Lots of serious fossil hunters go to Seatown in Dorset to find fossil ammonites that have fallen to the beach from the cliffs. The cliffs for the most part are composed of Green Ammonite Member which is part of the Charmouth Mudstone Formation laid down in the Jurassic Period. The ammonites that are most commonly found in this type of rock are Aegoceras, Androgynoceras, Liparoceras, and Oistoceras. I haven’t found any decent fossils of the type I could pick up and take home, but there are plenty of fossils and ammonite impressions to be seen lying in pieces of rock on the shingle beach where people with hammers have broken them open. These pictures show some of the specimens that I found on my last visit. I am not sure which species they represent but maybe some local geologist may be able to look at these images and tell me what they are.
The most common fossils at Seatown on the Dorset coast are belemnites. These are bullet-shaped internal hard parts of a type of extinct cephalopod (think cuttlefish, squid and octopus). For a great deal of the length of the beach, the rock strata are hidden by debris falling down from layers above. There are lots of minor mudslides and landslips. However, as you get nearer to the western extremity of the beach, approaching Golden Cap, a continuous kerb-like, harder, and more calcareous stone layer makes an appearance. This is the Belemnite Stone that has been raised to view by a small anticlinal flexure. Below it are many layers of Belemnite Marl that can be seen in cross-section in the vertical face at the base of the cliff; and also extending out horizontally beneath the gravelly beach and exposed at low tide. They alternate light and dark layers. Fossils are abundant with belemnites predominating but ammonites are also common. The huge numbers of belemnites are thought to have resulted from mass die-offs following mating frenzies.
Boulders on the back of the quarried ledge at Winspit contain fossils and trace fossils. A recent discovery of mine when I last visited were numerous very small worm tubes, frequently amassed in discrete areas or layers, around and below black chert nodules in the Portland Stone Cherty series rocks. It is difficult to be certain of the identification of these worm tubes (maybe someone can look at these pictures and tell me) but it is known that serpulid worms called Glomerula gordialis are found in this particuar geological and geographical location, and I am assuming for the time being that these are the same species.
Plant fossils are abundant in the Ward Point Member rocks at Cape Enrage in New Brunswick. You do not need to be an expert to find them in beach stones beneath the cliffs. You do need to be an expert to identify all the fragments accurately. I am not an expert. However, as far as I can make out, most of the fossils that I saw were the strap-like leaves of Cordaites, a primitive conifer from upland regions which according to the guide books resemble Amaryllis leaves or corn husks. There were also fragments of Calamites stems; this was a tree-like plant that could grow up to 10 m tall and is related to the much smaller present day horsetails or Equisetum plants (see images below). The stem is ribbed and jointed like bamboo with a diameter of about 10 cm and it would have had narrow whorled leaves at intervals along the stem. It formed dense thick undergrowth in lowland wetter areas. The diverse fossil flora at Cape Enrage represents dead vegetation washed downstream by rivers and stacked up in piles on the banks of many river channels about 320 million years ago in the late Carboniferous Period. The plant debris would become covered in successive layers of sediment brought down by the rivers as they wandered across the flood plain to the sea, and eventually preserved in sandstones and mudstones.
The Cape Enrage Visitor Centre has some excellent examples of fossils on display, and education officers are available to give advice and help with identifications. They are very helpful and friendly. I am sure that, time permitting, a professional guided tour would reveal many more in situ fossils of different types than those illustrated here.
This marks the final post in the series about the rocks at Ferriters Cove. I had spent a happy few hours on the beach and reached the limit of accessible shore at Ferriters Cove. Time to call it a day. At this northernmost part of the shore, the steeply sloping strata in the cliff, with the bedding planes facing outwards as a continuous sheet, at first seem to be buckling under their own weight, as seen in images 55a and 56 in the previous post. Then, just a few metres further on, the strata can be viewed side-on across the bedding planes with the sequence of individual layers revealed. The strata are curved concavely so that the cliff face is like the under-side of a huge wave, the crest of which is curving over and about to crash down and break. You can see this best in images 60 and 61.
There are also some enigmatic markings on that part of the bedrock on the beach which is covered each day by the tide. I wonder if these are fossils. Photo 73 has a number of rounded shapes that look like they might be gastropods; and Bembexia is a marine snail that is recorded in this locality.
More problematic are the plant-like patterns which occur on a number of rocks (see images 79 – 81). They seem to have a central stem with numerous branchlets along the length. I am not at all certain that these are fossils although they seem to be integral with the surface of the rock and to have a slightly different composition which is reflected in the fact that there is no black biofilm (maybe lichen) growing on them. I am fairly sure that the ‘plants’ are not grazing trails left by the feeding activities of the adjacent limpets and periwinkles. Plants are in fact recorded from the Silurian but I cannot find any illustrations that resemble these Ferriters Cove ‘plants’.
In an article about the Silurian Period on the website of the University of California Museum of Paleontology it says:
Perhaps the most striking of all biological events in the Silurian was the evolution of vascular plants, which have been the basis of terrestrial ecology since their appearance. Most Silurian plant fossils have been assigned to the genus Cocksonia, a collection of branching-stemmed plants that produce sporangia at their tips.
However, drawings of that particular genus show a very different branching system to that exhibited by the Ferriters Cove ‘plants’. Maybe I will get a clearer understanding when I have tracked down some of the specialist research papers on the fossils of this area such as those written by C. H. Holland:
Holland, C. H. (1969) Irish counterpart of the Silurian of Newfoundland. Memoir of the association of Petroleum Geologists 12, 298-308.
Holland, C. H. (1987) Stratigraphical and structural relationships of the Dingle Group (Silurian), County Kerry, Ireland. Geological Magazine 124, 33-42.
Holland, C. H. (1988) The fossiliferous Silurian rocks of the Dunquin inlier, Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences 79, 347-360.
By the time I had reached the northernmost edge of the beach at Ferriters Cove, the Silurian rocks had changed their appearance again. The cliff here is higher and composed of a wonderful patchwork of mainly yellow slabs with purple-grey markings. Many of these slabs have fallen to the shore in a thick loose layer. Among these pieces of stone I found some more fossils, internal casts and impressions of brachiopods, including different species to the one I found earlier (I thought that might be Leptaena sp.). Two particular brachiopods are mentioned on the sign at the entrance to the beach, Holcospirifer (bigugosus?) and Rhipidium (hibernicum?), and it is likely that the fossils in images 57b,c,& d belong to one or both of those species. I am wondering if the much larger regular rounded fossil in image 57a is a species of Atrypa.
Bassett, M. G., Cocks, L. R. M., and Holland C.H. (1976) The affinities of two endemic Silurian brachiopods from the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland, Palaeontology, Vol. 19, Part 4, pp. 615 – 625, pls. 93-95.
I thought you would all enjoy this posting by the Geological Society of London. Be sure to click on all the links – especially the delightful Dinosaur Song and the 10 Most Mind-blowing Landscapes. Wonderful.
According to the world of Feng Shui, rose quartz attracts and keeps love. If you want to get all scientific about it, that pink colour is thought to be caused by trace amounts of titanium, iron or manganese.
Location. Romantic, but not too romantic. Something to stir the hearts of even the most heart-heardened geologist. One of these ten most mind blowing landscapes should do the trick.
Menu. Rock cakes are just a bit obvious, aren’t they? We’ve taken our menu plan from the Geologic and Paleontologic Cookbook. How…
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