July 21, 2007 - Cretaceous Fossils, Greene Co, AL

A very large group of 31 people showed up for the July BPS trip to Greene county. Thanks to James Lamb, our trip leader this time, we visited some Cretaceous sites that we have not visited for at least 10 years, so we were all pretty excited. The first site was a chalk gully which has produced nice mosasaur bones in years past. James Lamb gave a short training session on how to collect in chalk gullies, how to walk around in them (slowly and gently), how to collect (when you find something, look up-hill to see if there are more), and other collecting tips. There are numerous pieces of what looks like rubble scattered throughout a gully - each piece of "rubble" is actually part of a fossil, though most of them are unrecognizable without close examination, sometimes under a microscope. James Lamb checked some areas where fossils had been found in the past, and discovered another bone, which was flagged so that it could be retrieved on the way out. Bob found a bone which turned out to be part of a turtle. Also, we found a wide variety of other fossils, including another mosasaur vertebra, a couple of mosasaur teeth, Tylosaurus flipper bone, several shark teeth, including a large one found by Sylvie. Ammonite pieces, worm tubes, burrows, a tiny fish tooth, a fish vertebra, and oyster shells were also found. One member asked James to go check some bones she had flagged; he discovered they were bones of a recent rabbit, and as he was approaching her to return the flag, he asked "Are you keeping that mosasaur vertebra there by your foot?" Well . . . She would've had she seen it first! Many fossils are light colored and blend in well with the environment. It takes time to adjust ones eyes to be able to spot them. We also discovered some fresher fish bones, leading to the conclusion that the birds who regularly raid the catfish farms have been using the gulley as their dining hall. Though we were hot and dripping wet, we were willing to stay longer, wondering what was in the next gully, and the next, and . . .

After rounding up the gang (which is a minor miracle in itself!), we hiked back to our vehicles for lunches, then headed for the creek. Finally, time to get wet and cool off! Out with the sieves, from collander baskets to "real" geology sorters, to home made wood-sided screens. At least a dozen ptychodus teeth turned up - Claire may be the "winner" on these, she had found 6 at last count. Every screen we searched had several shark teeth, and other fossils were also found, including a large fish vertebra, gastropod steinkerns (internal molds), worm tubes, and one very nice arrowhead. We left relatively early (hey, some of us would have stayed til dark if we could have!), and many of us stopped by a famous BBQ joint to continue the fun and fossil discussion.

--Edited by Vicki Lais

(photos courtesy Bob Stewart, Steve Corvin and Vicki Lais)
ethics & landowner rules lecture by Dr. Lamb
James Lamb gives a refresher talk on rules about collecting at museum sites, BPS ethics, and landowner restrictions.

chalk gully
Typical Greene County, Alabama chalk gully.

lecture in chalk gully
James Lamb explaining gully collection techniques.

collecting fossils in chalk gully
Even the younger members had fun.

fossil bone of Tylosaurus
Flipper bone of a Tylosaurus found by James Lamb.

collecting fossils in chalk gully

fossil rubble on the ground in chalk gully
Many "pieces" are scattered throughtout the gully, and according to James Lamb, they are all fossils.

fossil turtle shell
Small piece of turtle shell found by Bob.

collecting fossils in chalk gully

fossil teeth and shells
Some typical fossils found in chalk gullies - one finds hundreds of worm tubes, and only a few shark teeth.

fossil shark tooth
Shark teeth are "normal" to find in gullies, but Sylvie found one whose size is truly spectacular for these gullies!

fossil worm tube

fossil ammonite section
Large ammonite section found by Vicki.


fossil fishtooth

fossil mosasaur vertebra
Mosasaur vertebra found by James Lamb (right beside Vicki's foot, darn it!)

fossil fish vertebra
Fish vertebra.

fossil mosasaur tooth
Nice mosasaur tooth.

fossil ammonite section
Another piece of ammonite.

collecting fossils in chalk gully

collecting fossils in chalk gully

fossil teeth

fossil mosasaur vertebra
Small mosasaur vertebra found by Leisa as we were leaving the gullies "Everybody just stepped right over it or passed it by without noticing".

chalk gully overlook

collecting fossils in creek
After lunch we headed to the creek to screen for teeth and whatever else we might find.

fossil ptychodus tooth
One of the many ptychodus teeth found in the creek.

fossil teeth in typical screen
Typical finds after washing the sand/mud from the gravel - notice the shark teeth and the piece of bone.

fossil teeth in screen
Another load of "pay dirt" - fish vertebra, shark teeth, ptychodus tooth.

fossil fish vertebra
Closer shot of the fish vertebra.

fossil gastropod, shark tooth
Nice internal mold of a gastropod.

collecting fossils in creek with screens
A laid back group, keeping cool, having fun. There were various groupings of people all along the creek - some went upstream, some went downstream. James Lamb is collecting material to be used in an upcoming exhibit at McWane Science Center.

collecting fossils in creek

fossils in screen
How many shark teeth can you see in this picture?

fossil shark teeth
Sample of teeth found by Bob.

Indian arrowhead found in creek
Wesley found a very nice point.

fossil gastropod internal molds

fossil bone

leaving fossil site
Headed home after a wonderfully pleasant day of collecting!

yellow flower