FOSSIL SITE OVERVIEW
Donald Kenney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last Update: Sun Jul 8 11:30:01 2018
This is a list of somewhere around 15000 fossil localities in the United States and Canada. The list has been built up from a variety of sources over about 35 years. A few general comments:
Most users would probably prefer to access the relatively short state listings.
For other options, additional information, etc, see the Fossil Site Info Page --
- You have three options to access the list:
- To access by State/Province(recommended), Click here This will get you fairly small files.
- To download the entire list in Comma Separated format, Click here. Once you have that downloaded, you should be able to highlight it, copy it to the clipboard, and paste it into a spreadsheet or database. Yes, I've tested that. It works for me. Unfortunately, one of the host sites is prone to delete the file. Or you can try to download the file directly in csv format or compressed.
- If you REALLY want the entire list in one HTML Table, Click here or compressed Click here but be warned that this is a very large table and may well bring your web browser to its knees.
- One of the current hosts for this web site caps access at 40Mb total per day -- which should be plenty I should think, but you can minimize the load on the site by using the shorter state/province lists instead of the longer full lists unless you really need the latter.
- There are plenty of errors in the list. Some of the original material was incorrect or ambiguous. I made errors transcribing some of it to index cards decades ago and more errors transcribing that into the computer more recently. It has been spell checked, and checked for plausibility. Some of the hopeless material was deleted. In general, I've kept anything that looked like it might be remotely useful to someone someday. I am working at improving the quality, but that is a job that will take many years
- Many of the sites are closed to collecting or buried under shopping centers, highways, or housing developments. I've kept them because closed sites are sometimes reopened, and sometimes the same rocks and fossils will turn up 100 yards or 100 miles down the road.
- In general, permission is required from somebody to collect fossil vertebrate material in the US and Canada. An exception is often made in practice for shark teeth and occasionally for disarticulated marine vertebrate bones, but that can't really be counted upon. Always ask. There are limits on the amount of petrified wood than can be collected on public land. Rules for collecting invertebrate and plant material vary widely especially in 'wilderness areas'. Permission is always required to collect on private property. Digging holes where you do not have permission to dig or are unfamiliar with the rules is almost always a bad idea.
- Most of the distances are in kilometers and meters. For practical purposes, a meter is a smidge over 3 feet (a yard) and a kilometer is 5/8 of a mile. I think most of the English measurements -- Miles, Yard, Feet ... have been removed.
- Geologic Periods are listed as 'Period Middle, Upper or Lower' rather than the more conventional form of, for example, "Lower Cambrian" That's so that if the material is in a database or spreadsheet and is sorted, Lower Cambrian will sort out next to Middle Cambrian instead of next to Middle Cretaceous.
- Locations such as SE1/4S32T17WR4N refer to the Public Land Survey System in the US or the similar Dominion Land Survey in Canada. Read that as SouthEast quarter section of Section 32 Township 17W Range 4N. PLSS locations are often way off. Latitude Longitude is provided as well as well except where the PLSS is too garbled to figure out. But the lat long won't help if the original PLSS/DLS position was wrong. See This page for more discussion of locations described using Survey points.
- Fossils at sites are generally listed only by genus. For a long time my software for handling the list had a limit of 255 characters per field, the fossil list for a few sites ends in an ellipses (...) indicating that there were more genera, but the list was truncated.
- Based on my experience, some of the sites listed probably never existed, and others have been developed/reclaimed out of existence. Many of the sites when found will be closed to collecting and of those that are not, many will prove to be only marginally productive. Few of these sites are accessible to large groups without special arrangements.
- Ampersands (&) cause some technical problems related to the way the HTTP protocol underlying the Internet works. I've eliminated most of them replacing them with 'and' or '+' whichever seems to fit better. In a few cases, they are in web site URLs, and can't be eliminated. I've followed the technically correct method of using & even within a preformatted block. My apologies if that doesn't render properly (as an '&') with your browser. Truly not my fault.
- For the first 20 years or so of the database, I did not record reference information. I have changed my ways, but that can not restore the missing references. And in many cases where there are references, they are to derived documents -- which often do not cite what documents they are based on. Sorry about all that.
- My thanks to Howard Allen of Calgary, Alberta who has been infinitely helpful with Canadian sites and also in working through many of the thousand or two questionable localities, genera, etc in my original list.
- You might think that Counties would be straightforward. And they mostly are in 49 states and 4 provinces. In Alaska, the other 6 provinces, and the Canadian Arctic, things are more complex. See this page for more penetrating commentary on this subject and a complete, downloadable list of US and Canadian 'Counties'.
- The formation field is checked against another local database. The formation database is based on the USGS Geologic Name Lexicon GEOLEX https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/Geolex/geolex_home.html and its Canadian equivalent http://http://weblex.nrcan.gc.ca/weblex_e.pl augmented by Google searching. Problems:
- GEOLEX and CGKN while excellent are not complete.
- Formation names are not necessarily unique.
- Formations sometimes morph over distance changing nomenclature and/or material.
- The same formation may change its name in different regions
- Some proposed formation names were not taken up by other authors and were used only in a single paper or set of papers.
You can download my formation database in csv format from FORMS.CSV, but I honestly can not imagine why anyone would want to.
Anyway if your GPS takes you to a location and there are no fossils there. Read the site description for clues. Then look around. The fossils (if any) may be a ten or twenty minute walk from the latitude-longitude. There is more information on locations here.
- Taxonomy is the science/art/craft of organizing fossil genera into a heiarchial tree. One might assume that there is some sort of central authority that maintains an official, universally agreed upon taxonomic tree including all plants and animals. Not so. In fact, taxonomy for living plants and animals is quite fragmented. Fossils are even worse because many fossils represent only portions or traces of creatures. And yes, there have been cases where different parts of the same entity were and are still assigned different genus names. That's especially common with plants where bark, trunks, roots, stems, seeds, fruits/flowers, and foliage are often treated as different entities. But it happens with animals as well.
Because there isn't any official standard taxonomy, I've been forced to concoct my own taxonomic tree. Largely it follows Wikipedia, but even Wikipedia doesn't seem to be 100% consistent. and presumably it might change. Wikipedia is, after all, editable. I think my taxonomy is mostly consistent with other taxonomies, but there are certainly problems with early vertebrates and likely problems elsewhere.
I have elected to retain a few groupings (e.g. "Fish") that are no longer politically correct because anyone who understands more modern terminology will understand "Fish" but the opposite probably is not true.
- Understanding the sequences of rocks exposed in cliffs, roadcuts and quarries can be very useful in identifying potentially fossiliferous beds. There's lots of information available. Too much perhaps. Mostly it's not terribly well organized. While I'd love to seek out summaries of the geology of each site and augment them with geologic maps, that's utterly impractical. The best I think I can do is link to the information at [https://macrostrat.org] where they are trying to collect detailed geological information on the entire world.
Other Paleo Related Stuff
A catalog of pictures of part of my small and quite undistinguished fossil collection. If nothing else, it may provide someone with images of some fossils that they can freely reuse without worrying about Copyright and permissions. I plan to add to the catalog over time, and probably to reimage some of the lousier pictures. As of October 2008, there should be a copy of the CATALOG on the website. Their previous repository at http://vtcodger.blogspot.com/ is still there, but it may be converted to a real blog someday.
Ordovician fossils at DAR State Park, Addison County, VT
A few photos of fossils exposed in Middle Ordovician, Glens Falls(?) Limestone at DAR State Park, Addison County, VT
Devonian fossils at Summit, Schoharie County, NY
A panel showing a few Middle Devonian marine and plant fossils from a road cut on NY10 in Summit, Schoharie County, NY.
The Sepkoski Database or compressed A database of about 30000 fossil taxa and their time of first appearance and of disappearance. Download in csv format or compressed.
The intent is to describe the general geologic and paleontologic setting of regions where similar fossils are found. Roughly, these correspond vaguely to the modern concept of Terranes -- collections of rock sequences that resemble each other closely and do not resemble those of other terranes. The vast interior of North America that stretches from the Hudson River to the Sierra Nevada is basically a single terrane. There, I intend to use the Geolex Areas (e.g. "The Appalachian Basin") and their Canadian analogs instead of terranes. For starters, we have seven region descriptions:
- Atlantic Coastal: Cretaceous through Pliocene near shore marine and terrestrial beds deposited along the coast from Massachusetts to Florida.
- Avalonia: Regions of Precambrian-Devonian sediments West of Cretaceous-Recent Atlantic sediments and East of everything else in Newfoundland, Northern Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, New England, and the Carolinas.
- Gulf: Regions of Upper Mesozoic and Tertiary marine and near shore sediments found continuously around the Gulf of Mexico coastline of the US and discontinuously along the Mississippi River North to Missouri and Illinois.
- Iapetus Seafloor: Regions of often highly altered and usually sparsely fossiliferous sedimentary rock from the highly compressed seafloor of the early Paleozoic Iapetus Sea. These are found in a strip parallel to the Atlantic Coast of North America mostly just East of the Appalachian Mountains.
- Margin: Ediacaran thru Carboniferous rocks deposited on or near the paleocontinent of Laurentia while the Iapetus Sea opened then closed in the Paleozoic.
- Maritime (Provinces) Cover: Thick regional deposits of Upper Paleozoic and Lower Mesozoic rocks in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island as well as Rhode Island and adjacent Massachusetts.
- Midcontinent Sea: Very thick Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits occupying most of the space between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains with considerable overlap West across the Rockies, the Eastern Great Basin and the Colorado Plateau.
- Meguma: Cambrian-Devonian sediments in the Southern half of Nova Scotia that were originally deposited in the Rheas Ocean to the East of the microcontinent of Avalonia.
- Triassic: Late Triassic and very Early Jurassic rift valley deposits scattered from Nova Scotia to the Carolinas associated with the opening of the modern Atlantic Ocean.
- Laurentian: This covers the majority of the rocks of Canada and US. It is subdivided into two files -- East of the Rockies and The Rockies and West. Both files are currently incomplete. They do not address Mesozoic and more recent rocks already addressed in the Midcontinent Sea Terrane TERRANES/MIDCONT.HTM]
FOSSIL SITE PROFILES
These are intended to be fairly in depth descriptions of interesting/well known fossil sites. I'm still learning how to do these. For example only one or two have links to Google Maps. I'll eventually settle on a format and start doing these in greater numbers. But don't expect a lot of them any time soon. Producing them is quite time consuming.
Anyway, I've taken a shot at about a dozen so far, and they are available here.
- This is version 1808 of the site contents
- Don Kenney, Essex, VT, Jul 08, 2018
Copyright 2006-2018 Donald Kenney (Donald.Kenney@GMail.com). Unless otherwise stated, permission is hereby granted to use any materials on these pages under the Creative Commons License V2.5.
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