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Heidi Henderson
14,361 followers -
Blue Planet | Explorer in Residence
Blue Planet | Explorer in Residence

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ICELANDIC MANE
ICELANDIC MANE
fossilhuntress.blogspot.com
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I've traveled to Morocco and hiked through the Atlas Mountains. Alas, those trips were in the years before the Atlas Medusa had been discovered.

Discovered in the Atlas Mountains five years ago, this miraculous find has undergone a three year excavation and preparation period. Several dozen ton of rock were cleared to expose the original ammonite framework. And what an amazing find it is!

Over eight tons of sheer rocks were transported from the mountaintop to the nearest dirt track – impassable by car – over 7km away. A feat achieved by meticulously fragmenting the rock, so as not to damage the ammonites, and all carefully carried downhill by camels.

Over two years a team of highly skilled fossil preparation experts painstakingly marked the exact location of each rock within the block, before sand blasting and hand preparing every segment, to reveal the perfect ammonites within in the finest detail. They were later repositioned in their exact original location and the entire piece now reveals exactly how the ammonites would have lain over 90 million years ago.

This astonishing piece of natural history contains over 200 individual ammonites, of 25 different species, as well as two nautilus species. The dense concentration of ammonites is due to currents on the bottom of the ocean clearing intervening sediments to leave the individual shells, which built up over time. Most of the ammonites are rare heteromorphs – a group which appeared in the Cretaceous, towards the end of the existence of ammonites.

Heteromorphs had unusual openly-spiralled shells, the function of which is still a mystery.

The Atlas Medusa is an extraordinary museum quality piece, and at almost half a metre deep this tactile, captivating and complex three-dimensional specimen is an astonishing example of natural history as well as painstaking excavation.

Species: 25 various species Location: Atlas Mountains, Morocco. Age: Cretaceous - 90 Million Years Old.

Kudos to John Fam for bringing this assemblage to my attention & to Dale Rogers for sharing his work collecting there. If you’d like to know more, follow the link below.

Credit: http://www.dalerogersammonite.com/collections/the-atlas-medusa/product/the-atlas-medusa/
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Fossil Starfish
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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.
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High up in the Canadian Rockies in an area known as Burgess Pass is one of the most unlikely, perfect and improbably fossil sites on Earth.

Paleontologists and fossil enthusiasts agree that British Columbia has some of the important fossil localities in the world. We are blessed with beautiful, accessible abundant strata and a committed fossil community. It is easy to forget sometimes just how lucky we are.

One of the most amazing fossil sites in the world is in our backyard. The Burgess Shale, a Middle Cambrian site high up (a mighty 2,286 metres above sea level) in a glacier-carved cliff in Yoho National Park is one of those amazing sites. The fine-grained shales that make up 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 it’s 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 continues to wow scientists and the community at large year after year. Charles was in Canada after losing is 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 that the Burgess received the interest it deserved. Charles had a lot on his plate and Simonella picked up the slack nicely.

In 1967, Harry Whittington initiated the Cambridge Project to open up the files and build on the work of his predecessors. He brought two grad students on board (keen but a dime a dozen!) to do the heavy lifting as a means to publish or perish. Both Simon Conway Morris (Worms) and Derek Briggs (Arthropods) completed the trio and the foundation for some serious study finally got underway.

Imagine being Walcott -- his wonder at holding the predecessors of all life in his hands. Seeing the detail. Wondering at the strange and unlikely creatures made real before his eyes. It’s mind-blowing. It is a rare thing to see soft-bodied organisms fossilized. We see this kind of exquisite preservation in the limestones of Solnhofen, Germany, but globally, the occurrence is rare.

Technology has amped up the wow factor and increased our ability to view this ancient past through the use of advanced imaging. Things we’ve only dreamt of are now real. We’ve been able to see nervous systems and discrete organs through this lens.

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.

The Burgess Shale contains the best record we have of Cambrian animal fossils. It reveals the most complete record of creatures we have who proliferated the Earth after the Cambrian explosion 545 to 525 million years ago. It was a time of oceanic life. The land was all but inhospitable, barren and uninhabited. Great soft fine-grained mudslides slid onto an ecosystem in a deep-water basin. Millions of years later, this unlikely event was revealed through the fossils preserved in the Burgess. Burgess is unmatched but a fossil find in Kootenay National Park, about 42 kms to the south, gives it a strong run for it’s money. More on that in another post.

Photo Credit: Keith Schengili-Roberts
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1585076

#paleontology   #fossils   #burgess   #walcott   #shale   #anomolocaris   #rare   #canadian   #briggs   #fossil   #huntress  
BURGESS, WALCOTT & THE WAVING WORMS
BURGESS, WALCOTT & THE WAVING WORMS
fossilhuntress.blogspot.com
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Visit the Charmouth Heritage Centre to see their amazing fossil collections and find out how to discover your own fossils on the beach. They offer guided fossil hunting walks that make a great family day out on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

Free entry to the Centre, come and meet the Charmouth dinosaur and explore the past and present of this incredible coastline.

https://charmouth.org/chcc/events-calendar/
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Quintus Sertorius, a Roman statesman come general, grew up in Umbria, the green heart of what is now central Italy.

Born into a world at war just two years before the Romans sacked Corinth to bring Greece under Roman rule, Quintus lived much of his life as a military man far from the hills, mountains, and valleys of his birthplace.

In 81 BC, he traveled to Morocco, the land of opium, massive trilobites and the birthplace of Antaeus, the legendary North African ogre who was killed by the Greek hero Heracles.

The locals tell a tale that Quintus requested proof of Antaeus, hard evidence he could bring back to Rome to support their tales so they took him to a mound at Tingis, Morocco, where they unearthed the bones of a Neogene elephant, Tetralophodon.

During the Miocene and Pliocene, 12-1.6 million years ago, this diverse group of extinct proboscideans, elephant-like animals walked the Earth.

Most of these large beasts had four tusks and likely a trunk similar to modern elephants. They were creatures of legend, inspiring myths and stories of fanciful creatures to the first humans to encounter them.

Tetralophodon bones are large and skeletons singularly impressive. Impressive enough to be taken for something else entirely. By all accounts these proboscidean remains were that of the mythical ogre Antaeus and were thus reported back to Rome as such. It was hundreds of years before their true heritage was known.

I was lucky enough to travel to Morocco a few years ago and see the Tetralophodon remains. At the time, the tales of Antaeus ran through my head. Could this be the proof that Quintus wanted. As it happens, it was.
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Vargas Island has one of the highest concentrations of Nuu-chah-nulth heritage sites in Clayoquot Sound. The traditional territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation incorporates much of the western portion of Vancouver Island and offers an excellent vantage point for observing marine mammals.

Naturalists are drawn to this area every spring as Gray Whales migrate through the offshore waters en route to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.
VARGAS ISLAND
VARGAS ISLAND
fossilhuntress.blogspot.com
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This Hettangian ammonite, Alsatites proaries, is a lovely example of the cephalopods cruising our ancient oceans at that time. 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.
HETTANGIAN AMMONITES
HETTANGIAN AMMONITES
fossilhuntress.blogspot.com
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At the end of the Triassic period, the ammonites died out almost entirely.

During the Hettangian, however, the "Neoammonites" developed relatively quickly, so that even in the middle Hettangian a large number of genera and species existed.

This Hettangian ammonite, Alsatites proaries, is a lovely example of the cephalopods cruising our ancient oceans at that time.

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. Keel broad and blunt organisms, they also exhibit a primary ribbing which is close and persistent.

In British Columbia, we see the most diverse middle and late Hettangian (Early Jurassic) ammonite assemblages in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

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, and for this reason a separate zonation for the Hettangian and Sinemurian of the Western Cordillera of North America has been established by Taylor et al. (2001).

However, little Canadian information was included when the zonation was erected. 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.

The Queen Charlotte fauna permits correlations with Hettangian and early Sinemurian faunas in other areas of North America, South America, New Zealand, western and eastern Tethys, and northwest Europe.

The Queen Charlotte fauna supports the location of Wrangellia in the northern Hemisphere and the eastern Pacific during the Hettangian and suggests significant northward displacement for the terrane since that time.

Note: All the middle and upper Hettangian is present but current collections do not permit the division of the Mulleri and Occidentalis zones or the Mineralense and Rursicostatum zones.

#paleontology #fossil #huntress #hettangian #ammonites #cephalopod #early #jurassic
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31/08/2018
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