Friday, April 23, 2010

Ancient (and Tiny)

Like most kids I was fascinated by dinosaurs. Perhaps unlike most, I read everything I could about them, and prehistoric life in general (including an incredibly boring book about fossil shells). I dreamt of finding fossils like the the great dinosaur hunters of old, big time bone hunters such as Marsh and Cope; inspired no doubt by the birthday gift of the book, Men and Dinosaurs, by Edwin H. Cobert, from a family friend.

I recently went on a fossil hunting trip. And found, among others, the fossil brachiopod shown here, Terebratulina cooperi. These small marine invertebrates lived during the Cretaceous period, contemporaries of dinosaurs, some 73 to 138 million years ago.

I found this on a dredge spoil pile in northern Delaware, along the Chesapeake and Delaware canal. Imagine looking for fossils in a file of sand, pebbles, and rocks. Now realize that the fossil shown here is rather small.

Really small. I found it in a sand and gravel pile. Think about that. Needle in a haystack? This was a pebble in a pebble pile.

The fellow leading the trip, Ned Gilmore, found one as well, and he thought these were the prizes of the trip. I'd have rather found a dinosaur. But Ned is the Paleontology Collections Manager at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, (or as my nephew likes to call it, "the Dinosaur Museum"). And if a guy who daily works with dinosaurs thinks this is a cool fossil who am I to argue?

It was a fun day. I got to dig in the dirt and look for fossils. I was a kid again. Yep, I'll definitely be signing up for the next trip. And who knows, the first complete dinosaur skeleton, Hadrosaurus foulkii, was found less then fifteen miles from where I sit, maybe I just will find that dinosaur.


Anonymous said...

Pretty cool find, Steve! You must have very good eyes!


Anonymous said...

Fascinating - I love how you photographed it on a dime to show how small it is.

Anonymous said...

nice specimen! Good to read that C&D is still collectible.
Don in NC