Friday, 20 May 2022


A superbly prepped and extremely rare Lytoceras (Suess, 1865) ammonite found as a green ammonite nodule by Matt Cape in the Lower Lias of Dorset. 

Lytoceras are rare in the Lower Lias of Dorset — apart from the Belemnite Stone horizon — so much so that Paul Davis, whose skilled prep work you see here, initially thought it might be a Becheiceras hidden within the large, lumpy nodule. 

One of the reasons these lovelies are rarely found from here is that they are a Mediterranean Tethyian genus. The fossil fauna we find in the United Kingdom are dominated by Boreal Tethyian genera. 

We do find Lytoceras sp. in the Luridum subzone of the Pliensbachian showing that there was an influx of species from the Mediterranean realm during this time. This is the first occurrence of a Lytoceras that he has ever seen in a green nodule and Paul's seen quite a few. 

This absolutely cracking specimen was found and is in the collections of the awesome Matt Cape. Matt recognized that whatever was hidden in the nodule would take skilled and careful preparation using air scribes. Indeed it did. It took more than five hours of time and skill to unveil the lovely museum-worthy specimen you see here. 

We find Lytoceras in more than 1,000 outcrops around the globe ranging from the Jurassic through to the Cretaceous, some 189.6 to 109.00 million years ago. Once this specimen is fully prepped with the nodule material cut or scraped away, you can see the detailed crinkly growth lines or riblets on the shell and none of the expected coarse ribbing. 

Lytoceras sp. Photo: Craig Chivers
If you imagine running your finger along these, you would be tracing the work of decades of growth of these cephalopods. 

While we cannot know their actual lifespans, but we can make a healthy guess. 

The nautilus, their closest living cousins live upwards of 20 years — gods be good — and less than three years if conditions are poor.

The flanges, projecting flat ribs or collars, develop at the edge of the mouth border on the animal's mantle as they grow each new chamber. 

Each delicate flange grows over the course of the ammonites life, marking various points in time and life stages as the ammonite grew. There is a large variation within Lytoceras with regards to flanges. They provide both ornamentation and strength to the shell to protect it from water pressure as they moved into deeper seas.

The concretion prior to prep
This distinctive genus with its evolute shells are found in the Cretaceous marine deposits of: 

Antarctica (5 collections), Austria (19), Colombia (1), the Czech Republic (3), Egypt (2), France (194), Greenland (16), Hungary (25), Italy (11), Madagascar (2), Mexico (1), Morocco (4), Mozambique (1), Poland (2), Portugal (1), Romania (1), the Russian Federation (2), Slovakia (3), South Africa (1), Spain (24), Tanzania (1), Trinidad and Tobago (1), Tunisia (25); and the United States of America (17: Alaska, California, North Carolina, Oregon).

We also find them in Jurassic marine outcrops in:

Austria (15), Canada (9: British Columbia), Chile (6), France (181), Germany (11), Greenland (1), Hungary (189), India (1), Indonesia (1), Iran (1), Italy (50), Japan (14), Kenya (2), Luxembourg (4), Madagascar (2), Mexico (1), Morocco (43), New Zealand (15), Portugal (1), Romania (5), the Russian Federation (1), Slovakia (1), Spain (6), Switzerland (2), Tunisia (11), Turkey (12), Turkmenistan (1), Ukraine (5), the United Kingdom (12), United States (11: Alaska, California) — in at least 977 known collections. 


Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera (Cephalopoda entry)". Bulletins of American Paleontology. 363: 1–560. Archived from the original on 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2017-10-18.

Paleobiology Database - Lytoceras. 2017-10-19.

Systematic descriptions, Mesozoic Ammonoidea, by W.J Arkell, Bernhard Kummel, and C.W. Wright. 1957. Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part L. Geological Society of America and University of Kansas press.