Thursday, 30 May 2019

OREGON: FOSSILS ALONG THE FARALLON PLATE

Had you been swimming with the marine fossils that were laid down in the Eocene Epoch in Oregon, some 55 to 38 million years ago, you'd be treading water right up to where the Cascade Mountains are today.

The Farallon Plate took a turn north some 57 million years ago, sweeping much of western coastal Oregon along with it. The Cascades were beginning to uplift and acting as the breakwater for a retreating Pacific Ocean.

By the middle Oligocene, the Cascadia Subduction Zone was in full force. The growing pressure fracturing our magma shield and causing volcanic eruptions along the Western Cascades. Lassen Peak erupted twice in fairly recent history, 1914 and 1921. Mount St. Helens has had a long history of minor eruptions but there was a massive eruption as recently as 1980.

We see a fair bit of volcanic action in Oregon right through to the Miocene. We also see lovely marine fossils from this same era. The soft ocean sediments of Oregon contain beautifully preserved gastropods, bivalves, wood, bone and cephalopods that range in age from 15 to 30 million years old.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

VERTIPECTEN FUCANUS

Vertipecten fucanus / Miocene / Clallam Formation
Some water worn samples of the fossil bivalve Vertipecten fucanus from lower Miocene deposits in the Clallam Formation. These were collected on the foreshore near Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, northwestern Washington.

Until Addicott's study from 1976, the area was considered middle Miocene. The new lower Miocene designation can be credited in large part to the restricted stratigraphic range of Vertipecten fucanus (Dall) and the restricted and overlapping ranges of several other mollusks.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

VISUAL POETRY: ON SUNSETS

Taking in the beauty and colours of  a sunset
One of the most satisfying moments is taking in a sunset after a long days hike. Pure visual poetry. Peaceful, meditative and well-earned. It is a time for reflection on the day, your world, fresh blisters - the gamut!

Have you ever wondered about the colors you see in these moments? What we see is actually a trick of the light. As rays of white sunlight travel through the atmosphere they collide with airborne particles and water droplets causing the rays to scatter. We see mostly the yellow, orange and red hues (the longer wavelengths) as the blues and greens (the shorter wavelengths) scatter more easily and get bounced out of the game rather early.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Sunday, 26 May 2019

OPHTHALMOPLAX BRASILIANA

Ophthalmoplax brasiliana  / Photo: José F. Ventura‎
Ventral view of the carnivorous portunoid crab Ophthalmoplax brasiliana (Maury, 1930) from the latest Maastrichtian (~66.2 Ma.) deposits near Coahuila, northern Mexico.

This marine species was originally thought to have been found only in the upper Member (Owl Creek Formation) Late/Upper Maastrichtian deposits of Tippah County in Mississippi, USA. Sohl and Koch published on the Mississippian finds in the USGS in 1983. Fedorov and Nyborg published on this same species again in 2017. Paleocoordinates: (34.8° N, 88.9° W: 38.3° N, 66.2° W)

Saturday, 25 May 2019

DRACULA, DINOSAURS & ANCIENT POT SHARDS

Râpa Roșie / Magyarosaurus dacus (von Huene, 1932)
Râpa Roșie is a geological and botanical reserve in the southwest Secaşelor Plateau, in mineral rich Alba County, central Romania. The distinctive red and white clays hold clues to our ancient past both from an archaeological and paleontological perspective.

Râpa Roșie sits in the southwestern part of the region known to you from books and lore as Transylvania. Home to Dracula, Late Cretaceous dwarf sauropod dinosaurs and ancient pot shards - oh my!

Paleo coordinates: 45°59′15″N 23°35′29″E

Friday, 24 May 2019

DINOSAUR PROVINCIAL PARK

Dinosaur Provincial Park / Alberta Badlands

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

FOSSILIZED WOOD

Fossilized Wood
Fossilized or petrified wood is amazing to behold in person. The original tree or branch is sometimes subjected to such a high degree of replacement that it is impossible to tell from the original at first glance. But fossilized it is. All of the original cells are replaced one by one with minerals, often a silicate such as quartz, leaving the original cell structure intact.

And while there is often amazing preservation of the big woody bits, the telltale leaves that help us identify that wood to species are often lost. If this is the case, we add our best guess at the genus and add xlon. So, Palmoxylon is the indeterminate wood of a palm, though we may never know which palm. If you have an interest in botany and fossils, you may want to consider making a career of it. The study of fossil wood is called palaeoxylology. And a palaeoxylologist is someone who studies fossil wood.

Monday, 20 May 2019

SQUAMISH: MOTHER OF WIND

Squamish Valley / Mother of Wind
Eagles, bears and breathtakingly beautiful scenery await those who travel north of Vancouver, British Columbia to the town of Squamish.

Situated at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains, Squamish is cradled in natural beauty as only a West Coast community can be. Growing in fame as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, visitors enjoy the breathtaking scenery while hiking, climbing, kicking back or participating in the growing number of attractions to explore in this wilderness community.

Before Europeans came to the Squamish Valley, the area was inhabited by the Squohomish tribes. They lived in North Vancouver and came to the Squamish Valley to hunt and fish. The first contact they had with European outsiders was in 1792, when Captain George Vancouver came to Squamish to trade near the residential area of Brackendale.

During the 1850s gold miners came in search of gold and an easier gold route to the Interior. Settlers began arriving in the area in 1889, with the majority of them being farmers relocating to the Squamish Valley. The first school was built in 1893 and the first hotel opened in 1902, on the old dock in Squamish.

Squamish means Mother of the Wind in Coast Salish, an homage to the winds that rise from the north before noon and blow steadily until dusk, making Squamish a top wind surfing destination and host to the annual PRO-AM sailboard races.

Stawamus Chief, Squamish
The Stawamus Chief, the second largest free standing piece of granite in the world at a staggering 2,297 ft or over 700 metres. It has made Squamish one of the top rock climbing destinations in North America. The Chief was formed in the early Cretaceous, 100 million years ago, as a pool of molten magma cooled deep in the Earth's belly.

This majestic peak is said to have been one of the last areas of dry ground during a time of tremendous flooding in the Squamish area.

Many cultures have a flood myth in their oral history and the Squamish are no exception. They tell of a time when all the world save the highest peaks were submerged and only one of their nation survived. Warned in a vision, a warrior of the Squamish nation escaped to safety atop Mount Chuckigh (Mount Garibaldi) as the flood waters rose.

After the flood, a majestic eagle came to him with a gift of salmon and told him that the world below was again hospitable and ready for his return. He climbed down the mountain to find his village covered by a layer of silt. All his people had perished, but the gods gave him another gift, a second survivor of the flood, a beautiful woman who became his wife. The couple took the eagle as their chief totem and have honored it ever since. If you are in Squamish in on the first Sunday after New Year's day, you can honour the eagles by participating in the Annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Count.

If you happen down the Sea to Sky Highway anytime between May to October, stop by the BC Museum of Mining or Squamish Adventure Centre. Both offer wonderful educational programs and cultural insights of the area with additional programs being planned..

The Squamish Lil̓wat Cultural Centre and the Whistler Centre for Sustainably are launching the Indigenous Tourism Start up Program (ITSP) with the hope of igniting indigenous-based social enterprises from communities in the Fraser Valley all the way to Lillooet.



Sunday, 19 May 2019

NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK

North Cascades National Park / Rainforest Pool

Saturday, 18 May 2019

MACROSCELIDES PROBOSCIDEUS

Elephant Shrew, Macroscelides proboscideus
This adorable little fellow is an Elephant shrew, Macroscelides proboscideus, one of 15 species of this order. These small, quadrupedal, insectivorous mammals strongly resemble rodents or opossums with their scaly tails, elongated snouts, and rather longish legs.

They are considered "Living Fossils" as they have not changed all that much in the past 30 million years. Elephant shew ought to have been named after rabbits. They move through the world like wee baby elephant-bunnies, snuffling and hopping about looking for tasty snacks.

Friday, 17 May 2019

PANOPEA ABRUPTA

The bivalve Panopea abrupta
This lovely large fossil bivalve is Panopea abrupta (Conrad) an extinct species of marine mollusc in the family Hiatellidae, subclass Heterodonta.

This specimen was collected from lower Miocene deposits in the Clallam Formation on the foreshore bordering the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, northwestern Washington.

Clallam Bay is a sleepy little town on the northwestern edge of the Olympic Peninsula. It was founded back in the 1880s as a steamboat stop and later served as a Mill town. If you are planning to visit the fossil exposures, head to the edge of town where it meets the sea.

Once at the water's edge, head east along the shore until you can go no further. You'll find marine fossils in the sandstones on the shore and cliffs. Mind the tide as access to the fossil site is only possible at low or mid-tide. You'll have to swim for it if you time it poorly. Clallam Bay: 48°15′17″N 124°15′30″W

Thursday, 16 May 2019

WALLISEROPS: JOUST A PLAISANCE

Walliserops, Photo: Gianpaolo Di Silvestro
A beautiful detail of a Walliserops, a genus of spinose phacopid trilobite of the family Acastidae found in the Lower to Middle Devonian strata near Foum Zguid, Tata Province, Souss-Massa, southeastern Morocco.

Their wee horns or tridents suggest sexual dimorphism though this concept is still a hotbed of debate. Did they use them much as we used a traditional jousting lance back in the 14th century. It is an interesting proposition. Kudos and photo credit to Gianpaolo Di Silvestro

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

CAMBRIAN LASCAUX CHINOIS

Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a Cambrian Fuxinhuiid Arthropod
This fellow is Chengjiangocaris kunmingensis, a rather glorious fuxinhuiid arthropod. While he looks like he could be from the inside of the Lascaux Caves and their fire-kissed Palaeolithic paintings, albeit by a very ancient Picasso, he was found at a UNESCO World Heritage Cambrian fossil site in southern China.

As his name indicates, he is from a locality in the Yunnan region near Kunming. He is unusual in many ways, both because of the remarkable level of preservation and the position in which he was found.

This fellow was a bit of a tippy arthropod. His carapace had flipped over before fossilisation, allowing researchers to to examine this fuxianhuiid's head in great detail without a carapace in the way.

The study, published back in the February 27, 2013 issue of Nature, highlights the discovery of previously controversial limbs under the head. These limbs were used to shovel sediment into the mouth as the fuxianhuiid crawled across the seabed.

Using a feeding technique scientist's call 'detritus sweep-feeding', fuxianhuiids developed the limbs to push seafloor sediment into the mouth in order to filter it for organic matter – such as traces of decomposed seaweed – which constituted the creatures' food.

Fossils also revealed the oldest nervous system on record that is 'post-cephalic' – or beyond the head – consisting of only a single stark string in what was a very basic form of early life compared to today.

"Since biologists rely heavily on organisation of head appendages to classify arthropod groups, such as insects and spiders, our study provides a crucial reference point for reconstructing the evolutionary history and relationships of the most diverse and abundant animals on Earth," said Javier Ortega-Hernández, from Cambridge's Department of Earth Sciences.

Ortega-Hernández co-authored the paper with Nicholas Butterfield and colleagues from Yunnan University in Kunming, South China.

The Xiaoshiba 'biota' in the Chiungchussu Formation Maotianshan shales of China's Yunnan Province is similar to the world-famous Chengjiang biota, and also produces spectacular arthropod fossils.

The recent publication on the Qingjiang biota found on the edge of the Yangze craton along the banks of China’s Danshui River are similar in age, competing with the world's most famous Cambrian fossil assemblage, the Burgess Shale.

The roughly 518-million-year-old site contains a dizzying abundance of beautifully preserved weird and wonderful life-forms, from jellyfish and comb jellies to arthropods and algae and is about 10 million years older than Burgess and if you're following Chinese lagerstätte, the site is just over a thousand miles from the Chengjiang site.

Photo credit: Yie Jang (Yunnan University)

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

CENOMANIAN-TURONIAN IMPACT

Ichthyosaur and Plesiosaur by Edouard Riou, 1863
During the early Triassic period, ichthyosaurs evolved from a group of unidentified land reptiles that returned to the sea. They were particularly abundant in the later Triassic and early Jurassic periods before being replaced as premier aquatic predator by another marine reptilian group, the Plesiosauria, in the later Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

In the Late Cretaceous, ichthyosaurs were hard hit by the Cenomanian-Turonian anoxic event. As the deepest benthos layers of the seas became anoxic, poisoned by hydrogen sulphide, deep water marine life died off. This caused a cascade that wreaked havoc all the way up the food chain. At the end of that chain were our mighty predaceous marine reptiles.

Bounty turned to scarcity and a race for survival began. The ichthyosaurs lost that race as the last of their lineage became extinct. It may have been their conservative evolution as a genus when faced with a need for adaptation to the world in which they found themselves and/or being outcompeted by early mosasaurs.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

FERNIE AMMONITE

This impressive big beauty is Titanites occidentalis, Western Giant, the second known specimen of this extinct fossil species. The first was discovered in 1947 in nearby Coal Creek by a British Columbia Geophysical Society mapping team.

Titanities is an extinct ammonite cephalopod genus within the family Dorsoplanitidae that lived during the upper Tithonian of the Late Jurassic, some 152 to 145 million years ago.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

ISOGRAPTUS MAXIMUS

Isograptus maximus / Photo: Gilberto Juárez Huarachi
This fellow is the graptolite, Isograptus cf. maximus, from the Piranha Formation, Middle Ordovician (Dapingian), Bolivia.

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).

This fellow is pure "Bat Sign" with his showy "wings" looking like something out of a DC Comic. He's also received a nod as the Panem symbol in Hunger Games and been described as having eagle or angel wings. No matter how you interpret his symbolism, there is not doubt that he is ONE spectacular specimen and currently in the collection of the deeply awesome Gilberto Juárez Huarachi of Tarija, Bolivia.

Friday, 10 May 2019

URSUS AMERICANUS

Bear cubs are known for being playful and all together too curious. They usually stick pretty close to Mamma but sometimes an intriguing opportunity for discovery will cross their paths and entice them to slip away for just a few minutes. This alder tree was one such treat.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

ILYMATOGYRA ARIETINA

Ilymatogyra arietina (Oyster Slab) Lower Cretaceous, Washita Division, Del Rio Formation, Williamson County, Texas, USA

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

COAHUILACERATOPS MAGNACUERNA

Coahuilaceratops or "Coahuila Horn Face," is a relatively new genus of Ornithischia Ceratopsidae, a  herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur who lived during the Upper Cretaceous (late Campanian) near the town of Porvenir de Jalpa (about 64 km / 40 miles west of Saltillo) in what is now southern Coahuila (formerly Coahuila de Zaragoza), northern Mexico.

The Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range runs northwest to southwest forming a spine through the centre of the State. East of the range, the arid landscape slopes gently through desert terrain down to the Rio Grande. It is home to wonderful common, rare and endangered cacti, beautiful (and one of my favourite) raptors, Aquila chrysaetos and the evolutionarily unlikely pronghorn, Antilocapra americana (if a monkey / owl / antelope had a baby...)

The world was a much wetter warmer place when these big beauties roamed. Picture them ambling through lush vegetation and rearing young next to freshwater rivers, brackish swamps and salty ancient seas. Many of the dinosaur remains from the area bear the marks or remains of fossilized snails and clams. Perhaps predation vs a symbiotic relationship as proximity isn't always intimacy. The Coahuilaceratops magnacuerna is known from holotype CPC 276, a partial skeleton of an adult along with bits and pieces of skull, a section of horn, pretty complete lower jaw, smidge of upper jaw and part of the frill.

Another specimen, CPS 277, has been touted as a possible juvenile Coahuilaceratops. All the specimens from Coahuilaceratops come from a single Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) locality of the Cerro del Pueblo Formation, northern Mexico.

This particular species of Coahuilaceratops was formally named C. magnacuerna by Mark A. Loewen, Scott D. Sampson, Eric K. Lund, Andrew A. Farke, Martha C. Aguillón-Martínez, C.A. de Leon, R.A. Rodríguez-de la Rosa, Michael A. Getty and David A. Eberth in 2010. Though the name was in circulation informally by those working in the study of ceratopsian dinosaurs as early as 2008.

Though challenged by examining and interpreting mere bits and pieces, the team posed estimates on the overall size of this new rather largish, 6.7 m / 22 ft, chasmosaurine. Coahuilaceratops' horns are also impressively large, estimated at 1.2 m / 4 feet. Rather long for a ceratopsian (consider that a Triceratops distinctive horn generally comes in under 115 cm / 45 inches and interesting in terms of evolutionary design. The holotypes are available for viewing at the Museo del Desierto en Saltillo, Coahuila. Photo credit: José F. Ventura

Monday, 6 May 2019

Friday, 3 May 2019

PROTOASTER HAEFNERI

This beautiful specimen is Protoaster Haefneri, a new species of edrioasteroid, an extinct lower Cambrian genus of echinoderm from the Kinzers Formation of York County, Pennsylvania.

The specimen was found by and named after Chris Haefner, and is set to be "unveiled" this September at a conference in Moscow, Russia.

He is one of only two specimens of this new lower Cambrian genus of echinoderm found in the 520 million years shales of the Kinzers. The specimens were collected during field work in 2017 and 2018 and form the basis of the research to be published this Fall by Dr. Samuel Zamora of Spain.

Protoaster Haefneri was a mobile bulbous creature (about the size of a smaller onion) with feeding tendrils extended from the sides.

This specimen (and one other) went into collections at the Natural History Museum of London in December 2018, as NHMUK PI EE 16659 and 16660.

Along with this new edrioasteroid, other Cambrian fauna were discovered, including delicate soft-bodied creatures we think of from the middle Cambrian Burgess Shale and trilobites matching species from the lesser known and slightly older, lower Cambrian Eager Formation, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.

The locality is plentiful. Field work revealed two massive complete Anomalocarid (six and eight inches in length; one a new species); a new species of brown algae, over a hundred specimens of the cupcake-looking echinoderm, Camptostroma roddyi, upwards of four hundred Olenellus trilobites and forty complete Wannerias.

We'll definitely be seeing more photos and fauna from this productive 20-acre hilltop site. I'm rather hoping this flood of specimens will rekindle excitement into the naming of Wanneria, and perhaps someone taking up the mantle to continue the as yet unpublished work of Lisa Bohach.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

TEMPLO PALENQUE

Templo de las Inscripciones Palenque

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

POSIDONIA ERUENDOS

Early Jurassic Ichthyosaur Paddle
This beautifully preserved Ichthyosaur paddle is from Early Jurassic (183 Million Years) deposits in the Ohmden, Posidonia Shale Formation, Baden-Württemberg, east of the Rhine, southwestern Germany.