. While sitting on my deck, he'll slowly sneak up to check out what I'm doing.

I've seen him roll around in the flowerbed in full sun, clearly loving his time, sit up to examine his toes for 30-40 minutes at a time. I've read somewhere that they are bright little fellas, and it's true for this guy. He's figured out how to get the unlockable compost container unlocked and harvested for all it's tasty, rotten veggies. Mmmm, quite a charmer!

Monday, 3 July 2017

Friday, 30 June 2017

Thursday, 29 June 2017

GIANT'S CAUSEWAY: NORTHERN IRELAND

The Giant's Causeway is a spectacular expanse of interlocking hexagonal basalt columns formed from volcanic eruptions during the Paleocene some 50-60 million years ago.

Highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds which later cooled, contracted and cracked into hexagonal columns, creating a surreal visual against a dark and stormy Irish Sea.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Sunday, 25 June 2017

THEROPOD HUNTING



FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

Audaces fortuna iuvat
Ursus curious! A young Black Bear (Ursus americanus) cub checks out a frisky, startled Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) both native species in southern British Columbia. Generally, the aroma from a skunk is enough of a deterrent to keep curiosity at bay. Not in this case.

Bear cubs are known for being playful. They usually stick pretty close to Mamma but sometimes an intriguing opportunity for discovery will cross their path and entice them to slip away just for a few minutes to check it out.

The karma gods were good to this wee one. Nobody was skunked in this quest for exploration, though not for lack of trying.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

GROUSE GRIND: RITE OF PASSION

Vancouver, Canada's third-largest metropolis, is home to many natural wonders. One of these is the Grouse Grind hiking trail. Here, steps shrouded in mist invite you to test your mettle against one of our hallmark rites of passion.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Sunday, 18 June 2017

FALCO LINNAEUS




















Reaching speeds of over 320 km/h (200 mph) Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), are exquisite birds of prey. They are worthy predators in the air and one of the fastest moving creatures on the planet. I've had the great honor to work with several of these amazing creatures and can personally attest to both their speed and quirky yet charming personalities.

Highly adaptable to hot and cold temperatures, they boast a breeding range that stretches from the icy cold Arctic tundra to the searing Tropics. 

We've had Peregrines on this beautiful big blue planet since the Late Miocene (with closely related Raptors as early as the Eocene). Sadly, the Peregrine Falcon was added to the endangered species list back in the 1970's after their population took a beating from food sources contaminated with pesticides, DDT being the main culprit. With the ban of DDT and active breed and release programs, their numbers have significantly increased. Score one for humans being thoughtful of those we share this planet with.

Friday, 16 June 2017

OF SNOW AND ICE

Twenty thousand years ago, the last Ice Age was at its frozen peak.

While some of our ancestors were making a living in what is now Europe, they were pressed between the permanent ice fields that covered all of Scandinavia and the mountains of the Pyrenees and Alps.

Much of our present-day oceans was locked up in vast ice sheets, lowering the sea level by as much as a hundred metres lower than it is today.

It was a time of scarcity and risk. Cave bears, Ursus spelaeus, at once a food source and skilled predator, enjoyed the same hunting grounds, similar prey and competed for many of the same shelters. Cave hyena, Crocuta spelaea, also looked to these shelters and while smaller, were encountered as packs.

Beyond days filled with an endless search for food, primarily through scavenging off the kills of hyena and others, there was also the no-small-feat of checking well-situated caves for other, rather scary, inhabitants.

Large prey could be taken down by an organized hunt. Wooly rhinoceros, Coelodonta antiquitatis, and majestic Irish Elk, Megaloceros giganteus, being two of the most prized.

For many, there was a regular cycle of gathering mollusks, seaweed, and birds eggs at the shoreline and picking the fungi and other small offerings from the woodland areas. Once an area had been harvested, the nomadic life continued, with groups moving from camp to camp and participating in organized annual hunts.

Nomadic groups gathered peacefully at places where large herds of bison, reindeer or other hard to hunt beasties were forced into a narrow channel to cross a mountain, river or stream. I'm impressed by this. Both at the organization of such large hunts and by the lack of evidence of warring between nomadic groups when scarcity was the norm.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

ICE AGE PROBOSCIDEANS



















This disarticulated fellow is Mammutus primigenius from the Pleistocene of Siberia, Russia. He's now housed in the Museo Nacional De Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain in a display that shows thoughtful comparisons between the proboscideans. They have a wonderful display of mammoth teeth, the diagnostic flat enamel plates and the equally distinct pointy cusped molars of the mastodons.

He was a true elephant, unlike his less robust cousins, the mastodons. Mammoths were bigger (both in girth and height), weighing in at a max of 13 tonnes. They roamed widely in the Pliocene to Holocene, covering much of Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.

We see them first some 150,000 years ago from remains in Russia. They enjoyed a very long lifespan of 60-80 (up to 20 years longer than a mastodon and longer than modern elephants) and quite surprisingly, at least to me, the last mammoth died just 3,700 years ago in the icy frost of a small Alaskan island. 

Not all had the shaggy coat of long hair we picture them with. But all of these behemoth proboscideans boasted long, curved tusks, big ears, short tails and grazed on leaves, shrubs and grasses.

So why the tusks? Likely for displays of strength, protecting their delicate trunks, digging up ground vegetation and in dry riverbeds, digging holes to get at the precious life-giving water. It's a genius design, really. A bit like having a plough on the front of your skull.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Thursday, 1 June 2017

CRETACEOUS SPINE LIZARD

Spinosaurus was a huge carnivorous theropod dinosaur who lived in the swamps of North Africa during the upper Albian to upper Turonian stages of the Cretaceous, some 112 to 93.5 million years ago.

Larger even than some Tyrannosaurus and Giganotosaurus, this fellow weighed up to 21,000 kg and with all that mass was still an accomplished swimmer.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

CRETACEOUS DINOSAUR 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 from 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, the meat-eating theropods (at least four different sizes) and the slow, lumbering plant-eating 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.

Monday, 29 May 2017

SUMAS SLIDE FOSSIL SITE

Heidi Henderson at Sumas Slide Eocene Fossil Site 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Monday, 22 May 2017

Saturday, 20 May 2017

AMMONITE BEAUTY: PALTECHIOCERA

This detail of the Jurassic ammonite, Paltechioceras sp. shot with an ultra-low f-stop, is from an all but inaccessible site in Sayward, Bonanza Group, Vancouver Island. By the time these ammonites were being buried in sediment, Wrangellia, the predominately volcanic terrane that now forms Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, had made its way to the northern mid-latitudes.

We did a fossil field trip up there a few years ago with the Courtenay & Qualicum beach crew. The drive up the mountain was thrilling as the road narrowed until it was barely the width of our wheel base -- thrilling to say the least. 

I’m headed back there this June for a wee look at what the Spring rains have revealed. This time, however, I believe I will hike up instead of driving as I’m not sure my heart could take going round-two on that road/trail via my jeep.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

URSAVUS: CANADA'S GREAT BEARS

Hiking in BC, both grizzly and black bear sightings are common. These majestic beasts live up to 28 years and nearly half the world's population, some 25,000 grizzlies, roam the Canadian wilderness.

Both bear families descend from a common ancestor, Ursavus, a bear-dog the size of a raccoon who lived more than 20 million years ago. Seems an implausible lineage given the size of their very large descendants.

An average Grizzly weighs in around 800 lbs (363 kg), but a recent find in Alaska tops the charts at 1600 lbs (726 kg). This mighty beast stood 12' 6' high at the shoulder, 14' to the top of his head. It is one of the largest grizzly bears ever recorded. This past September, the King of the forest was seen once again in the Washington Cascades -- the first sighting in over 50 years.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

LANDMANNALAUGAR: AURORA BOREALIS

The Northern Lights over a sea of wildflowers in the marsh near Landmannalaugar, part of the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Highlands of Iceland.

Landmannalaugar is at the northern tip of the Laugavegur hiking trail that leads through natural geothermal hot springs and an austere yet poetically beautiful landscape.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

WASHINGTON RISING

Over vast expanses of time, powerful tectonic forces have massaged the western edge of the continent, smashing together a seemingly endless number of islands to produce what we now know as North America and the Pacific Northwest.

In the time expanse in which we live our very short human lives, the Earth's crust appears permanent. A fixed outer shell – terra firma. Aside from the rare event of an earthquake or the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s, our world seems unchanging, the landscape constant. In fact, it has been on the move for billions of years and continues to shift each day.

As the earth’s core began cooling, some 4.5 billion years ago, plates, small bits of continental crust, have become larger and smaller as they are swept up in or swept under their neighboring plates. Large chunks of the ocean floor have been uplifted, shifted and now find themselves thousands of miles in the air, part of mountain chains far from the ocean today or carved by glacial ice into valleys and basins.

Two hundred million years ago, Washington was two large islands, bits of the continent on the move westward, eventually bumping up against the North American continent and calling it home.

Even with their new fixed address, the shifting continues; the more extreme movement has subsided laterally and continues vertically. The upthrusting of plates continues to move our mountain ranges skyward, the path of least resistance.

This dynamic movement has created the landscape we see today and helped form the fossil record that tells much of Washington’s relatively recent history – the past 50 million years. Chuckanut Drive is much younger than other parts of Washington. The fossils found there lived and died some 40-55 million years ago, very close to where they are now, but in a much warmer, swampy setting. The exposures of the Chuckanut Formation were once part of a vast river delta; imagine, if you will, the bayou country of the Lower Mississippi.

The siltstones, sandstones, mudstones and conglomerates of this formation were laid down about 40-54 million years ago during the Eocene epoch, a time of luxuriant plant growth in the subtropical flood plain that covered much of the Pacific Northwest.

This ancient wetland provided ideal conditions to preserve the many trees, shrubs, and plants that thrived here. Plants are important in the fossil record because they are more abundant and can give us a lot of information about climate, temperature, the water cycle, and humidity of the region. The Chuckanut flora is made up predominantly of plants whose modern relatives live in tropical areas such as Mexico and Central America.

While less abundant, evidence of the animals that called this ancient swamp home are also found here. Rare bird, reptile, and mammal tracks have been immortalized in the outcrops of the Chuckanut Formation.

Tracks of a type of archaic mammal of the Orders Pantodonta or Dinocerata (blunt foot herbivores), footprints from a small shorebird, and tracks from an early equid or webbed bird track give evidence to the vertebrates that inhabited the swamps, lakes and river ways of the Pacific Northwest 50 million years ago.

Fossil mammals from Washington do get most of the press. The movement of these celebrity vertebrates captured in the soft mud on the banks of a river, one of the depositional environments favorable for track preservation.

The bone record is actually far less abundant that the plant record, except near shell middens, given the preserving qualities of calcium and an alkaline environment. While calcium-rich bones and teeth fossilize well, they often do not get laid down in a situation that makes this possible. Hence the terrestrial paleontological record of Washington State at sites like Chuckanut is primarily made up of plant material.

Monday, 1 May 2017

WASH THAT FOR YOU MISS?

Spotted Cleaner Shrimp via Paul Sutherland
If you were a fish living in the warm turquoise waters off the coast of Bonaire, you may not hear those words, but you'd see the shrimp sign language equivalent. It seems Periclimenes yucatanicus or Spotted Cleaner Shrimp is doing a booming business in the local reefs by setting up a fish washing service.

That's right, a Fish Wash. You'd be hard pressed to find a terrestrial Molly Maid with two opposable thumbs as studious and hardworking as this wee marine beauty.

This quiet marine mogul is turning out to be one of the ocean's top entrepreneurs. Keeping its host and diet clean and green, the spotted shrimp hooks up with the locals, in this case, local sea anemones and sets up a fish wash. Picture a car wash but without the noise and teenage boys. The signage posted is the shrimps' natural coloring which attracts fish from around the reefs.

Wash on, wash off.

Once within reach, the shrimp cleans the surface of the fish, giving the fish a buff and the shrimp its daily feed.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

THE BIRTHPLACE OF LIFE

For millennia, we've sat at the edge of the world, taking in the impossible magnitude of the ocean.

Her beauty, her storms, such abundance and diversity of life amidst both the tranquility and unforgiving power that this immensely deep and mostly unexplored frontier hold for us.

Our distant relatives and even those who meditate on these vast pools of blue and green today see the ocean as the birthplace of life. It's the story we tell our children, and they, in turn, tell their children's children.

It's a reasonable conclusion. Upwelling currents bring cold, nutrient-rich water from the bottom to the surface. In this primordial soup, vitally important organic and inorganic compounds mix ceaselessly and give us the perfect conditions for photosynthesis, and by all accounts, the basic building blocks of life.

But, rather than the birthplace, I postulate that the ocean is simply the mixing ground for the expansion of life that began elsewhere. It is also possible, as yet we do not know, that these two streams ran in tandem. The delight of science is that we may one day know for sure.

From the oceans, it's just a slow crawl, evolutionarily speaking, from the sea to the terrestrial life we see today.

So where to look for the beginnings. That story is a much harsher one. We find microbes of the Domain Archaea, prokaryotic single-celled microorganisms, distinct from bacteria and eukaryotes, living in some of the world's most unlikely and inhospitable places.

Extremely adaptable, Archaea not only survive but thrive in harsh environments, hot, cold, brutally acidic, you name it. But beyond the hot pools and salt lakes, they have also been found in rather pedestrian habitats, in soils, marshlands, and our oceans.

You may be surprised to learn that in this very moment, they are living in your colon, oral cavity, and skin. The methanogens that inhabit our guts have a symbiotic role, helping us with digestion.

Archaea possess genes and several metabolic pathways that allow for transcription and translation. They are able to access more energy sources than their wee microorganism peers, making use of sugars, ammonia, metal ions and hydrogen gas.

The salt-tolerant, Haloarchaea, use sunlight as an energy source. All reproduce asexually by binary fission, fragmentation or budding and have been doing so for a very long time.

Much to our surprise, Archaea have been found making their home in granite more than 3 kilometers beneath the Earth's surface.

Well-preserved Archaea microfossils can be found between the quartz sand grains of the oldest known beach on Earth at Strelley Pool, about 1,500 km north of Perth, Australia. They were thriving here over 3.4 billion years ago in an oxygen-free world, metabolizing sulphur-based compounds and giving rise to the life we see today.

But there are also tubelike fossils, stromatolites, possible ancient microbial mats found in 3.77 billion-year-old rocks. Are these the birth of life? The court's still out. Plate tectonics is the Earth's greatest recycling program with only a handful of outcrops older than 3 billion years. Combine that with baking, cooling, subduction and pressure and it makes solving this ancient mystery even more challenging.

So, the birthplace of life? So far, the best contender are the wee beasties from the planet's oldest beach.



Saturday, 29 April 2017

Friday, 28 April 2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

EOCENE PLANT & MAMMAL SITE

Reinforcing the block to safely transport the fossil trackway

Saturday, 22 April 2017

GLACIAL FJORD: SEA TO SKY















A short 90-minute drive north of the city of Vancouver, the nation's gateway to the Pacific, is a recreational Shangri-La that attracts four season adventurers from around the globe to ski, board, hike, mountain bike, kayak and climb the local peaks.

It also attracts professional photographers, and weekend warriors, eager to capture the lively footprint of the village or the perfect stillness in nature. This Saturday, it was the destination of one of my new colleagues, Richard, armed with a camera in his pocket to shoot the scenes that took his fancy. A keen thesis editor and some unpredictable rain dampened those plans.

The North Shore mountains, Grouse, Cypress and Seymour, provide easy access for the happy winter adventurer and a beautiful backdrop to the young city of Vancouver -- Canada's third-largest metropolis, year-round.

They also bring us some of the rainiest, snowiest, coldest and windiest climates in Canada. Combined with the westerly winds off of the Pacific, those lovely peaks make for a panoply of weather extremes on any given day.

Certainly, not as cold as in recent past. And not as warm as millions of years ago. Ice cores tell tales of the ebb and flow of temperatures in this part of the world. Rock cores and sedimentary deposits tell other tales.

While the city sits on relatively young sandstone and mudstone, the North Shore Mountains are made of granite that formed deep within the Earth more than 100 million years ago. There are Cretaceous outcrops of sedimentary rock just off Taylor Way at Brother's Creek that reveals familiar fossilized plant material. Species common in the Cretaceous and still extant today.

This treasure trove wilderness playground stretches along the breathtaking Sea-to-Sky Highway affording breathtaking views of the Pacific as it follows the coastline of Howe Sound, a glacially carved fiord which extends from Horseshoe Bay (20 km northwest of Vancouver), past Lions Bay to the hamlet of Squamish.

It is a short jaunt further north that takes you into picturesque Whistler Valley.

Carved from the granitic mountainside high above Howe Sound, this scenic pathway, blasted into the rock of the steep glacial-valley slope, has been a rich recreation corridor and traditional First Nation hunting ground.

The ground you move over has seen oceans rise and fall, glaciers advance and retreat, the arrival of early explorers, the miners of the Gold Rush and now the rush of tourism.



Friday, 21 April 2017

CaCO3 + CO2 + H2O → Ca (HCO3)2

Those of you who live near the sea understand the compulsion to collect shells. They add a little something to our homes and gardens.

With a strong love of natural objects, my own home boasts several stunning abalone shells conscripted into service as both spice dish and soap dish.

As well as beautiful debris, shells also played an embalming role as they collect in shell middens from coastal communities. Having food “packaging” accumulate in vast heaps around towns and villages is hardly a modern phenomenon.

Many First Nations sites were inhabited continually for centuries. The discarded shells and scraps of bone from their food formed enormous mounds, called middens. Left over time, these unwanted dinner scraps transform through a quiet process of preservation.

Time and pressure leach the calcium carbonate, CaCO3, from the surrounding marine shells and help “embalm” bone and antler artifacts that would otherwise decay. Useful this, as antler makes for a fine sewing tool when worked into a needle. Much of what we know around the modification of natural objects into tools comes from this preservation.

Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound that shares the typical properties of other carbonates. CaCO3 is common in rocks and shells and is a useful antacid for those of you with touchy stomachs. In prepping fossil specimens embedded in limestone, it is useful to know that it reacts with stronger acids, releasing carbon dioxide: CaCO3(s) + 2HCl(aq) → CaCl2(aq) + CO2(g) + H2O(l)

For those of you wildly interested in the properties of CaCO3, may also find it interesting to note that calcium carbonate also releases carbon dioxide on when heated to greater than 840°C, to form calcium oxide or quicklime, reaction enthalpy 178 kJ / mole: CaCO3 → CaO + CO2.

Calcium carbonate reacts with water saturated with carbon dioxide to form the soluble calcium bicarbonate. Bone already contains calcium carbonate, as well as calcium phosphate, Ca2, but it is also made of protein, cells and living tissue.

Decaying bone acts as a sort of natural sponge that wicks in the calcium carbonate displaced from the shells. As protein decays inside the bone, it is replaced by the incoming calcium carbonate, making makes the bone harder and more durable.

The shells, beautiful in their own right, make the surrounding soil more alkaline, helping to preserve the bone and turning the dinner scraps into exquisite scientific specimens for future generations.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017