Monday, March 13, 2006

Fossil week

Updated: see below.

While posting recently about the rocks here, I mentioned that the red ones often contained plant fossils. By request, here they are.

I'll post more fossil pics later this week and try to come up with some IDs.

These are possibly leaves of Lycopods - Lepidophylloides maybe. Like this and this. The ancient lycopod tree had different types of leaves, and the grass-like ones were called Lepidophyllum. I believe that would put them in the Pennsylvanian period, about 300 million years ago.

But I'm not sure about that. I've never found any more entire leaf impressions than these. So if you know differently please tell me.

They could possibly be from the other clubmoss tree, the Sigillaria, or the horsetail tree, the Calamites. (They are all from roughly the same time period.)

Updated: I found this at the Virtual Paleontology Lab, which explains why the leaves can have a different scientific name than the rest of the plant:
Because we don't always know which leaves belong to which seeds when they are first discovered, we use the convention of form taxa. When organs are found isolated (not in organic connection), each type of leaf and seed is given its own binomial name (genus and species name according to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature), without making any assumption about what belongs to what. To use the example discussed by Oliver and Scott (1904), leaves were described as Lyginopteris (genus only for brevity), seeds as Lagenostoma, and stems as Lyginodendron. The similarity of the first syllable gives a hint that the describing paleobotanists (others besides Oliver and Scott) suspected some relationship, but were unable to make a strong inference link. The last syllable of each name gives a hint to the organ type: "dendron" = stem, "pteris" is often used for frond-like foliage, "stoma" = seed. However, after Oliver and Scott's recognition of the unique glands on Lagenostoma lomaxi and species in the other organ form genera, they were able to make the whole-plant link with greater confidence. The whole plant then takes the name of the organ first described, in this case Lyginopteris. When you are writing, take care to make clear whether you are talking about form taxa (organs) or whole-plants.

Also, this is what the globe looked like 300 million years ago. Plate tectonics! Continental drift! Gotta love it.

If I'm right about what these are, the fossils pre-date dinosaurs. Pretty cool.

Here's what it's thought to have looked like around here at that time, more or less. There are modern relatives of some of these ancient plants, such as the plant-rescue ground cedar I tried (unsuccessfully, as it turns out) to transplant here last year.

Sue the T-rex? Sniff. Ho hum. My fossils are older than that. Almost five times older! Now if I could only find somebody to pay me $8 million for them...


P.S. I have learned so much since I started writing this blog - looking all this stuff up so I can pretend like I know what I'm talking about.


KFarmer said...

That is so neat! I have a fascination for old rocks and have quite a few. Are the rocks in a garden or just outside here and there? Did you find them on your current property? Neat, just neat-o-mosquito from one rock head to another :)

Rurality said...

Yes, these were all from our property. We find them in the creek. They are all pretty small... a few inches across at most (about 5 cm or so).

They are fascinating to me, but I didn't know if anyone else would think they were interesting or not since they're not complete or particularly "pretty".

Annie, if you're reading, do you find these on your property too?

Later on I'll show some others that I've found in other places (not on our property).

I Gallop On said...

My 8-year-old son would be in heaven if he found those! I find more rocks in my washer and dryer that simply "appear" from that boy's pockets ...

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Thanks so much for posting these, Karen. They're beautiful. I wonder if these plant fossils only show up in this red rock on your property. I absolutely love seeing fossils. They were scattered all over one particular beach in California. We would hike there all the time, and it was like being in a outdoor museum of natural history. Haven't found any fossils here in the northwest, yet. Although there have been mastodon finds about 30 miles from us. This makes me want to go out and start digging.

Ron Sullivan said...


Thank you.

Gwyn said...

What fascinating finds! The only rocks I ever find are, well, rocks.
And mainly sedimentary ones at that, so they are pretty fragile.

One day.

Floridacracker said...

Those are great. The top two look like bamboo leaves...I know they probably aren't, but that was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw them.

Our fossils fall into two groups, either marine or ice age vertebrate.

Mrs Lifecruiser said...

I just love rocks and these one was really interesting ones!

I actually think they're beautiful. I have been collecting rocks from our travel to other countrys, but it's difficult because can't take home the bigger ones obviously...

Rachel said...

That is great! They are so unique looking.

Hick said...

Oh my! Those are bee-utiful. Nerd Boy and I are studying about fossils in rocks. Would you mind if I copied your pictures and put them on Nerd Boy's desktop so he can see an up close and personal fossil-in-a-rock?

JLLove said...

Super series. Interesting and lovely at same time. Art in nature.
NE Ala?

Rurality said...

Thanks y'all.

IGO in this house it's coins that appear in pockets. (Mostly pennies, unfortunately!)

RD, glad you like them! I've only seen these in the red rocks. There are other things that may or may not be fossils in other rocks... I'm still researching that.

Gwyn, I think most fossils are in sedimentary rocks. Of course the crumbly ones don't hold up well!

FC, some of the ancient plants are described as bamboo-like, I believe.

Mrs. L., you should post your pics!

Thanks Rachel.

Hick go right ahead! I was just thinking about him the other day... when I bought a heandband-flashlight. :)

Thanks J - yep NE Alabama.

Trix said...

Very cool! great pics and fascinating finds...

Dave said...

I have learned so much since I started writing this blog
And me since reading it. But you're right - I always say that I write poetry to find out what I think and prose to find out what I know. The pity is, I rarely remember any of it...

jenni said...

And they say blogging is a waste of time...I don't think so. I've learned a lot from blogging too--having to look things up, experimenting.

Caroline has a little boy in her class who has a crush on her. She told me he gives her flowers and "shiny rocks".

They learn fast don't they?