May 2019: Dig With The Experts

Join us for our signature event — Dig with the Experts! This is our very popular, once yearly opportunity to unearth the best, most complete, and most unexpected fossils at Penn Dixie. We’ll have equipment do the heavy lifting and scientific experts on site to help with locating and identifying the best fossils. You’ll have to do your share of splitting and digging, of course, but you’re guaranteed to find something cool and interesting.

Saturday May 18: 9 am to 4 pm
Sunday May 19: 9 am to 4 pm
Monday May 20: 9 am to 4 pm (limited staffing)

Expert volunteers — including scientists, leading fossil collectors, and experts on local geology — will lead the dig in a freshly excavated section of the Lower Windom Shale and will demonstrate how to find Devonian Period trilobites, cephalopods, fish remains, brachiopods, corals, wood, and a range of other marine invertebrates. Thanks to our experts, we are celebrating our 15th dig in 2019! Saturday participants will receive a special commemorative gift.

But, wait — there’s more! ‘Paleo’ Joe Kchodl will once again join us for a special science talk the evening before the dig. Paleo Joe will present: The Fossil Adventures of PaleoJoe at on Friday May 17 at 6:30 pm in the Gateway Building Auditorium, 3556 Lakeshore Road in Blasdell, NY. This family-friendly presentation is FREE for Penn Dixie members ANDregistered dig guests, or $5 for the public. No reservations needed.

Tickets:
Saturday May 18: Members $35, non-members $40
Sunday May 19: Members $20, non-members $25, under 18 $15
Weekend Pass: Members $45, non-members $55 – SAVE $10
Monday May 20: Included for all guests.

Director’s Notes: This special program will sell out — please reserve early. We offer a limited number of Child (under age 18) tickets for Sunday at $15 each. We do not recommend that children under age 7 attend this program due to the technical and safety requirements. Other areas of Penn Dixie will be open to fossil collectors of all ages. Children must be accompanied at all times. Tickets are electronic and will not be mailed.

International Guests: Please contact us with your name, order info (i.e., dates, numbers and types of tickets), and membership status. We’ll send you a PayPal invoice directly.


Dig with the Experts draws collectors from around the globe for this unique opportunity, which was developed and is currently co-led by our friends from the Cincinnati Dry Dredgers. Bring a hammer, chisel, safety glasses, newspaper, and paper towels to wrap your fossils. Extra water is recommended, plus bring rain gear just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Food trucks will be on site Saturday and Sunday to serve lunch. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and beverages, as well as a small cart to transport personal items and specimens. Chairs and umbrellas are okay, too. We thank Zoladz Construction Co., Inc. for their help to get Penn Dixie ready for this big event.

Additional information:

Buffalo ranked America’s favorite city to visit, upstaging all competitors

Penn Dixie Frequently asked questions

Report on 2016 Dig with the Experts

Updates from 2016 Dig with the Experts

Bellacartwrightia: A Singular Specimen

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Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi trilobite uncovered by Alasdair Gilfillin at Penn Dixie in 2016.

Every so often, one of our visitors uncovers a truly spectacular fossil. The preservation might be perfect, the assemblage of different fossils might be unique, or the type of fossil might be very uncommon. In this case, we present a beautifully preserved and uncommon trilobite called Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi.

Bellacartwrightia side view
Sideview of Bellacartwrightia. Trilobite is approximately 1.5 inches long.

Penn Dixie member Alasdair Gilfillan discovered this trilobite at our park on October 3, 2016. Our dig season was coming to a close and Alasdair decided to spend a weekend visiting us from New Jersey. Alasdair dug into the infamous Smoke Creek trilobite bed of the Windom Shale and unearthed what he thought was a Greenops — an uncommon trilobite that seems to represent one or two of every 100 or so trilobites that are found. Instead, Alasdair found something much rarer. He writes:

You may remember that I found a nice (though at the time partially covered) trilobite which I thought was a Greenops that day. I managed to get it prepped and it turns out that it was a Bellacartwrightia, a much rarer form. The prep guy did a really nice job and it turned out to be a really fantastic specimen. Please find enclosed the photographs. The trilobite is ~ 1.5 inches long.

Alasdair adds that the prep work was done by Bob Miles — a former Penn Dixie board member who also took the photographs. We thank Alasdair for sharing his images and for his donation of many fossil specimens that were used in our school programs.

Bellcartwrightia front view
The Bellacartwrightia cephalon (head) resembles that of Greenops, but the two genera are not closely related.

Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi is uniquely found in the Devonian rocks of the Hamilton Group in New York State. This fossil was first described by Lieberman and Kloc in 1997; the original paper can be downloaded here. Bellacartwrightia was named after the wife of paleontologist Bruce Lieberman, who at the time was a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History. Dr. Lieberman is now at the University of Kansas. The paper explains how Bellacartwrightia is different from Greenops, another trilobite with a somewhat similar appearance. From page 29:

In addition, the members of this genus are phylogenetically distant from species assigned to true Greenops…These two Middle Devonian genera have not shared acommon ancestor since, at latest, the Siegenian [approx 411 million years ago], based on an analysis of ghost lineages. To treat these species as members of a genus Greenops would necessitate placing all of the asteropyginines within the genus Greenops.

There you have it — a new genus of trilobites first documented in 1997 and one of our members finds an excellent specimen 20 years after the discovery!

Bellacartwrightia
Bellacartwrightia in the host rock — Windom Shale.

Alasdair was kind enough to share additional photos of the Bellacartwrightia as well as some of his other treasures from Penn Dixie. Our visitors are welcome to keep any fossils that they find, but we do appreciate photos of particularly cool fossils for use on our website.

Phacops rana double plate
A plate of Phacops rana trilobites found in 2015.
Phacops rana single plate
A single Phacops from 2016.
Phacops rana enlarged
Phacops trilobite. Prep work by Bob Miles.

For further reading, here are some links:

Evolutionary and biogeographic patterns in the Asteropyginae (Trilobita, Devonian) Delo, 1935 on AMNH

Bellacartwrightia whiteleyi on AMNH

Textbook Bellacartwrightia on Trilobites.com

Bellacartwrightia on fossilmuseum.net

Penn Dixie’s International Friends

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The Environmental Policy Group of Jammu and Kashmir displays a commemorative plaque from Penn Dixie.

You may have read about our new partnership with the Centre for Himalayan Geology in the Buffalo News or Artvoice. With Penn Dixie’s support, The Centre is in the process of creating an international scientific attraction — the Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park — near the town of Khonmoh in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, India.

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Gangamopteris, a plant fossil found in Kashmir. Photo from geoinfo.nmt.edu.

Many of the types of fossils found at Penn Dixie are also present in Kashmir, though the species are not the same. For instance, both fossil parks have brachiopods, bivalves (clams), ammonites, gastropods, other marine invertebrates, and various plants. However, the park in Kashmir — at least as far as we can tell — does not have trilobites, as these animals became increasing scarce towards the end of the Paleozoic Era. The Permian-Triassic extinction event — which is captured in the rocks at the park — marked the end of the trilobites’ reign on our planet.

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An example of Permian foraminifera — microscopic plankton fossils found in India. Photo from http://www.nrm.se.

This massive die-off — which eliminated 90% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial vertebrates on Earth — led to the rise of the dinosaurs. Meteor impacts, widespread volcanism, and a runaway greenhouse effect (i.e., climate change) have been proposed by scientists as explanations for the extinction event.

Hangul
Carving of a Kashmir stag, or hangul; a gift from The Centre to Penn Dixie.

For some additional reading about the park, visit these links:

Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park coming up at Khanmoh

Kashmir Triassic Fossil Park soon to serve students across the world

Fossil park at 250 million-year-old tsunami site in Srinagar

Explore Triassic fossil, pristine Kashmir, and more! on Pinterest

Mining threat to fossil beds at protected Kashmir Site

Some uncommon Penn Dixie fossils

With thousands of visitors to Penn Dixie each year, really cool fossils are uncovered fairly often. With a trained eye and determined spirit, our visitors never cease to amaze the staff and volunteers with what they discover.

Dr. Edgar Kooijman, Director of the Biotechnology Program at Kent State University sent us these photos and descriptions of some uncommon fossils from a trip to the site a couple of years ago. His specimens — a trilobite, a snail, a crinoid, and an amminoid — showcase the diversity of marine life that existed in our region during the Late Devonian Period.

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The head of a Bellacartwrightia trilobite.

From Dr. Kooijman:

This rolled trilobite was identified as a Bellacartwrightia calliteles and was found during the field trip of the North Coast Fossil Club in May 2013. It came from the main trilobite layer [in the Windom Shale], and was prepped by Brian Dasno from Watertown NY. This was no small task as the specimen was essentially split in two. The eyes and some of the carapace were on one side, and the rest on another. While the specimen was crushed during or after fossilization it is complete and all the spines are visible. The “spikes” coming from the front of the head are the tail spines. The dorsal spines are also beautifully visible.

The following three specimens were all found during the May 2014 field trip of the North Coast Fossil Club, from Cleveland OH. They were prepped by Marc Behrendt.

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An Arthroacantha crinoid holdfast.

From Dr. Kooijman:

The crinoid cup is from a species that is commonly found in the Sylica shale of Ohio, but which is rare (at least complete cups are) in the Windom shale at Penn Dixie. The name of this species is Arthroacantha carpenteri (Hinde). The “nob” at the top is where the stem would have been attached. Stem fragments are common fossils in the shale of Penn Dixie. Also note the numerous scars of the side of the crinoid cup. These scars used to hold spines that may have served to ward of snails that loved to feed on crinoids. The spines are not preserved in this specimen but the attachment points are easily visible.

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A gastropod (snail) — potentially Bucculentium.

From Dr. Kooijman:

The snail is from the genus Platyceras, and the species may be Bucculentum. And was identified from among the different species found in the Sylica shale of north west Ohio. It was found just above the main trilobite layer at the edge of the digging pit during the 2014 season. It is the largest snail I have ever found at Penn Dixie.

Ammonoid.JPG
A cast of an ammonoid — predatory cephalopod

From Dr. Kooijman:

The ammonite was found in the main trilobite layer. Note that the original shell material is not preserved and only the cast of this mollusk is visible. No genus name for this specimen is known. These aminoids are occasionally found in the Windom shale.

Penn Dixie thanks Dr. Kooijman for sharing his wonderful photos with us!