Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Fossil week, day 3

I haven't been much of a fossil nut until just lately. But I am something of a packrat.

When I was 10 or so, my friend who lived in Reece City (Etowah county) said, "Let's go pick up some fossils." We thought they were dinosaur bones, which they aren't, and I shudder now to think how close to the road (and the speeding cars) we were when we picked these up.

These are fossil Crinoid stems - most of them anyway. After looking at the picture I started wondering if maybe the one in the middle wasn't something different.

They're sometimes called sea lilies, which is confusing since they were not plants. They're echinoderms, related to the starfish (which is not a fish). Anyway, they floated around gracefully while anchored on stems like the above. The stem fragments survive in fossils a lot more than the rest of them.

Although that's the only time I've ever found them, they're apparently pretty common. And cheap. A whole box can be yours for only $3.40.

Fossil links:

More about Crinoids here, here, here, and here.

An interesting fossil ID tool (ID by shape).

Some nice posters with line drawings of Pennsylvanian period fossils.


pablo said...

I understand some Native Americans used the crinoid fragments to make necklaces and other jewelry. We have a couple of places in our woods where we could "harvest" these, but we decided the jewelry wouldn't be very pretty. Maybe when I have a granddaughter.

Rurality said...

Yes I've read that about the jewelry. Some fragments break apart easily (not the kind shown here) and the individual segments were used as beads I think. They're a lot smoother than these. I think it would make a nice bracelet or necklace though!

vicki said...

This is a great series on fossils. I always liked to imagine that large crinoids were actually baby wooly mammoth tusks. The world was pretty exciting at four and five! I'll post a picture tomorrow of a couple I'm not sure about and maybe you can help me out.

I really like the large red flat rocks with fossils- beautiful! Fossils always give me a slightly creepy feeling of wonder (the same as watching a very active night sky). We are such tiny smudges in the universe, yes?

Wayne said...

Very nice. Well, we talked about this through email. I'm just going to have to parse through our creek rocks to see if there's anything there. So far it's all appeared to me to be metamorphic rock but maybe I've missed something.

I just feel like we live at the bottom of a multi-megayear dump of erosion that's covered everything over.

so said...

Interesting. If the screw head was not in the picture, some of these look like dried corn cobs!

Clare said...

You can find crinoids even up here in the North. Not right around Arctic Bay, glaciers scraped us down to pre-cambrian. But I have some nice crinoid fossils from Beechy Island, which is where the first evidence of Franklin's lost expedition was found, and where three of his crew are buried.

Rurality said...

Vicki, I look forward to it - tho I warn you, I may not be much help. :) It's funny how we knew that they were fossils, yet were so far off the mark as to what type!

Wayne, yeah, yeah! I'm not sure if we're just lucky to have some of this stuff here, or if it's really in a lot of places and I've just never really looked closely before.

So, yep I've had that thought too. :)

Clare - interesting. You should do a post about it sometime!

TheTwinkie said...


In the third grade, my friends and I found some fossils like that on the playground.

Twinks ;)

Mary said...

Cool! I'm from Morgan co. Alabama. I used to go arrow head hunting w/my dad and family in newly plowed up fields near the wildlife refuge. I found one of those crinoids and never knew what it was until now! So cool!

Rurality said...

I guess this seems to be a popular fossil!

Mary I'm sure I've seen those fields... we've been birdwatching up at the refuge many times. The large flocks of Snow Geese in the winter are really something!