Friday, December 31, 2010

Athyris spiriferoides Internal Impression

The Athyris spiriferoides brachiopod fossil found in the Jeffersonville or Beechwood Limestone of Clark County, Indiana. It is too bad part of the fossil is broken off.  The species was named by Eaton in the American Journal of Science and Arts, volume XXI. page 137, published 1831 (also referred to as Terebratula spiriferoides).  I have only found two of these fossils and this one is the first showing an internal mold.

The Smithsonian Department of Paleobiology Collections database lists three specimens in their collection: PAL 174179 (hypotype - Mahantango Formation - Hamiliton Group - Frame Shale Member - Bedford County, PA), PAL 177384 (hypotype - Romney Formation - Hamiliton Member - Alleghany County, MD), and PAL 177385 (hypotype - Romney Formation - Hamiliton Member - Alleghany County, MD).  

Dave at Views of the Mahantango gave me specimens of this species also. It was found in the Ludlowville Formation of the Hamilton Group of Erie County, New York (documented in this May 25, 2010 posting).

This link leads to the other Athyris spiriferoides I have found documented October 7, 2009.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Disappearing Spoon... A review sort of

Everyone that has taken a chemistry class has some exposure to the periodic table.  Probably every science classroom has it hanging on the wall.  The book The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean tells stories of how elements on the periodic table were discovered and people that helped provide the information in those elemental squares.

The title of the book refers a practical joke that chemists sometimes play.  While serving hot tea to guests, the spoons used for stirring would be composed of gallium.  Gallium is a solid while at room temperature that looks like aluminum.  Once the material heats to over 80 degrees Fahrenheit it turns to a liquid.  Watch this great video showing this trick.

Even though this book pertains more to chemistry, science history, and physics there is a tie in to paleontology.  In the section of the book talking about pathological sciences.  The author describes these sciences as "a marginal and unlikely phenomenon" which scientific principles and practices are used to prove its existence (e.g. spiritualism in the 1800s, cold fusion)

On pages 260-263 the author writes of the branch of paleontology that tries to reconstruct extinct creatures.  The chemical relationship is the ship HMS Challenger in 1873 doing marine research recovered conical and spherical manganese pieces from the deep sea floor.  When some of these nodules were cracked open, they revealed megalodon shark teeth.  The pathological part of the science emerges when people started to study the manganese plaque on the teeth.  The build up should show 1.5 million years of accumulation but some teeth only had 11,000 years worth.  Ideas circulated that like the coelacanth, the megalodons escaped extinction.  It appears though the teeth with thin manganese layers were probably covered for long periods of time and then exposed recently.

One of stories I found eye opening was that of aluminum refinement (international spelling: aluminium).  The metal in pure form was once as valuable as gold.  As the book informs, the United States in 1884 as a show of its rising world power, capped the Washington Monument with a 6 pound pyramid of aluminum.  Today along American roads, one can find discarded aluminum beer and soft drink cans.  Amazing that once such a valuable metal is now trash on the side of the road!  What changed, scientists figured out that electricity would separate the element into its pure form. With aluminum the most abundant metal on the earth's surface... the price became very cheap. It makes one wonder if space agencies would concentrate on asteroid mining, our planet would be awash in cheaper rare and common metals.

Another fact learned in the book was the contribution to the periodic table the locality of Ytterby, Sweden has made.  The mines there accounted for the discovery of seven new elements (ytterbium, yttrium, terbium, erbium, holmium, thulium, gadolinium).  Also from reading the book is the migration of chemical research from France and Germany to the United States which now might be migrating to Asian countries.

Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev circa 1885
"father of modern periodic table"
 The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Public Domain on Wikipedia 
There are sad stories as well about the toll research took on some of the scientists. Marie Curie and her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie dying of leukemia from their work with radioactivity.  Enrico Fermi suffered from exposure to beryllium.  How harmful some elements can be to the population and environment.   The author's revelations about the harmful effects of cadmium at the Japanese Kamioka mines.  Also how this incident tied to the Godzilla movies later produced in the country.  Another tale of doom on how nitrogen gas can kill as NASA found out with the shuttle program.

Another fascinating story is that of the remains of an ancient natural fission reactor found in Oklo, Africa.  Too many insightful and interesting tales to cover in this 391 page book to review here.  Go to Sam Kean's web site to learn more about it and how you can obtain a copy to read!

I enjoyed reading the book.  The Louisville Public Library has a number of copies, even so I was put on a waiting list back in August 2010 which put 27 people in front of me to read it.  Finally a copy became available right before Christmas.  So I read it pretty quickly so it could get back in circulation because there were 28 people still waiting to read the book.

One recommendation is going to Theodore Gray's Periodic Table website while reading The Disappearing Spoon.  Mr. Gray's pictures of all the elements and their practical uses makes great reading and helped me visualize the material with the element names as they were mentioned in the book.

 Periodic Table
Source: Wikipedia
Public Domain Image

Gypsum Sample

Over the holiday, a visit to my cold storage area was in order to obtain a gypsum sample collected from a Mississippian Period road cut in Meade County, Kentucky.  The plan was to compare it to the material found earlier in a Devonian Orthospirifer brachiopod.  The first five images are of the Meade County specimen.  The color changes in some images due to the use of white LED, fluorescent, and incandescent lighting.

The previous post had some great comments on how one might identify whether this material is gypsum.  Working on a venting system to perform those chemical tests.

The last two are of the Devonian specimen. Learn more about it at this post from December 19, 2010.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

B-Rex on 60 Minutes

The CBS news program 60 Minutes had reporter Leslie Stahl interview Jack Horner and Mary Schweitzer (North Carolina State University) about trying to re-creating dinosaurs using chickens.  The B-rex named in the title is named after a T-rex specimen found by Bob Harmon in 2000.  The fossil was too big to airlift from the find location so they cut it to reduce weight. The part of the cut fossil bone were then sent to researcher Dr. Schwitzer who after dissolving pieces in acid found a soft tissue like substance.  She was able to reproduce this with other dinosaur fossils.  Now they are trying to find DNA which could then be used to replicate a dinosaur.

Here is a direct link to the story if the embedded video is not showing up correctly on Blogger.  Dinosaur fossil cast shown in this post does not relate to this story and is just here for reference. It is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as of August 2010.

Mr. Horner will be at the University of Kentucky in February 2011 for a free lecture.  See earlier post for more information about that lecture.  Jack Horner and James Gorman have a book as well entitled How To Build a Dinosaur - Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever that one can find on

Pliosaur Fossil to Be CT Scanned

Skull fragments of a 10-16 m pliosaur marine reptile found in 2009 (Dorset, England) will be CT scanned at the University of Southhampton in the UK according to a December 22, 2010, BBC story.

This link leads to the story by Rebecca Morelle entitled, "Colossal pliosaur fossil secrets revealed by CT scanner". Learn more at that video link provided.

 Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni at British Natural History Museum 2005
photo by Niki Odolphie (Frome, England) 

The marine reptile known as the Pliosaur existed in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods (learn more at this Wikipedia link).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Fossil Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas to one and all!  May you get lots of geological goodies this holiday season.  Hope the new year brings good health and safe travels.

For the curious, this years image contains fossils from four time periods.  The star, red and blue ornaments are Ordovician crinoid stem pieces of Madison, Indiana.  The trunk is an unidentified crinoid stem from the Silurian Waldron Shale of Clark County, Indiana.  The tree body is an unidentified horn coral from the Devonian Jeffersonville Limestone of Clark County, Indiana.  Last, the yellow ornaments are unidentified crinoid/blastoid stem pieces from the Mississippian Period limestones of Crawford County, Indiana.  All the fossils have had their colors modified to match a real Christmas tree.

See this April 2010 blog post on the Ordovician crinoid pieces for their identifications.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cupularostrum tethys Brachiopod

Identified using Henry Nettelroth's Kentucky Fossils Shells book (1889) found at this site.  In the book, it was identified as Rhynchonella tethys (Billings, 1860).  Its modern name is Cupularostrum tethys (Billings). 

This small fossil was found in the Jeffersonville Limestone of Clark County, Indiana USA.  This layer would date it to the Middle Devonian Period.  It is a rare find for me making two found so far.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How to Build a Dinosaur Lecture

The KY-AIPG is sponsoring a FREE lecture that is open to the public by Jack Horner.  It will take place on Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 7:30 PM.  Jack's lecture is entitled "How to Build a Dinosaur - Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever".  John R. "Jack" Horner is curator & teacher of paleontology at Museum of the Rockies (Montana State University at Bozeman).  He was a technical adviser for some of the Jurassic Park movies.

Event will be held at:

Singletary Center for the Arts
University of Kentucky
405 Rose St.
Lexington, KY 40506

Sponsored by the University of Kentucky -Kentucky Geological Survey and Morehead State University.

Learn more by reading their PDF flier found at this site:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dendritic Crystal Growth

Sometimes these are considered pseudofossils but they are manganese oxides - dendritic crystal growth.  This specimen was found in Solnhofen, Bayern, Germany.  It is on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (2010).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One of the Oldest Petrified Woods

This Callixylon newberryi plant fossil is of the late Devonian period.  Fossils like this are considered some of the oldest petrified woods in the world.  This piece was found in Bullitt County, Kentucky in the New Albany Shale.

See this post for pictures of larger section of fossil wood on display at the Indiana State Museum.  Also this post about a really large fossil trunk on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.  The Kentucky Paleontological Society has a very nicely prepared and photographed magnified sample seen here.

Below are pictures of the fossil shown at the beginning of this post.  It is a magnified view of a cut and polished section of one end.

 The next slide shows it magnified at 100x.  Need to find a way to fix the camera to the microscope so I can stack images to improve the overall image quality!

This last slide shows a 100x magnification of the long grain view of the wood.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Calymene Update Part 3

Not a lot of work since the last time.  A large section of matrix was removed along one side of the thorax.  Started using a polishing wheel on the Dremel tool to make the brown parts shiny.  Used the needle tool to clean small lines of matrix on thorax and cephalon.

Used Helicon Focus to process these images.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fibrous or Needlelike Mineral Growth in Orthospirifer

While sorting Devonian brachiopod specimens for upcoming posts on beekite and internal coral growths I came across this oddity.  It appears to be a needlelike or fibrous mineral that grew inside the fossil. 

Looking at the list of Indiana minerals that are needlelike are: aragonite (calcium carbonate), strontianite (strontium carbonate --RARE), and geotite (iron oxide in water).  Indiana minerals that are fibrous are gypsum (calcium sulphate in water).  So I think it is either gypsum or aragonite.  Any suggestions as to what mineral this might be?

The material does not respond to long or short wave UV.

This Orthospirifer brachiopod was found in the Jeffersonville Limestone of Clark County, Indiana.

Additional photographs show specimen plus it magnified 20x with a loupe, 40x & 100x with a microscope.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dendrites - Plant Pseudofossil?

While at the home and garden supply store picking up concrete materials, this rock was in the landscaping area.  I could not let it get torn up so I saved it from becoming part of a walkway.  Not sure where it came from or exactly what it is. The rock is in layers in a pinkish-red color with dendrite patterns through out.  On one edge is a collection of small crystals.  If the rock could be split it appears more layers have the dendrite pattern.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Funky Old Leptaena

The funky old Leptaena brachiopod fossil to paraphrase the name of Tone Loc song's Funky Cold Medina.  The Leptaena waldronensis brachiopods found in the Waldron Shale of Clark County, Indiana are quite fragile.  The glue stick needs to be used to hold the shell pieces in place when one of this size is found.

What one might not realize is how tall these creatures were in relation to other brachiopods of the time.  Also one finding them does not since most that are found are compacted or partials.  This specimen somewhat demonstrates this though part of its shell/imprint is missing.

These next images are of a different Leptaena waldronensis as one might tell with the different lighting used.  Also some of these images were not stacked with Helicon Focus software. 

Creatures existed in the Middle Silurian wild time.