Monday, February 28, 2022

Physalis infinemundi Plant Fossil

Wilf P, MR Carvalho, MA Gandolfo, NR Cúneo. 2017. Eocene lantern fruits from Gondwanan Patagonia and the early origins of Solanaceae. Science, v. 355, p. 71-75, 6 January 2017. DOI: 10.1126/science.aag2737. Image from CC by 4.0

Today's posting shows a fossil from the Solanaceae or nightshade family. It is called Physalis infinemundi (Wilf, 2017). When alive, it grew in Patagonia (location now known as Chubut Province, Argentia; about 52 million years ago Paleocene Epoch, Paleogene Period). Fossil was named by Peter Wilf of Penn State University in 2017. This fossil is curated at Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio in Trelew, Chubut, Argentina. It appears to be Physalis fruit also known as a fossil tomatillo. Moving ahead in time to the present, shown below is a picture of a tomato today grown with some of the latest agricultural technology.

Recently, I was interested in tomatoes after buying some in the produce section of the local Walmart. The tomatoes were quite good being that Kentucky is in the winter time. As it turns out the tomatoes were grown in Kentucky at an in door farm located in the Appalachia region of the state by AppHarvest. Doing some research into this company I was impressed that they were: bringing jobs to Appalachia, using recycled rainwater, growing enclosed thus no harsh chemical pesticides/LED lighting, climate controlled buildings where bees used for pollination, and robotic harvesting.

I used the tomatoes on garden salads and as one of the vegetables on burritos. They were very tasty! Picture below of tomatoes at the Walmart produce section.


Article about this fossil
 Wilf P, MR Carvalho, MA Gandolfo, NR Cúneo. 2017. Eocene lantern fruits from Gondwanan Patagonia and the early origins of Solanaceae. Science, v. 355, p. 71-75, 6 January 2017. DOI: 10.1126/science.aag2737

Informative blog post about Tomatillos
Blog post by Martha Stewart about her visit to AppHarvest

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Muensteroceras (Goniatites) indianensis Drawing from 1891


This image was scanned and Photoshop enhanced from Plate XIX figure 2 in Indiana Department of Geology and Natural Resources Seventeenth Annual Report 1891 by  Sylvester Scott Gorby (1848-1930). It is described on page 700 as a new species Goniatites indianensis (Miller, 1891). Fossil found in the lower Carboniferous Period.

"The species is founded upon two sandstone casts from the Knobstone or Waverly Group, of Clark County, Indiana, now in the State Museum of Indianapolis. The smaller specimen is only half the diameter of the one illustrated." The illustration measures about 30 mm across. Below is dorsal view shown in figure 3.


New name:Muensteroceras indianense

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Prodromites (Goniatites) gorbyi Drawing

This image was scanned and Photoshop enhanced from Plate XV figure 1 in Indiana Department of Geology and Natural Resources Seventeenth Annual Report 1891 by  Sylvester Scott Gorby (1848-1930). It is described on page 700 as a new species Goniatites gorbyi (Miller, 1891). "Collected by R. A. Blair, in the lower part of the Choteau limestone or Waverly Group, at Pin Hook Bridge, in Pettis County, Missouri, and now in the collection of the author (Samuel Almond Miller [1836-1897]). The specific name is in honor of Prof. S. S. Gorby, State Geologist. The plate lists "FR BANK DEL" so that is who created the image.

This genus was renamed in 1901 in Prodromites, A New Ammonite Genus from the Lower Carboniferous by James Perrin Smith (1864-1931) and Stuart Weller (1870-1927) in The Journal of Geology April-May 1901 Volume 9, Number 3 pages 255-266. The write on page 259, "Neither the description nor the figure given by Miller of this type is accurate, the drawings of the septa being entirely too generalized." The specimen is now at the Paleontological Collection Walker Museum University of Chicago No. 6208. Diameter 114 mm, height of last whorl 64 mm, height of last whorl from the proceeding 35 mm. They put a picture on Plate VI, figure 1 shown below:

It does not appear the Walker Museum exists any more. The building is now used by the English department at the university.


Smith, James Perrin, and Stuart Weller. “Prodromites, a New Ammonite Genus from the Lower Carboniferous.” The Journal of Geology, vol. 9, no. 3, The University of Chicago Press, 1901, pp. 255–66,

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

What Genus is this Ammonite Fossil?


My cousin Kenny acquired a partially exposed ammonite fossil from a long time mineral collector years ago. Recently, he has prepped more of it showing more of the inner whorl.  No collecting information is known about it and image searches have not shown any fossil quite like it.

The current guess as to what it might be is Euaspidoceras

UPDATE (August 2022): I now wonder if this a Prionocyclus hyatti  (Stanton, 1894) found in Kansas in the Cretaceous Period Carlile Formation. See this specimen at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History at Fort Hays State University.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Louisville's First Female Geologist?

Recently, I ordered the two volume set Geology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 1865-1965 by Robert Rakes Shrock (1904-1993). The first volume was published in 1977 and the second 1982. Unfortunately, the research material I was looking for was absent in these books. Something did catch my interest in volume 2 was in chapter 13 Women in Geology at MIT pages 395-442. 

The first female graduate profiled was Dixie Lee Bryant (1862-1949) born in Louisville, Kentucky on January 7, 1862. She has the distinction of being the first student to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from MIT in June 1891 with honors. Her theses was "A study of the most recent history of the tide water region of Charles River [Boston area]". The above picture is her 1891 school picture when she was at MIT. It has been colorized and visually adjusted with Photoshop Colorize and Smart Portrait neural filters.

While born in Louisville, her family moved in 1868 to Columbia, Tennessee while she was a young child. Dixie was  student at Columbia Female Institution for 10 years. Afterwards she taught a year at a school in Culleska, Tennessee and another year as a 1st grade teacher at public school at Columbia, Tennessee. Next she moved to Lexington, Kentucky and taught at Hamilton College for several years.

In 1887, Joy Scholarship was awarded to Bryant so she could attend MIT in 1887. The Joy Scholarship came about " the gift of Nabby Joy and created pursuant to a decree of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for the benefit of 'one or more women studying natural science at M.I.T.'" 

After graduating she taught at the State Normal School at Plymouth, New Hampshire. In October 1892, the North Carolina Normal and Industrial School (later name Woman's College of the University of North Carolina [Greensboro]) was created and Dixie Bryant joined this new faculty where she created laboratories in biology, chemistry, and physics. After teaching from 1892-1901, she left to start graduate studies at Madison, Wisconsin with Charles R. Van Hise (petrography). From there she left to continue studies at University of Heidelberg with Rosenbush (microscopical petrography) and finished her studies at Erlangen University in Bavaria. On June 30, 1904 she was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree (Magna Cum Laude) in Mineralogy. Her thesis was "The Petrography of Spitzbergen".

After getting this advanced degree, Dr. Bryant moved to Chicago, Illinois and taught for 27 years in high schools there. She retired in 1931 and lived in Asheville, North Carolina until her death on November 18, 1949. She is buried in Riverside Cemetery.

After her death, American Association of University Women (AAUW) created the Dixie Lee Bryant Fellowship in 1950. Later University of North Carolina at Greensboro (previous name State Normal) established the Dixie Lee Bryant STAMPS (Science, Technology, and Math Preparation) scholarship. In 2021, MIT honored Dixie Bryant by naming a 400 seat auditorium the Dixie Lee Bryant Lecture Hall in the Cecil and Ida Green Building.

Learn more: 

Dixie Lee Bryant scrapbook at UNC Greensboro (picture source)


Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Basilicus barrandei Trilobite


This is an image of a Basilicus barrandi (Hall, 1851) that appeared in plate 1, figure 5 Notes on the Ontogeny of Isotelus Gigas Dekay by Percy E. Raymond April 1914. This specimen was found at the Black River at the quarry on Limestone Creek near Platteville, Wisconsin, USA (type locality). The fossil is #34 of the Whitney collection at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

UPDATE (2-12-2022): After researching more about who this species was named for and looking it up at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, the species name was published with the wrong spelling. The name should be Basilicus barrandei. James Hall originally named it wrong in 1851 as Asaphus barrandi in the publication Report on the Geology of the Lake Superior Land District by John Wells Foster, Josiah Dwight Whitney, James Hall, Charles Whittlesey, and William Dwight Whitney. Percy Raymond left the name spelling like that in the 1914 publication to match it.

The species appears to be named for French palaeontologist Joachim Barrande (1799-1883).

Below is the description by James Hall in 1851 on pages 210 and 211. Source can be found at HathiTrust Digital Library.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Echinoid Spine Fossils in Crinoid Hash Plate

This fossil hash plate was found in the creek in Harrison County, Indiana USA. The fossils date to the Mississippian Period. What caught my attention was the two echinoid spines. One is about 3 cm in length.


Monday, February 7, 2022

Archaeocidaris? Echinoid Fossil


These fossil fragments might have once been an Archaeocidaris (McCoy, 1844) echinoid. It lived a Mississippian Period sea in what is now Washington County, Indiana USA. Note the hexagonal plates and spines.

Thanks to Kenny for the picture.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Return to Childhood Fossil Collecting Site


Last weekend I got a chance to visit my cousin Steven who lives on the road I grew up on. A small creek flows through this area that I spent many, many hours playing, exploring and observing this aquatic trail. While the creek was partially frozen over, I did see a number of crinoid and brachiopod fossils. Memories of crinoid columns being found are what I remember, at the time I thought they were fossilized plant stems. Below is the picture of brachiopod and fossils in a rock slab. Fossil dates to the Mississippian Period.