Fossil Vertebrates. Beach and Bank Collecting for Amateurs

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Calcareous replacement occurs when the hard parts of an organism are replaced by calcite , dolomite , or aragonite a mineral which is composed of calcium carbonate but which is less stable than calcite.

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The exoskeletons of many corals, echinoderms, brachiopods, and mollusks have been replaced in this manner. When the original organic hard parts have been replaced by silica the fossil is said to have undergone silicification , and this type of replacement often produces a very high degree of preservation.

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This is particularly true of the silicified Permian geologic time scale, Pl. These fossils are embedded in limestone which must be dissolved in vats of acid, and after the enclosing rock has been dissolved the residue yields an amazing variety of perfectly preserved invertebrate fossils Pl. Silicified Cretaceous fossils have been recovered from the Edwards limestone of central Texas. The silicified fauna is restricted to a few scattered localities, each of which may yield many unusually well-preserved fossils.

Several different iron compounds have been known to replace organic matter.


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Many Texas limestones contain fossil snails and clams which have had their original shell material replaced by iron compounds such as limonite, hematite, marcasite, or pyrite. Certain of the fossiliferous Tertiary sandstones of the Texas Gulf Coast area contain large amounts of glauconite which commonly replaced organic material. In some areas entire faunas have been replaced by iron compounds.

Ammonites, clams, snails, and corals are particularly abundant at this locality. Fossils consist not only of plant and animal remains but of any evidence of their existence. In this type of fossilization there is no direct evidence of the original organism, rather there is some definite indication of the former presence of some ancient plant or animal. Objects of this sort normally furnish considerable information as to the identity or characteristics of the organism responsible for them. Many shells, bones, leaves, and other forms of organic matter are preserved as molds and casts.

If a shell had been pressed down into the ocean bottom before the sediment had hardened into rock , it may have left the impression of the exterior of the shell. This impression is known as a mold Pl. If at some later time this mold was filled with another material, this produced a cast. This cast will show the original external characteristics of the shell.

Such objects are called external molds if they show the external features of the hard parts Pl. Molds and casts are to be found in almost all of the fossil-bearing rocks of Texas, and they make up a large part of most fossil collections.

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It is particularly common to find fossil clams and snails preserved by this method. This is primarily because their shells are composed of minerals that are relatively easy to dissolve, and the original shell material is often destroyed. Many animals have left records of their movements over dry land or the sea bottom. Some of these, such as footprints Pl. Thus, the study of a series of dinosaur tracks would not only indicate the size and shape of the foot but also provide some information as to the weight and length of the animal.

In addition, the type of rock containing the track would help determine the conditions under which the dinosaur lived. These footprints, which are about ,, years old Pl. Great slabs of limestone were transported to the museums, replaced in their original position, and are now on display as mute evidence of the gigantic size of these tremendous reptiles. Invertebrates also leave tracks and trails of their activities, and these markings may be seen on the surfaces of many sandstone and limestone deposits.

These may be simple tracks, left as the animal moved over the surface, or the burrows of crabs or other burrowing animals. Markings of this sort provide some evidence of the manner of locomotion of these organisms and of the type of environment that they inhabited.

Coprolites are fossil dung or body waste fig. These objects can provide valuable information as to the food habits or anatomical structure of the animal that made them. Sketch of a coprolite —fossilized animal excrement. These highly polished well-rounded stones fig. Sketch of a gastrolith —the gizzard stone of an ancient reptile. Among the many inorganic objects formed by nature there are some that bear superficial resemblance to plants or animals. These thin branching mineral deposits bear a marked resemblance to plants, hence they are called pseudofossils.

Fossil Vertebrates. Beach and Bank Collecting for Amateurs

Although these closely resemble the remains of ferns or other plant material fig. They are often found along the bedding planes of Cretaceous and Paleozoic geologic time scale, Pl. Photograph courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History. Permission to reproduce by R. These are striations that are produced when rock surfaces move past each other while being fractured.

Fossil vertebrates: Beach and bank collecting for amateurs

Slickensides may superficially resemble certain of the Pennsylvanian coal plants of Texas. Since slickensides are commonly at an angle to the bedding plane and plant remains lie parallel to the bedding plane, the two are usually easily distinguished. Many shales and sandstones contain hardened masses of minerals and rock that are often mistaken for fossils. These masses, called concretions, are usually found weathered out of the surrounding rock and may assume the shape of bones, flowers, vegetables, turtles, etc.

Although these concretions do not represent organic remains, it is sometimes possible to find true fossils inside them. Fossil collecting is a relatively inexpensive hobby because it requires a minimum of supplies and equipment. However, as in almost any hobby, there are certain basic items of equipment that must be acquired.

One type has a square head on one end and a pick on the other Pl. The square head of the hammer is useful in breaking or chipping harder rocks, and the chisel or pick end is good for digging, prying, and splitting soft rocks. It will be necessary to have some type of bag in which to carry equipment, fossils, and other supplies. A Boy Scout knapsack, musette bag Pl. A pair of chisels is useful when fossils must be chipped out of the surrounding rock.

A small sharp punch or awl is effective in removing smaller specimens from the softer rocks. Some specimens are more fragile than others, and these should be handled with special care.

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Several sheets of newspaper should always be kept in the collecting bag, and each specimen should be wrapped individually as it is collected. Such precautions taken in the field will usually prevent prized specimens from being broken or otherwise damaged. In addition to newspaper, it is wise to carry a supply of tissue paper in which to wrap more fragile specimens.

It is most important to have some method of recording where the fossils were found. It is very easy to forget where the material was collected, and one should never rely on memory. A small pocket-sized notebook is inexpensive and just the right size to carry in the field. A highway or county map should be used to find the geographic location of each collecting locality.

These are available for all counties and may be purchased at a nominal price. A magnifying glass or hand lens Pl. A power magnification is satisfactory for most purposes, and several inexpensive models are available. Small bags are useful in separating specimens from different localities. Heavy-duty hardware bags for large rough material and medium-weight grocery bags for smaller specimens may be used.


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Locality data may be written directly on the bag or on a label placed inside with the fossils. As an added precaution some collectors do both. The more serious collector may want to use a cloth geological sample bag Pl.

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