Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A very thin coral from the Upper Ordovician of Indiana

February 3rd, 2013

Protaraea111712What we have above is a heliolitid coral known as Protaraea richmondensis Foerste, 1909. It has completely encrusted a gastropod shell with its thin corallum. Stephanie Jarvis, a Wooster student at the time and now a graduate student at Southern Illinois University, found this specimen during her paleontology class field trip to the Whitewater Formation exposed near Richmond, Indiana.

Protaraea is a confusing taxon to my Invertebrate Paleontology students. It is a very common encruster in their Ordovician field collections, being found on hard substrates as varied as rugose corals and orthid brachiopods. It is so thin, though, that it is hard to believe it was a colonial coral. Plus it has tiny septa (vertical partitions) in its corallites (the holes that held the polyps), very unlike most corals of the heliolitid variety. This is a group the students have to identify by matching pictures and taking our word for it.

We can’t identify the gastropod underneath. Note that it has a sinus evident in the last whorl (an open slot parallel to the coiling). The coral grew right up to the edge of this sinus, preserving it and its extension through the shell.


Alexander, R.R. and Scharpf, C.D. 1990. Epizoans on Late Ordovician brachiopods from southeastern Indiana. Historical Biology 4: 179-202.

Foerste, A.F. 1909. Preliminary notes on Cincinnatian fossils. Denison University, Scientific Laboratories, Bulletin 14: 208-231.

Mõtus, M.-A. and Zaika, Y. 2012. The oldest heliolitids from the early Katian of the East Baltic region. GFF 134: 225-234.

Ospanova, N.K. 2010. Remarks on the classification system of the Heliolitida. Palaeoworld 19: 268–277.

4 Responses to “Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A very thin coral from the Upper Ordovician of Indiana”

  1. Stephanie Jarvison 03 Feb 2013 at 11:18 am

    Before I started reading and saw the picture, I thought “Hey! That looks familiar…” 🙂

  2. Mark Wilsonon 03 Feb 2013 at 11:23 am

    Part of your physical legacy at Wooster, Stephanie. I also just used Colorado River sediment you gave me as part of a Sed/Strat exercise!

  3. justin hon 31 Jan 2016 at 9:05 pm

    I have something alot like this. Im not anything near a science buff. Just intrigued. Id love to have help fing out what my fossile is. Please let me know if interested in reciving a picture and trying to help. Thanks

  4. Mark Wilsonon 01 Feb 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Hi Justin. I love looking at fossils people have found. You can send an image to mwilson at wooster dot edu.

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