Fossil Study Group

August 17, 2016 meeting

Today we were treated to an excellent Training Session on Corals by Loretta Bailey, who has been a long-time ammonite and baculite fossil collector on Spud Hill, north of Central & Orchard in Cañon City. The site was a former Tepee Butte before the hill was leveled by a land developer many years ago. (“Tepee Buttes are carbonate mounds formed around methane springs and vents on the seafloor of the Cretaceous Interior Seaway.” S. Veatch)

Loretta described the 3 types of corals: Rugosa, Tabulata and Scleractinia. She explained that they are relatives of today’s jellyfish. We studied the anatomical structure of corals, the environment they live in, coral reef formation, extinction periods and growth rings. Under magnification, daily coral growth lines are visible!

Devonian corals have 400 growth lines, rings or ridges/year; 35-40 more than current corals because days were shorter and years were longer 420 million years ago. We found this fascinating, and one of us will do more research.

Most fascinating was a fossil Loretta found on Spud Hill in 2005. Loretta keeps excellent records! It looks like a solitary rugose fossil, but those went extinct at the end of the Permian Period at 250 million years ago, and her fossil was found in the Upper Cretaceous Pierre Shale, a marine deposit from the Western Interior Seaway days, a much more recent deposit. So we have some research to do to determine exactly what Loretta found. More fun!

Loretta showed us her highly technical field gear: a paint can opener for prying up rocks, magnifying glass, clothespin and a couple of pencils.

One of our members shared an experience from several years ago when she was a diver along the Mexican coast, helping to set anchors for yachts. She swam too close to a coral reef and got a deep cut on her leg, which began to bleed profusely. She was helped to shore, where the local bartender came to her aid by pouring good whiskey on her cut. She spent several months fighting to live, as polyps (the soft-bodied organisms) from the coral had invaded her blood stream, took up residence and circulated throughout her body. It was her immune system and white blood cells versus the polyps, and much of the time the invaders seemed to be winning. Called serum poisoning, she suffered near-kidney and near-liver failure, and watched as large chunks of her flesh came off around the wound. She is with us today, having vanquished the polyps, but it was a long hard struggle, and today’s lesson on corals became all the more fascinating.

The parting words from the bartender:

Hate to waste good whisky on a gringa!

More information on Corals:

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