Feb. 25, 2011

Science Dad on Indoor Paleontology

by Vince Harriman

Click to enlarge images

It has been a rough couple of weeks around here, and our plans didn't quite work out the way we were hoping. First Beckett had a bad stomach flu, then Rowan, then I had a different type of flu, and Science Mom is working on her own version right now. I should do a science project on flu vectors! Luckily, Beckett and I had been working on something for a while...what we call indoor Paleontology. Instead of going to a museum, we headed out to some fairly common places. We're going to need all the help we can get with this project: we 'collected' the fossils by taking photos of them, but we have no idea what we found!

We started in the backyard, where we have a small patio and more importantly, a small marble table. The table is filled with fantastic fossils-the most spectacular of which looks like a giant flea! In the photo above you can make out about ten distinct fossils.

You can also make out shells, something that looks like a small brine shrimp and maybe a worm. This one looks like an arthropod.

Next we headed to the Maryland State Capitol Building. We had been there before for other reasons and we had noticed that the black Vermont limestone they used for the floor was filled with fossils. So we pulled out the camera and added a bunch to our collection.

This collection of small shells is right outside the door the newly renovated Senate Meeting room. Are they crinoids?

This looks like a sponge, or the soft tissue of the nautiloid to the left of it.

This perfect spiral is part of the threshhold at the entrance. What are the ribbed things to the right? Fish?

Finally we completed our collection at the Mall. The mall has limestone floors in several different colors, and a fantastic variety of fossils. This fantastic nautiloid is over a foot in diameter! Look carefully and you will see smaller nautiloids entombed inside the larger one.

This piece of white limestone is filled with shells and fossils-spirals, open shells, straight ribbed cephalopods...

This looks like a segmented worm-could this be an early annelid?

These don't show the rings that typify annelids (and modern worms) but what are they?

This really nice nautiloid has been waiting 400 million years for someone to stop and notice it.

Finally, this one has many interesting fossils in it. A nice small nautiloid, a couple of small round fossils and that large odd shaped thing in the middle.

So Beckett and I have made our field expedition and assembled our collection -- now it is time for us to go back to the lab and start identifying our finds. Please share this with anyone you think might know about early life on earth. Please help us identify our collection! We would love to hear about your indoor expedition -- next time you go out, start looking down. Look at floors, walls, countertops -- you'll be surprised where you might find an ancient creature that has been waiting several hundred million years to be rediscovered. Then please tell us about your discovery.


Science Dad, AKA Vince Harriman, is a freelance writer living in Annapolis. His two sons, Beckett - 6 and Rowan - 2 1/2 ask him ‘why’ approximately 6,553 times a day.

About Vince Harriman

Science Dad, AKA Vince Harriman, is a freelance writer living in Annapolis. His two sons, Beckett-6 and Rowan-2 1/2 ask him 'why' approximately 6,542 times a day.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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