Sunday, 30 December 2018

CALYCOCERAS TARRANTENSE

Previously Calycoceras Tarrantense, this ammonite is now called Conlinoceras tarrantense after J.P. Conlin, a famous early 20th century Texas fossil collector.

Ammonite expert Bill Cobban used this collection to describe many Texas Cretaceous ammonites species including this species from Tarrant County, Arlington, Texas.

He was a surveyor by training and kept incredibly detailed notes on the context of his fossils.

Conlin donated his collection to the USGS and we’ve learned much by studying it along with other specimens from the Lone Star State. Almost a quarter of Texas is covered by Cretaceous strata, much of it fossiliferous. If we stepped back 95 million years, the world and what we now call Texas, was a very different place.

95 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous, a shallow seaway separated North America into separate eastern and western landmasses. We have a pretty complete picture in the fossil record of the western groups of species but relatively little in comparison for their cohorts in the east.

At the time this fellow was swimming our ancient seas, he was sharing the Earth with carnivorous dinosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, mammals, crocodilians, turtles, a variety of amphibians, prehistoric bony fish, oddly prolific sea cucumbers, various invertebrates and plants. Many of these sites are just being written up now and contain new species just being discovered.

During the Late Cretaceous Period a shallow seaway separated North America into separate eastern and western landmasses. The Woodbine Formation in Texas preserves a rare fossil record of this time for the east, but many of these fossils are isolated and incomplete, making interpretations more difficult. Preliminary excavations at the AAS are providing hints at a more complete ecosystem, preserving similar patterns of change to what we see in the west.

The AAS contains an extraordinary diversity, abundance, and quality of fossil material, preserving one of the most complete terrestrial ecosystems known for this time period and area.

The AAS has a lot to tell us about Late Cretaceous life in the east. Over 2200 individual specimens have been found belonging to numerous groups including carnivorous dinosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, crocodilians, turtles, mammals, amphibians, sharks, bony fish, invertebrates, and plants.

Many of the fossils found here represent brand new species and studying these fossils will help to establish the geographic and environmental forces that shaped Cretaceous ecosystems in North America by providing a necessary comparison to the fossil record of the west.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

PHASIANUS CHOLCHICUS

Common Pheasant, Phasianus Cholchicus
These playful lovelies are beautiful examples of the Common Pheasant, Phasianus Cholchicus. We associate them with tweet shorn English aristocrats jauntily going about the hunt on horseback. Pheasants build their nests on the ground and can fly for short distances. They spend their days searching around field and stream looking for tasty insects, seeds and grain.

Friday, 21 December 2018

PUMA CONCOLOR

Cougars are meat-eating mammals (primarily dining on deer) who boast being the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. They are impressive athletes, able to leap 18 feet or more straight upward from a sitting position.

They lead solitary lives and are excellent at avoiding humans for the most part. Cougars have a massive range which runs from the mountainous Canadian Rockies in northwestern Canada all the way down to Patagonia in South America. These cats make their dens in mountain graggs, along rocky ledges, in dense woodland areas and under uprooted trees and debris.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

HOLCOPHYLLOCERAS

Amazing suturing on this lovely ammonite, Holcophylloceras mediterraneum, (Neumayr 1871) from Late Jurassic (Oxfordian) deposits near Sokoja, Madagasgar.

The shells had many chambers divided by walls called septa. The chambers were connected by a tube called a siphuncle which allowed for the control of buoyancy with the hollow inner chambers of the shell acting as air tanks to help them float.

We can see the edges of this specimen's shell where it would have continued out to the last chamber, the body-chamber, where the ammonite lived. Picture a squid or octopus, now add a shell and a ton of water. That's him!


Thursday, 8 November 2018

Monday, 29 October 2018

PHYLLOCERAS CONSANGUINEUM

Phylloceras consanguineum (Gemmellaro 1876) a fast-moving carnivorous ammonite from Late Jurassic (Middle Oxfordian) deposits near Sokoja, Madagasgar, off the southeast coast of Africa. (22.8° S, 44.4° E: 28.5° S, 18.2° E)

This classical Tethyan Mediterranean specimen is very well preserved, showing much of his delicate suturing in intricate detail. Phylloceras were primitive ammonites with involute, laterally flattened shells.

They were smooth, with very little ornamentation, which led researchers to think of them resembling plant leaves and gave rise to their name, which means "leaf-horn."

They can be found in three regions that I know of.  In the Jurassic of Italy near western Sicily's Rosso Ammonitico Formation, Lower Kimmeridgian fossiliferous beds of Monte Inici East and Castello Inici (38.0° N, 12.9° E: 26.7° N, 15.4° E) and in the Arimine area, southeastern Toyama Prefecture, northern central Japan, roughly (36.5° N, 137.5° E: 43.6° N, 140.6° E) Dōitashimashite ; )

Saturday, 27 October 2018

RHACOLEPIS BUCCALIS

Rhacolepis Buccalis, an extinct genus of ray-finned fossil fish in carbonate concretion, Lower Cretaceous, Santana Formation, Brazil. These nektonic carnivores swam our ancient seas 122-109 million years ago.

Le premier et unique géoparc mondial UNESCO est situé dans le Cariri du Ceará (géoparc Araripe), dans l'intérieur semi-aride de la région Nordeste, Brésil

Thursday, 25 October 2018

BREWERICERAS HULENENSE

Brewericeras hulenense (Anderson 1938) a fast-moving, nektonic (no idle floating here!) carnivorous ammonite from the Lower Cretaceous (Albian) of Haida Gwaii (aka Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia, Canada.

Ammonites belong to the class of animals called mollusks. More specifically they are cephalopods. and first appeared in the lower Devonian Period.

Cephalopods were an abundant and diverse group during the Paleozoic Era. This specimen is just over 12cm in length, a little under the average of 13.4cm. There are several localities in the Queen Charlotte Islands where Brewericeras can be found (six that I know of and likely plenty more!) This specimen was found on a trip a few years back done with the Vancouver Paleontological Society and a few of the members of some of the Island paleo groups. The preservation is quite remarkable!

Brewericeras are also found in Albian deposits in Svedenborgfjellet, Ulladalen, Norway (Cretaceous of Svalbard and Jan Mayen - så fin!) (77.7° N, 15.2° E: paleocoordinates 66.6° N, 13.6° E) and Matanuska-Susitna County, Alaska, 62.0° N, 147.7° W: paleocoordinates 57.3° N, 85.6° W (112.6 to 109.0 Ma.)

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Friday, 12 October 2018

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

JURASSIC BOUNTY

This Jurassic ammonite 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.

Within the basal part of the sequence, sedimentary beds are found interbedded with lapilli and crystal-tuffs. They include maroon tuffaceous sandstone, orange-grey sandstone, granule sandstone and conglomerate. Ammonites are found alongside gastropods and pelecypods. The Bonanza group is estimated to be at least 1000 metres thick.

We did a fossil field trip up there a few years ago. The site is quite small and the window to collect was limited so we were keen to see what had been exposed.

The drive up the mountain was thrilling as there had just been heavy rains and the road was washed out and narrowed until it was barely the width of our wheel base and then narrower further to be just shy of the width of the vehicle -- thrilling to say the least.

So scary that my passengers all got out as there was a good chance of going over the edge. I was going by some hand written notes and a wee map on a napkin that should have read, "park at the bottom and hike up," Ah, glorious fossils.

Graham Beard from Qualicum Beach was the fellow who showed me the site and drew the wee map for me. I cannot recall everyone on the trip, but Perry Poon was there (he shot a video of the drive up that he described as thrilling. I've never seen it but would like to one day) and so was Patricia Coutts with her lovely doberman. She and I had just done a trip up to Goldbridge where the cliff we were on had turned into a landslide into a ravine so she was feeling understandably cautious about the power of Mother Nature.

As I recall, I wasn't in my ordinary vehicle but a rental because my car had been stolen the weekend I'd headed to Jurassic Point to visit fossil sites with John Fam and Dan Bowen. Fortuitous really, as they stole my car but I'd unloaded my precious fossil collecting gear out of the trunk the day before.

Picture the angle, the hood of my jeep riding high and hiding what remained of the road beneath and a lovely stick shift that made you roll backwards a wee bit with every move to put it into gear. So, without being able to see the very narrow path beneath, I had to just keep going.

Both Perry and Patricia helped with filling in the pot holes so my tires would have something to grip. I bent the frame on the jeep heading up and had some explaining to do when I returned it to the car rental place.

The Memekay site yielded a mix of ammonites, gastropods and bivalves. Many of them poorly preserved.

Once up, I had to drive the whole thing again back down. Solo, as no one wanted to chance it. But well worth the effort as we found some great fossils and with them more information on the paleontology and geology of Vancouver Island.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Thursday, 20 September 2018

GRAPTOLITES

Graptolites (Graptolita) are colonial animals. The biological affinities of the graptolites have always been debatable. Originally regarded as being related to the hydrozoans, graptolites are now considered to be related to the pterobranchs, a rare group of modern marine animals.

The graptolites are now classed as hemichordates (phylum Hemichordata), a primitive group which probably shares a common ancestry with the vertebrates.

In life, many graptolites appear to have been planktonic, drifting freely on the surface of ancient seas or attached to floating seaweed by means of a slender thread. Some forms of graptolite lived attached to the sea-floor by a root-like base. Graptolite fossils are often found in shales and slates. The deceased planktonic graptolites would sink down to and settle on the sea floor, eventually becoming entombed in the sediment and are thus well preserved.

Graptolite fossils are found flattened along the bedding plane of the rocks in which they occur. They vary in shape, but are most commonly dendritic or branching (such as Dictoyonema), saw-blade like, or "tuning fork" shaped, such as Didymograptus murchisoni.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

DIABLO LAKE, NORTH CASCADES

Diablo Lake is a reservoir in the North Cascade mountains of northern Washington state

Sunday, 2 September 2018

BURGESS, WALCOTT & WAVING CAMBRIAN WORMS

High up in the Canadian Rockies in an area known as Burgess Pass is one of the most unlikely, perfect and improbable fossil sites on Earth. The Burgess Shale sits high up on the glacier-carved cliffs of the Canadian Rockies.

The fine-grained shales from the Burgess were once part of the ancient landmass known as Laurentia, the ancient geologic core of the North American continent, and are home to some of the most diverse and well-preserved fossils in the world. The sedimentary shales here contain fossils that open a window to marine life some 508 million years ago.

The site is made up of a few quarries and includes the Stephen Formation (Mount Wapta and Mount Field) and the upper Walcott quarry with its Phyllopod Bed. There is also a lower quarry named for Professor Piercy Raymond who opened the site in 1924.

It is one of the rare locations in the world where both soft tissues and hard body parts have been fossilized amidst the layers of black shale that form Fossil Ridge and the surrounding areas.
Discovered 109-years ago in 1909 by Charles D. Walcott, the site has continued to wow scientists and the community at large year after year. Charles was in Canada after losing his first wife to a train crash in Connecticut. He met Mary Morris Vaux, an amateur naturalist from a wealthy family and this new love and her interest in the wilds of Canada had brought him back.

Walcott was a geologist, paleontologist and administrator of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, USA. He was an expert in Cambrian fossils for his time. A company man, he joined the US Geological Survey in 1879 and rose to become a director in 1894.  He served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1923 and was an advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt.

Picture the world at this time. Coca-Cola sold their first soft drink, in Germany, Wilhelm Roentgen developed the first x-ray and it was a year before the United States Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" public facilities for whites and blacks ought to be legal.

So, up and coming Walcott was up exploring in the Rockies and stopped to rest his horse. Always a rock man, he had his hammer handy and split some likely blocks. They contained trilobites and other arthropods now famous from the site.

While he recognized the significance of the site, it wasn’t until 1960 through the work of Alberot Simonella and others that the Burgess received the scientific attention it deserved.

In 1967, Harry Whittington initiated the Cambridge Project to re-open the Burgess files and build on the work of his predecessors. He brought two grad students on board to do the heavy lifting as a means to publish or perish. Simon Conway Morris (Worms) and Derek Briggs (Arthropods) completed the trio and together they formed the foundation of what was to become some of the most significant work of our time.

Imagine the first paleontologists working on these weird and wonderful specimens. Wondering at the strange and unlikely creatures made real before their eyes. It is a rare and exquisite thing to see soft-bodied organisms fossilized.

Every year, a new species or magnificent specimen is unearthed. In 2011, a hiker discovered a rare fossil of Ovatiovemis, a genus of filter-feeding lobopodians. Picture a marine worm with nine arms waving to you. Yep, that’s him. The specimen she found is now described as Ovatiovermis cribratus and is one of only two known specimens of Oviatiovermis from the Burgess.

This important site in the Canadian Rockies has been awarded protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1981) in recognition of the exceptional fossil preservation and diversity of the species found here.

With countless hours of research and study, we now know the Burgess Shale contains the best record we have of Cambrian animal fossils. It reveals the most complete record of creatures that proliferated the Earth showcasing the Cambrian explosion 545 to 525 million years ago.

It was a time of oceanic life in all it's splendor. The land may habe been inhospitable, barren and uninhabited but our oceans were teeming with new species. Great soft fine-grained mudslides slid onto an ecosystem in a deep-water basin.

Millions of years later, this unlikely event was revealed to us through the fossils preserved at Burgess.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Friday, 31 August 2018

HETTANGIAN AMMONITES

Alsatites proaries, Photo Source: Wikipedia
At the end of the Rhaetian (part of the Triassic period), most of the ammonites had died out.

The Hettangian, a rather poorly understood 3 million year time interval followed the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event.

During the Hettangian, the new or  Neoammonites developed quite quickly. Within a million years, a fairly large, diverse selection of genera and species had risen to fill the void. It is the time in our geologic history that the smooth shelled ammonite genus Psiloceras first appears.

It spans the time between 201.3 ± 0.2 Ma and 199.3 ± 0.3 Ma (million years ago). For my European friends, the Hettangian is the time span in which the marine limestone, shales and clay Lias of western Europe were deposited.

This Hettangian ammonite, Alsatites proaries, is a lovely example of the cephalopods cruising our ancient oceans at that time. They would have been swimming in the same seas, and being eaten occasionally, by Temnodontosaurus, a long, slender, large-eyed ichthyosaur.

Alsatites is an extinct genus of cephalopod belonging to the Ammonite subclass. They lived during the Early Jurassic, Hettangian till the Sinemurian and are generally extremely evolute, many whorled with a broad keel. Or, as described by one of my very young friends, he looks like a coiled snake you make in pottery class.

He does, indeed.

In British Columbia, we see the most diverse middle and late Hettangian (Early Jurassic) ammonite assemblages in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), an archipelago about 50 km off BC’s northern Pacific coast.

In total, 53 ammonite taxa are described of which Paradasyceras carteri, Franziceras kennecottense, Pleuroacanthites charlottensis, Ectocentrites pacificus and Curviceras haidae are new.

In general, North American Early Jurassic ammonites are of Tethyan affinity or endemic to the eastern Pacific. For this reason a separate zonation for the Hettangian and Sinemurian of the Western Cordillera of North America was established. Taylor et al. (2001), wrote up and published on much of this early research though, at the time, very little Canadian information was included.

Since then, Dr. Louise Longridge (Longridge et al. (2006) made significant changes to the upper Hettangian and lower Sinemurian zones based on a detailed study of the Badouxia fauna from Taseko Lakes. As part of her thesis, she studied the Queen Charlotte fauna to help draw comparisons and update the literature.

MONTENEGRO GEOLOGY


Thursday, 30 August 2018

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

FORT STRAZNIK, MONTENEGRO

Fort Stražnik, Orjen, Montenegro

Monday, 27 August 2018

BIOGRADSKA GORA

Biogradska Gora National Park, Montenegro

Friday, 24 August 2018

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Monday, 30 July 2018

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Saturday, 14 July 2018

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, 6 July 2018

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Monday, 2 July 2018

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!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

HAPPY CANADA DAY

Happy Canada Day. Someone cue the beaver. This fellow was having a tasty snack of fresh dandelions by the side of the road. Completely uninterested in my approach or paparazzi moment he just munched away. Must get that all the time...

Thursday, 28 June 2018

GOTLAND: SWEDISH TERRENEUVIAN

Gotland: Swedish Island in the Baltic Sea
Gotland, a large Swedish island in the Baltic Sea is a rich source of Cambrian brachiopod fossils and home of the Mästermyr chest, an ancient tool chest from the Viking Age (793–1066 AD) a time when Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by sea for trade, raids, colonization, and conquest, not unlike their sea dwelling brethren.

Brachiopods are one of the few groups of marine animals that have a relatively complete extant to fossil record from their sporadic modern distribution all the way back to the Terreneuvian in the early Cambrian.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

TERRACOTTA WARRIORS

The Terracotta Army is a collection of more than 7,000 life-size figures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor of China, set in military formation found in an archaeological excavation near Xi'An, Shaanxi Province, China.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Sunday, 3 June 2018

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.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Friday, 11 May 2018

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Thursday, 3 May 2018

AGASSIZ

A wonderful replica of Furo Philpotae (Agassiz) fossil fish from the Jurassic of Lyme Regis, UK by Natural Selection Fossils.

The original specimen that this replica is made from is the most complete ever found and considered the best preserved in the world. This beauty with a ton of exquisite detail measures approximately 87 cm in length.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Saturday, 21 April 2018

GINKO BILOBA

Each year, I grow Ginko and Metasequoia to plant on Earth Day. They serve as an homage to the environment and a offering to Gaia for a cleaner, kinder world.

RAIN SHOWERS BRING...


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Thursday, 12 April 2018

BONE TO STONE

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 the bone harder and more durable.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Tuesday, 10 April 2018