Archive for May 25th, 2010

An abundance of Cretaceous shark teeth

May 25th, 2010

Shark teeth found in the Upper Cretaceous Prairie Bluff Formation in Starkville, Mississippi.

STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI — OK, Andrew Retzler, please identify these teeth as best as you can in the comments below!  For everyone else, Andrew will be leaving with me in little more than a week for Israel where he will be collecting Late Cretaceous shark’s teeth as part of his Independent Study project.  He already proved very adept at sorting out a set of Israeli fossil shark’s teeth I had collected last year, so we’re giving him some more practice before his fieldwork.  It is possible we will have collected enough teeth by the end of this trip that he will be able to use them for comparisons.  Megan has proven especially good at finding teeth and other shark bits.

We meet the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in Mississippi

May 25th, 2010

STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI — George Phillips took us to a series of Starkville outcrops today straddling the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary.  The boundary here is gradational and generally marked by a color change from gray in the upper Prairie Bluff Formation to light brown in the lower Clayton Formation.  Since we want to collect fossils just below and just above the boundary, these localities were ideal for us.

Megan Innis and George Phillips at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary in Starkville, Mississippi.

We were able to collect many encrusters and borings above and below this fateful event horizon.  I was most impressed by the diversity of encrusting foraminiferans on shells and phosphatic pebbles on both sides of the K/T, apparently showing little effects of the extinction.  A long time ago I did some systematic and paleoecological work with this group, so I may return to them to test these observations.

We also noted the proliferation of tiny oysters (especially Pycnodonte pulaskiensis) in the Clayton sediments immediately above the extinction horizon.  These are part of the initial survival and recovery fauna and thus keys to the future repopulation of this shallow marine ecosystem.

Small oysters in the lowermost Clayton Formation (Paleocene) in Starkville, Mississippi.

New Member of the Cretaceous-Tertiary Southern USA Team

May 25th, 2010

STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI — We simply could not do this work without the guidance of local geologists who know the stratigraphy and the locations which are likely to yield the best results.  This is especially true in eastern Mississippi where most of the outcrops are in drainage ditches, cleared building lots, and on grass-covered roadsides.  There is no way we would find them on our own.

Fortunately we now have an extraordinarily knowledgeable colleague who has an ambitious schedule of fossiliferous localities to show us.  George E. Phillips met us as arranged at our first outcrop in Starkville this morning.  At first when I saw him get out of his official state vehicle in his impressive uniform and begin talking to Paul I thought we were about to be arrested.  Far from it, of course.  George is the Paleontology Curator at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks in Jackson.

Paul Taylor and George Phillips on the Avalon outcrop of the Prairie Bluff Formation (Upper Cretaceous) in Starkville, Mississippi.

George is a skilled paleontologist and general naturalist who knows just what sort of fossils we need for our work, and all the right places to find them.  We are very impressed that the state of Mississippi employs such scientific talent and makes it available to visitors like us.