Fossil Hunting In Alabama

Some 325 million years ago a large portion of Alabama was covered by a warm, shallow sea containing many organisms left behind today as fossils. A variety of life can be found in the fossil record in Alabama including relatives of starfish and sea urchins. These include sea lilies or crinoids, filter-feeding animals resembling plants. […]

Fossil Hunting In Alabama

Some 325 million years ago a large portion of Alabama was covered by a warm, shallow sea containing many organisms left behind today as fossils.

A variety of life can be found in the fossil record in Alabama including relatives of starfish and sea urchins. These include sea lilies or crinoids, filter-feeding animals resembling plants. Echinoids looked similar to “sand dollars”. Others included bryozoans and corals.

Fossils of various shelled organisms can be found and include brachiopods, pelecypods and gastropods.

Others include clams, sponges, shark’s teeth, trilobites and fossils of land plants, lepidodendron, calamites, stigmaria and giant horsetails.

Bryozoa can be found in rocks of the Ordovician Period and are common as are corkscrew-shaped fossils of Archimedes.

Brachiopods are small bivalved animals that live on the sea floor. They are similar to pelecypod or clam shells. They lived in the Paleozoic Period seas from the Cambrian Period until the Permian Period.

Pelecypods include clams, oysters, mussels and scallops that lived in freah or salt water. They began in the Ordovician Period and were abundant in the oceans in Mesozoic and Cenozoic periods. Cretaceous and Tertiary age rocks in south Alabama contain pelecypods.

Fossils of Gastropods (snails, whelks, conchs and slugs) can be found in Alabama. They lived during the Cambrain and Paleozoic eras and are found in Tertiary Period rocks.

Nautiloid and ammonite fossils from Paleozoic times can also be found in Creataceous Period rocks.

Trilobites were extinct from the close of the Paleozoic Era. Some can be found the rocks of the early Paleozoic Era in Alabama. Blastoids or sea buds occur in rocks from the Mississippian Period in north Alabama.

Crinoids or sea lilies were abundant in the Paleozoic Era but ranged from the Ordovician to Recent. Fossil sand dollars, heart urchins and sea urchins occur in Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks in Alabama. Graptolites or “double-edged saw blades” and are abundant in Cambrian and Ordovician rocks of Alabama.

Three counties are renowned for their abundance of primitive whalelike fossils. Clarke, Choctaw and Washington have gained recognition for zeuglodon fossils.

According to Dr. Doug Jones, former executive director of the University of Alabama Museums and professor of Geology at UA, “In southwest Alabama one finds the world’s most complete record of marine Tertiary rocks containing fossils reflecting the diversity of lifeforms of that time, including the famous zeuglodon. “

The “Father of British Geology” Sir Charles Lyell was attracted to the state in the mid-1840’s because of its abundance of fossils.

Through time the shallow sea gave way to the land mass we now know as Alabama and about 10,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, the state was much cooler and was home to mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, giant beaver – five feet tall and weighing 200 pounds, camel, elk, giant bison, caribou, giant armadillos the size of Volkswagen Beetles, giant tortoises, saber-toothed cats called Smilodon, extra large bears, wolves, jaguars, tapirs and peccaries. At that time in history the state was heavily wooded with some plains and prairies serving as home for these creatures.

Always get permission from landowners before going onto private property.

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