Posts Tagged ‘fossils’

A Rare Find

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My son was stationed at Fort Riley, and took my husband and I fossil hunting in the Niobrara Chalk of Kansas in October of 2003.

The chalk formed from an inland sea that divided North America during the age of dinosaurs.

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This is my husband. We found jaws, teeth and bones either sticking out of the chalk and laying about.

Keith had told me that if I found anything good that was embedded in the chalk, to leave my fossil bag by it, and come and get him. Otherwise I’d never find the fossils again. (Besides, I had no idea how to safely remove fossils from the chalk.)

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Luckily, he told me that, otherwise I definitely wouldn’t have found these 31 vertebrae again. The chalk had eroded down enough to completely separate them from it.

(The biggest one measures an inch in diameter.)

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What makes them so rare is that they’re shark vertebrae.

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 Shark vertebrae are made of cartilage, not bone, and are rarely preserved.


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When I went to find Keith, I found him 15 feet high on a small ledge cutting out a protosphyraena  fin (swordfish). Obviously, I had to wait until he was done.

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Later after cleaning the fossil and reshaping the chalk, he gave it to me on Christmas. The fin measures 11 1/2 inches long. It’s now displayed on a bookcase in my living room.


Anyone wanting more information on the chalk and fossils of Kansas might visit:


 for protosphyraena:

Cause For Celebration!

Fossil hunting offers a wide variety of possibilities.

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Trilobites shed their armor six to eight times during their life. This translates into finding their sheds (which are never common). Trilobite fossils are found in limestone, shale and dolomite in Illinois. Most of mine are from limestone.

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The oldest ones in Illinois come from Cambrian age rocks 500 million years old. Trilobites went extinct 250 million years ago.

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 Over years and years of fossil hunting, I found several partial trilobite fossils.  I never expected the possibility of finding a whole one.

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Then there, one sunny afternoon, on the the shale of a small outcrop, near the top of a hill, by a lake, lay this 7/8 inch trilobite.

My “whoop” echoed through the hills!


Keith, my son, went to a Sierra Club seminar on Paleozoic monsters recently. Joseph Drevian, from USGS, gave the program. He found a partial trilobite from the same outcrop where I found my whole one. Keith sent him a picture of the one I found.

My trilobite is from the Grove Church member of the Kincaid limestone, part of Elviran Stage Chester series of the Missisippi system. It is a proetid trilobite  named Paladin sp.

Boy, that’s a mouthful.


I searched and searched until I found pictures of the shale outcropping where I found the trilobite.


That’s my mother fossil hunting on the slope.


This last picture shows the whole shale area. Horses later moved their trail to down through the shale. Then a major flood in 2008 completely changed the landscape, and I haven’t been back since.

Among the Fossils

Buffy and I commonly walk loops around the backyard. The loop passes solitary rocks, piles of rocks … rocks and more rocks.

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This particular loop walk took me by a small pile of fossil rocks. I turned the longest rock over to see what fossils were on the underside, and there was a teeny-tiny spider.

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It’s body was 3/16th of an inch long! The stripes on its abdomen became obvious when I turned the rock toward the sun.


The rock was filled with brachiopods (shells) and the round discs of crinoid stems.

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 It looked as if the spider was over a cavity. I wondered where it would spend the winter. Would it even survive the winter?

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After a little research, I now think it was an immature daddy-long-legs. Its legs were definitely LONG!

I was so surprised to find a spider on the 17th of December, especially such a teeny one.

Rock Humor

I inherited the gene from my mother that compels me to collect rocks.

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There are heart-shaped rocks,

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stone people,

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and even prehistoric creatures.

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Then add petrified wood

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and marine fossils.

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Who would ever expect to find three stone ice cream cones?

The ice cream cones were found on different outings. They were all in gravel dredged from the Ohio River at Shawneetown Illinois.

River Gravel Finds

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My mother (above ) and I used to hunt for rocks and fossils in gravel dredged from the Ohio River.  The gravel is sorted by size and piled for sale.

My best friend went with us on this trip.We hunted the smaller size gravel.

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I hunted for fossils and interesting rocks. I arranged these above as a sampling of what fossils could be found.

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These fossils, plus arrowhead,  made sure they got my attention.

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I knew this was a piece of a mammoth tooth when I found it.

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It was something I never expected to find. The piece measures 1 1/8 inch long.

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  There’s no telling how far this arrowhead traveled down the river before being dredged out. It measures 2 7/8 inch long.

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This bone was in no way expected. Ones that have seen it say it’s human. I have no idea and don’t know how to tell. It’s 3 inches long.

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It feels like stone. It’s heavy like stone.

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I brought this one home because of the colors, having no idea what it was.

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It turned out to be a piece of mammoth tooth too and measures 1 1/4 inch at the widest.

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My opinion differs from others on this last stone. It measures roughly 1 1/4 wide wide and is 1/2 inch tall at the tallest. It is a rock. To me it looks like a slice of bone. It’s relatively smooth on the outside. Areas on the inside appear slightly porous.

Obviously, I had a GOOD day!

Luckily, I drove, otherwise,  I probably would’ve been walking home.


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I didn’t find this last arrowhead until 2 summers ago when I was cleaning the river gravel along the side of my moon garden. Since it’s sandstone, I thought it might have been made by maybe someone learning how to chip arrowheads. It measures 2 1/2 inches long.

!!! News Flash !!!

My oldest son, Keith, called me last night with the best of news —

 Keith found these 8 shark teeth in the Niobrara chalk of western Kansas. (The picture shows different angles of each tooth.)

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 Michael Siberson, a palentologist from Sweden, identified the eight teeth as a new species and named it Cretalamna ewelli after Keith.

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The Niobrara chalk formed from an inland sea that divided North America during the age of dinosaurs. This picture shows Keith in the chalk when my husband and I were there in the fall of 2003. Keith was stationed at Fort Riley for 2 years. He fossil hunted extensively those 2 years and another year after he got out of the Army. (Obviously, he’s fossil hunted since he was young.)

Among his finds were 3 turtles, which are rare. One was the size of a box turtle. He found the oldest true-flight bird of North America — 120 million years old. It was the size of a snipe and still had teeth. Birds evolved from lizards — why the teeth. Earlier birds were gliders and had to run to take flight.

He also found an inch-long armored skull that no one has any idea what it could be.  Michael Siberson also has teeth from another shark Keith found that still hasn’t been identified or named.

Keith has donated fossils to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Riley, Kansas; to the American Museum of Natural History in Chicago, the Denver Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonsian in Washington D.C.

Mike Everhart, Keith’s mentor, has published a book, Oceans of Kansas, A Natural History of the Western Interior Sea. He also has an extensive website —

Mike has a lengthy page of Keith’s fossils on his website at   You’ll quickly see that not all shark teeth look like the “typical” shark tooth. Also take note of the second tooth from the bottom on the right — it’s a pedalotus I found. Mike said it was the biggest he’d seen.

  Having a shark named after Keith has reignited his passion for fossil hunting — he’s leaving in a month or so for fossil hunting in Kansas.

P.S. I just found the mystery skull Keith found. Here’s the link.



Everybody that knows me knows I like rocks. I have a fairly extensive fossil collection, have sandstone rocks for garden edging, for paths and cairns. Then there’s the sandstone I like with the iron bands and ochre patterns. Don’t want to forget my heart rocks and stone people (did blogs on both). My oldest son was in the army for 10 years, and he’s given me rocks from Germany, Kansas, Indiana and Kentucky. Petrified wood is a big favorite of mine. Then there’s the fluorite, calcite and other crystals.

I also have a collection of 50 or so of what I call “prehistorics.” They each resemble the head of what looks like a prehistoric creature.

  They just seem to find me somehow.