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Fossil Hunting in the Mississippian Rocks of NW Alabama

December in north Alabama brings lots of rain, cooler temperatures, and also a lot less vegetation and bugs making it a great time to get out and look for fossils. After the APS enjoyed a trip to Montgomery for a Rock, Gem, and Mineral show on 5 December, we headed back out for fossils on 13 December. We were greeted by a beautiful day of sunshine following steady rains a day earlier; it was cool start in the 30s that morning but climbed into the low 60s by afternoon. In lieu of our traditional APS Christmas gathering for our December meeting, we held a dirty Santa event at our meeting place prior to heading out to the site. Everyone had a great time – there were fabulous fossil themed gifts exchanged including numerous incredible fossils, dinosaur toys, and even fossil preparation supplies. The fossil collecting site we visited is a large tall road-cut in NW Alabama full of exquisitely preserved Mississippian age mostly invertebrate fossils.

The previous rains were very helpful in making the fossils visibly pop against the gray shale. One of the prized finds at this location are the very beautifully preserved blastoids of multiple species (left below). Next is a brachiopod laying atop a pentremites blastoid (middle below). Finally, a broken up Lyropora bryozoan in situ (right), this can be seen cleaned and put back together in the bryozoan composite photo farther down in this blog..

The primary fossils found were brachiopods (pics 1 and 2 below), pentremites blastoids (pics 3 and 4 below), bryozoans (pic 5 below), partial crinoid calices (pic 6 below), rugose corrals (pic 7 below), and a few wonderful trilobite cephalons/heads and pygidiums/tails (figure 8 below). The size, number and diversity of the trilobites were on considerable decline by the Mississippian Age from their earlier glory days going all the way back to the Cambrian, so finding one of these last examples is very exciting. Below are examples of some of the loose fossils found.

The site also provides some terrific "hash plates" displaying all the fauna together with just enough limestone matrix to hold the fossils together!

The quality and diversity of fossils at this site always make it a great stop. It was another great day outdoors and a terrific way to close out 2020!

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