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Fossil Diggin' on the Mississippi!
October 12, 2013
The Mississippi River conjures up many historic memories both recent and distant. Most relate the historical river, especially near Vicksburg, to visions of Mark Twain and the antics of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Other historians may visualize times when steamboats freqented the river or violent battles of the civil war that took place there. While most people read Mark Twain or read about the past in history books, actually sitting on the banks of the mightiest river in North America really allows one's imagination to run wild.
But the history SciQuest members sought was further back in time - much further. Thirty-million years further back! Directly beneath the mighty Mississippi River Bridge is an inconspicuous outcropping of limestone deposits from 30 million years ago. Most by-passers would not even give it much thought, that is when it is not submerged beneath the water. As luck would have it, the river is extremely low exposing the outcrop. Embedded in this layer, the Glendon Formation from the middle oligocene epoch, are fossils of bivalves, corals, shark teeth, and sting ray teeth.
We also traveled just north of Vicksburg to a younger formation, about 25 million years old, which served as a boundary to the Glendon Formation and the Byram Formation. We also found an abundance of bivalve fossils. Disappointingly, we did not find any treasured shark teeth; but there, is always next time.