Wandering in the Wilderness (Literally)

September 7th, 2009

MAKHTESH GADOL, ISRAEL–Today I mapped exposures of a particular fossiliferous unit in the Matmor Formation. It meant climbing up and down steep hills bent over the ground scanning for fossils. It is a remarkable skill we humans have for visually sorting through millions of images and then suddenly noting the one set of curves or angles or colors that identify a target. In my case I walked over thousands of square meters of rocky ground to spot bits of fossil crinoids, as in the photos below.

Crinoid calyx as found in the Matmor Formation (left); calyx fragments (right).  I use the two-shekel coin for scale because conveniently it is two centimeters in diameter!  Specimens found at N30.92907°, E34.97295°.

Crinoid calyx as found in the Matmor Formation (left); calyx fragments (right). I use the two-shekel coin for scale because conveniently it is two centimeters in diameter! Specimens found at N30.92907°, E34.97295°.

These crinoids are indicators of a unique community of echinoderms, brachiopods, sponges and corals found near the middle of the Matmor Formation. I collected enough specimens from several localities for analysis in the Wooster paleontology lab this winter and spring. I hope these fossils can be the basis of a student Independent Study project in Israel next year. It was much fun collecting these specimens because I never knew what treasure would turn up on the next hillside. A bit dangerous this kind of enthusiastic collecting in the desert because it is easy to forget to drink water — or even to stand up straight occasionally!

The sorted contents of one of my collection bags.  The items in the left two-thirds are crinoid parts.  Hotels probably don't like the way I use their towels in the afternoon!

The sorted contents of one of my collection bags. The items in the left two-thirds are crinoid parts. Hotels probably don't like the way I use their towels in the afternoon.

One Response to “Wandering in the Wilderness (Literally)”

  1. […] crinoid fragments, all belonging to at least two types of millericrinid (a crinoid family). Two years ago I collected some beautiful specimens, but still lacked some critical pieces. Today Will and I revisited my earlier localities (thank […]

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