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January 2021 Fossil Hunting – Walker County

The Alabama Paleontological Society (APS) spent a beautiful sunny cool (high in the mid 50s) January day looking for fossils in Walker County. It was a spectacular winter day with a bright blue sky and low sun angle making for great visibility to see trace fossils. The visited site yields Pennsylvanian Age fossils from the Pottsville formation ranging from insect, marine arthropod, and early tetrapod trackways as well as beautiful plant fossils and other fossils. This month the APS hosted the Georgia Mineral Society, about a dozen APS members were joined by a large group from the GMS. There was a great deal of excitement as the tailings from the old coal strip mine had been turned the week prior to our visit. This created a bit of challenge as there had not been a lot of rain and the splittable slabs were largely covered with dirt and in some cases difficult to see, but some very large productive slabs had been turned up. There were some spectacular discoveries made.

The result of splitting some of the large boulders created scenes of small quarries while producing some incredibly large slabs. Ashley pictured with one such slab for scale.

There were lots of interesting plant fossils found including lycopod tree fossils and seed fern fossils.

It was a fairly prolific day for insect trackways from large Monuran insects (e.g. trace fossil Stiaria in pic 1 and 2), to burrowing larvae (trace fossil Treptichnus in pic 3), to Myriapoda-centipede/millipede type insects (trace fossil Diplichnites in pic 4) identifiable by parallel pairs of dots.

There were also quite a few other arthropod and marine invertebrate trackway fossils found.

This trip also yielded a couple nice fish swimming traces called Undichna, made when the various fins on the bottom of a fish made contact with the silty mud creating sinusoidal traces like in the below specimens.

There are also the oddities that the site often produces. The figure to the left is a good example of gas escape bubbles frozen for eternity. The figure to the right is a...

Finally, there were some terrific tetrapod tracks and trackways found.

It was another great field trip filled with great finds and camaraderie with other fossil enthusiasts. You never know when you split a slab what may lie in between the layers. It is always a thrill!

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