May 31, 2008 - Late Cretaceous Fossils, Dallas County, AL

This Saturday in late May was HOT! A large group of 27 people met at a private site in central Alabama to search several very extensive gullies for fossils. BPS has not visited this site in at least 10 years, so we were excited about this opportunity. This gully has been a treasure-trove of fossil material over the years, most of which is currently housed at the Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This day was no exception, and a number of important finds were made, including various mosasaur bones at several locations, including a juvenile vertebra, at least two fish skeletons, turtle bones, several partial and deformed starfish replaced with marcasite, Enchodus teeth of all sizes, a bird tooth, and another fossil bird. From the items being shown for photo documentation, it seemed that most people found at least one shark tooth, oysters, shell material, and plenty of shrimp burrows. Claire even found an echinoid.

Several people decided to brave the tall grass and poison ivy to check out a gully off the beaten path. Along with the fossils were plenty of chiggers!

Did I mention that it was HOT? James Lamb's thermometer in the middle of the gully registered 115 degrees. Coupled with the lack of vegetation, the stark white chalk of the gullies made this day almost unbearable, though we attempted to get in early to avoid the heat. When one is not accustomed to heat, hyperthermia can set in quickly, with symptoms of dizzyness, dehydration, confusion, and a feeling of exhaustion. Also, the gullies were so steep, once deciding it was time to go find a cool drink and some shade, just climbing out of the gullies was a major undertaking. A number of people decided to leave by early afternoon, or sit in the shade of the trees to cool off. One group took off to tour Old Cahawba, with a swim afterward, and Becky was headed out to North Dakota to hunt fossils for a couple of weeks. A smaller group managed to stay late; once it starts cooling off around 5pm, the late evening sunlight is often polarized, which makes it much easier to spot fossils, and collecting is very pleasant.

Photos courtesy Jan Novak and Vicki Lais