Marion Wheaton, WCGMC co-founder along with her late husband Jim, passed away last month at the age of 89. She is survived by her daughters Nancy and Diane, her sister Barbara, her brother Paul, many nieces and nephews, and by a host of WCGMC rockhound friends.
In addition to being a co-founder of our club, Marion served as Editor of this newsletter for many years. Marion and Jim volunteered many hours displaying and educating young and old all around Wayne County and beyond with their mineral collection and Mastodon bones. Her daughter Diane tells us that Marion was buried with a Herkimer diamond, her Wayne County Gem & Mineral Club pin, and a beautiful pink rhodochrosite brooch necklace she always wore. Continue reading A Tribute to Marion Wheaton→
A while back I wrote an article about paleontologist Mary Anning and the postage stamps that honor her amazing discovery of marine reptiles in the seaside cliffs of southern England. After reading the story, Donna Smith informed me of a historical novel she had enjoyed about Mary’s discoveries and her life in early 19th century England. I am not an avid reader of historical fiction, but I decided to give this book a try, ordering a copy online and putting it on the top of my June reading list.
“Remarkable Creatures” was written by Tracy Chevalier and published in 2009. It was listed on the New York Times Bestseller list. I found the narrative very easy to read as the author mixed actual geologic and historic events into the lifestyles and culture of the time. Women were not expected to hunt fossils, much less study them, and Mary Anning was not of the “proper class” to be taken seriously or given credit for her accomplishments regardless of her gender.
I am a member of the Rochester Academy of Science Fossil Section. In last month’s newsletter (called the Fossiletter), Michael Greiner wrote a wonderful biographic note on Mary Anning touching aspects of her professional accomplishments and her personal life. Mary was an early 19th century paleontologist in England who is credited with discovering and describing several Cretaceous marine reptiles including Plesiosaurus and Ichthyosaurus. I enjoyed learning about her fascinating contributions to paleontology.
After reading the full article I wondered if Mary Anning had ever been commemorated on a postage stamp. Yes, I collect postage stamps with a thematic specialty of geology on stamps. This includes minerals, fossils, dinosaurs, volcanoes, and yes, famous geologists. I was not aware of any Mary Anning stamps, but I did know where to look for them. And I found a few.
Several WCGMC fossil enthusiasts joined the Buffalo Geological Society’s annual fossil trip to the Cincinnati area in late April. We thank Jerry Bastedo for organizing yet another fine outing into the Ordovician rocks surrounding the Cincinnati Arch. All told we visited 11 roadcuts in three states during our 4 days in the area. And we found fossils at all of them! Down there they say that if there is rock exposed in a roadcut there will be fossils. From my experiences to date, I firmly believe this statement.
We collected hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the common Ordovician brachiopods and horn corals that seem to be ubiquitous and I added to my collection of Solenapora from the site in Flemingsburg, Kentucky (see April 2019 newsletter), but I’d like to focus on two locations and special finds that folks made at other Kentucky sites.
Yes, we are going all the way to Kentucky for a fossil location, specifically to a long, but fairly non-descript roadcut on State Route 11 in Flemingsburg. The site is on my radar because at least four members of WCGMC plan to collect at the site in late April. We will be doing so on a 4-day, 7-site trip led by Jerry Bastedo and the Buffalo Geological Society. But it is also a site WCGMC visited last Labor Day on its week long trip to Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland. Continue reading Kentucky Fossils→
On occasion, cleaning out that old box of leftover and generally forgotten minerals from a past trip can provide an unexpected reward. Last month I uncovered a box of rather ordinary wavellite specimens from the club visit to Mount Pleasant Mills, PA in April of 2016. Among the cruddy and generally less than desirable wavellite discards I found a fossil gastropod that I had remembered collecting, but had pretty much forgotten. It was time to clean it up and do a little research. After all, that is what the winter months are for in western New York.
Having collected stromatolites in several locations in New York and Ontario, I was attracted to a small polished piece offered this past October by a dealer at the Rochester Gem and Mineral show. It was labeled Kabamba Jasper – stromatolite, Madagascar. It was a pretty green color, showed physical characteristics of a stromatolitic origin, and best of all, it was reasonably priced. I bought it and came home to research the geology and age of my new find. Immediately, things got complicated.
Bruce Leis has been an enthusiastic collector and researcher of stromatolites for over two decades. He has visited them worldwide, photographing their distinctive patterns and studying their geologic setting. In 2015 he teamed up with retired professor Bruce Stinchcomb and paleo-artist Terry McKee to produce a unique book detailing these wonderful and important geologic features. Anyone interested in earth’s geologic history and the development of life on this planet should enjoy their wonderfully illustrated 176 full page size treatise.
Generally, when Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club packs up the buckets, hammers, passports and bug repellent to head north of the border we are after minerals in the Precambrian rocks of the Grenville Geological Province. But recently we have been able to make an annual stop in younger rocks to collect fossils in Ordovician limestones in the Eganville area of eastern Ontario. Specifically we visit the Haley Quarry in Douglas, Ontario and search the Upper Ordovician Verulam and Lindsey Formations of the Ottawa Group. We did so again this year on Wednesday July 19th.
In late April, six members of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club joined a Buffalo Geological Society fossil collecting trip to the Cincinnati area led by Jerry Bastedo. We visited several productive sites, but I thought I would direct this month’s site of the month to the southernmost collecting spot we visited. Most of the trip focused on quarries and roadcuts that expose Ordovician and Silurian strata in the Cincinnati Arch. However, on Saturday, we climbed all the way up to the Mississippian by driving several hours south to a modest roadcut in Wax, Kentucky where we collected blastoids in the Glen Dean Formation.
Fossil collectors will travel hours and brave cold temperatures and rain for a chance to collect trilobites. Heck, we will settle for trilobite parts. Most of us will pick up a complete brachiopod and even try to identify it by Genus. Check our garages and you will find hundreds, no thousands, of solitary rugose corals such as Heliophyllum halli and probably almost as many colonial tabulates such as Favosites or Pleurodictyum corals. We’ll jump for a gastropod and drool when a orthonic (straight-backed) cephalopod pops out in outcrop or shows himself (herself?) in a stone on the beach. And need I say more than Eurypterid to get you excited? BUT, who among us loves Bryozoans enough to even take a branching colony or a fan-like species home. And if you do take one home does it end up identified and in your collection? My guess is it does not. Perhaps I can change that.
You may have heard the theories that modern birds are descendent from dinosaurs that roamed the planet in the Mesozoic Era (225-65 million years ago), like the Velociraptor depicted above. And that some of those dinosaurs, both large and small, are now purported to have had feathers. But, have you seen any of the direct evidence?
Sometimes it is fun to just explore for fossils or minerals by visiting an unknown location, perhaps one with potentially appropriate geology, but not a site with documented fossils or minerals. One may not find much, but occasionally one stumbles onto something completely unexpected and equally interesting. In the fall of 2015 Stephen Mayer and I had such an experience when we decided to investigate the geology along Reeder Creek in Varick, NY.
Leave it to the field trip leader of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club, Bill Chapman, to find something new! Well, not exactly new, but certainly unusual. Plumalina plumaria were first described by Hall (1878). Yes, they look like feathers, and one might want to classify them as ferns or plants of some sort, but the latest understanding of these rather rare fossils is that they were hydroids (Muscente and Allmon, 2013). Hydroids are a class of small predators that are related to jellyfish. Dominated by soft-body parts hydroids are not well preserved in the fossil record causing extinct species to often be labeled Incertae Sedis in many fossil lists. Incertae Sedis are extinct organisms with unknown or uncertain relation to known phyla.
In mid-September, Bill Lesniak and I ventured a couple states west and south on a Buffalo Geological Society four-day fossil trip led by Jerry Bastedo. Our first quarry stop on a pleasant sunny Friday morning was in southeast Indiana at the Napoleon Quarry in Ripley County. It was a great site, but for me it might have been all that much better had I done a little research before the trip. But better late than never and here is what I have since learned.
I have trouble finding one lone whole trilobite when I go out collecting in the Devonian of New York. And then along comes this note from central Poland where researcher Blazej Blazejowski reports that the eyeless trilobite Trimerocephalus chopini can be found preserved in trains with head to tail (or in trilobite lingo with cephalon to pygidium). He infers that the queues actually represent migratory chains as the ancient arthropods marched across the seafloor, perhaps in an unsuccessful effort to escape near and present danger.
Wouldn’t it be neat to find a queue of arthropods after splitting some Hamilton Group shales? Or maybe there was no reason for New York trilobites to migrate? Perhaps life was just too good to move?
Blazejowski, B., et. al., 2016 Ancient animal migration: a case study of eyeless dimorphic Devonian trilobites from Poland, Palaeontology, V. 59, p. 743-751.
Many thanks to Stephen Mayer for writing this collecting trip note for the August WCGMC newsletter and also for allowing me to post it my blog.
By Stephen Mayer
Tammy and I are back from a vacation in the desert southwest. Naturally, we took some time between visits to National Parks to do a little fossil and mineral collecting in Utah. The setting and geology are quite different than in western New York.
Very thick shale and calcareous mudstones are widespread in Millard County, west-central Utah and contain some of the best Cambrian biotas in the world. Not only are there 505-520 million year old fossils abundant, but also recent volcanism in the same region has left its mark with abundant rocks and minerals. Specifically, well preserved trilobites and beautiful topaz crystals can be collected.
It was not that long ago that Wayne County and the rest of western New York were located just south of the equator while basking in tropical temperatures. A large and shallow inland sea dominated the region with high mountains to the east and a shallow continental margin to the west. The sea was replete with life. Invertebrates dominated the sea bottom, corals and brachiopods filtered nutrients from the seawater to survive, while trilobites, cephalopods (squid), and a host of other scavenger and predator species roamed the benthic (sea bottom) region feeding on them. Numerous species of gastropods (snails) and bivalves (clams) were abundant also. The seas above were dominated by large armored fish (i.e. Dunkleosteus) and a multitude of smaller fish. It was the Devonian Period of earth’s history. It was the age of fish.
It happened in a flash. At our April Friday club meeting, trip leader Bill Chapman announced that we had been granted permission to enter Seneca Stone Quarry on the upcoming Monday and wondered who might be free and interested. Seneca Falls is quite close and apparently we either have a lot of idle folk in the club or a lot of anxious collectors ready to get busy. Eleven folks indicated interest and in a slight mist all eleven converged on the quarry site just south of Seneca Falls ready to collect on Monday morning April 11th.
co-authored with Stephen Mayer for the March 2016 Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club newsletter
As geologists and amateur fossil and rock hounds, many of us focus on the Proterozoic minerals of the Adirondacks and/or the Paleozoic fossils of western and central New York State. However, two very important and much overlooked prehistoric animals roamed New York State approximately 10,000 years ago. The Woolly Mammoth and the American Mastodon were prominent residents in our own backyards.