Monday, May 13, 2013

Watch Out for Scorpions and Falling Rocks!

"Watch out for scorpions and falling rocks!"

That was our motto for this Mother's Day.

With my new rock hammer in hand and hiking boots on our feet, we made a trip to Lake Worth to do a little fossil hunting.

Note: you can click on any of the pictures to get a bigger picture so you can see more detail.

This is the beginning part of the trail.  It's really flat and just a little rocky.  You can see the lake but it actually isn't as close as it appears.  It is in the distance and at a much lower elevation.


I was anxious to get down closer to the lake where there are more rocks but Rachel wanted to stop and chase every butterfly she saw.  


Here we are at a slightly lower elevation but still a distance from the shoreline.


There are some nice trails to hike on.  I've read somewhere that there are about 6 miles worth of trails in this area.  


A cool caterpillar was spotted!  Eventually we'll get to the rocks.


Some of the trails have steep rocky slopes so you have to be careful.  And you have to watch out for mountain bikers.  There were several of them speeding past us while we were there.


We made it over to the rocky hillside that Stuart had briefly explored the last time we were here.  We call it our white cliffs of Dover.  All of the white area is rocky and very steep.  But it is rich with fossils.


Nicholas found this amazing piece. Doesn't it look like teeth and a jaw?


He found a mold of a fossil on a rock.


This hillside is incredibly steep.  I've tried to capture just how steep in this picture.


Our little explorer, Nicholas, forged right up the hillside much faster than the rest of us.  He was directly ahead of me.  One time he slipped and several rocks came falling down the hill.  One of them was about a foot wide.  I saw it coming and couldn't get out of the way without slipping so I just turned my back to it and let it hit the back of my calf instead of the front of my shin.  

Ouch!

A little while later, Stuart found a little tiny scorpion.  We had  never seen a live scorpion in the wild like that.

From then on, we shouted reminders to the kids to watch for falling rocks and scorpions!  Isn't that what you would say on Mother's Day?


We eventually had to give up on the hillside and explored the trail at the base a little further.  We found a path to the lake so we checked it out.



We found several fossils just sitting in the water along the shore.  Here is a piece of ammonite.


Stuart found a cool oyster shell and a fossilized sea urchin.


After a couple of hours, we were tired and very hot.  Although we brought water and tried to stop for breaks, it was a little challenging climbing back up the path we had taken to get into the area.  I thought we'd never make it back to the car!


We cleaned up our favorite pieces.  Here is the cool fossil that Nicholas found.  I posted this picture of it on the Dallas Paleontological Society's Facebook page to get some suggestions about what it might be.

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Here is how the "conversation" went.  Nicholas was super excited when he first got confirmation that it was a jaw and was referred to a professor at SMU.  But that was short lived.  Read on.  I love how so many people tried to help us figure it out and then they start their own debate among themselves about the particular genus of the fossil.  I have learned so much from the people in this group!
Me: My son found this fossil in Fort Worth this weekend.  The piece is about 4 inches long and looks kind of like a row of teeth.  Any ideas about what it could be? 
Christopher: Wow! 
Robert: Dead reptile jaw.  Ask Lou Jacobs at SMU.  He is the expert.  
Shawn: An ammonite.  The genus is Mortoniceras; a very common ammonite in the lower Cretaceous in Texas.  What you are seeing are the ventral tubercles of the outer shell.  
Nathan: After close inspection, I agree with Shawn’s diagnosis.  There are no processes that indicate reptile or even jaw.  Still cool impression.  
Robert: Ooops!  
Jordan: Part of an ammonite forward chamber – what we call the suture or dendrite pattern.  http://paleo.cortland.edu/tutorial/Ceph%26Gast/Ceph%26Gast%20Images/sutures.GIF  Looks like egnoceras.  
Me: Wow, thank you so much to all of your for sharing your wisdom and helping us learn.  Ammonites are amazing and I’ve never seen one oriented like this so it is a cool find.  However, my little boy liked Robert’s answer best and wants to keep believing he found a dead reptile jaw. 
Jordan: Ha ha.  Well good find!!  Egnoceras aren’t that common.  Go find more!!!  
Shawn: I have to reiterate Mortoniceras here.  There’s NO way you can confuse it with Engonoceras.  Sorry Jordan.
Here is a picture of what we now know are parts of two ammonite.  I'm tempted to crack the rock open with my cool rock hammer in hopes that I can see more of the ammonite but I don't want to destroy the fossil.  What a quandry.


Here is a cool shell....maybe oyster?


I'm not sure what this is.  The lines in it jumped out as me as possible ammonite markings but there isn't much there to really go by so I'm not sure.


I really like this shell below.  I think Nicholas found this one.  It is a pretty spiral shell that has been smooshed on one side by pressure or weight of some kind.


Nicholas found his bad boy below too.  It is a complete fossilized clam (?) with both parts of the shell intact.


Ammonite mold that Nicholas found.
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Another ammonite impression.


Stuart found this little fossilized sea urchin.  I love these!


A piece of an ammonite??


An oyster of some kind.  Click on the picture to enlarge it because there are some neat little 


All in all, we had a great time and found some pretty cool fossils.


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