Uncovering marine mysteries

Suzan Bellincampi
Suzan Bellincampi shows what a Bryzoan looks like. They are commonly found on the bottom of boats, pilings, and shells, like the whelk shown here. Photos by Susan Safford

Posted March 8, 2007

Last Saturday, 400-million-year-old visitors got a bath courtesy of Felix Neck Wildlife Preserve. The guests were marine fossils from the Ordovician period. The Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute and Felix Neck teamed up for an educational and fun afternoon with the artifacts.

A group of children and adults joined staffers Justen Walker and Suzan Bellincampi as they washed the fossils in freshwater, sorted them by type, and learned what exactly they were holding and seeing.

Fred Hotchkiss and Sam Rollins
Fred Hotchkiss, director of the Marine and Paleobiological Research Institute, shows Sam Rollins the intricate part of a fossil.

Ms. Walker described the fossils: "What we have here are mostly castings. If you found a periwinkle and filled it with mud, the mud would mineralize and the shell would disintegrate over time, over thousands and millions of years. What's left is the mold of what used to be."

Doug McAvoy of Commanda, Ontario, donated the fossils to Mr. Hotchkiss after finding them individually at the James Dick quarry - an active cement and gravel quarry in Gamebridge, Ontario.

Ms. Walker, the new education coordinator at Felix Neck, sounded enthusiastic when she said, "It's not often you can put your hands on something that's 400 million years old."

For more information on the Research Institute, visit www.MPRInstitute.org.