Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ancient and modern, washed on the shoreline

Note to self: Self, you are very lucky. There is no snow on your roof. The air temperature today was close to 60 degrees. You walked on the beach today. Do no complaining, Self.
Note to friends in northern climes: Friends, I wish you were all here.

We attended a clinic today at the Environmental Education Center at GTMMER. It was conducted by one of the guys who works at Guana, a self-taught amateur fossil collector like many of us named Jake, and a good time was had by all. Our friends Suzanne and Chuck came down (we were sorry to miss Ray and JoAnne - feel better soon, Ray!) and we spent an hour or so comparing some of our favorite finds and learning from Jake and each other. One gentleman had what Jake thought might be a sperm whale tooth, collected many years ago from a beach in the Bahamas.
It must have been 6 inches long, or more, and was quite amazing. Another lady brought the beautiful white turtle shell you see in the photo.

Jake's own collection included some examples of fossilized pieces we've all found but identified with varying degrees of accuracy. He took us through a thoughtful presentation, but spent a good deal of time poring over our pieces, identifying where he could and honestly admitting where he couldn't. Perhaps the most exciting piece we talked about was a jawbone with one tooth remaining in it, brought by Suzanne. Since it was Suzanne who first made me realize that the dull old sharks's teeth we'd collected for years were actually relics of planetary history dating back thousands of years, I took special pleasure in finding that the jawbone was mostly likely that of a jaguar, and probably more than 12,000 years old.
It's a terrible photo, taken with my phone, but you get the idea. Interestingly, we have a tooth, found some years ago along the beach in Guana, that almost looks like it might fit into that piece of jaw.

The room at Guana's EEC was full of people. There were old veterans of the beach walk, incidental collectors, people of our age and older, and, delightfully, at least a couple of young fans, one of whom shyly asked several questions and another of whom came in late and asked for help identifying the species of sharks from which her carefully gathered collection of teeth had their genesis. My dear old person and I stopped on the way out to donate a piece we'd found last weekend. It looked like an arrowhead, and so might well be an artifact of an ancient native people, although when we picked it up, it looked like a piece of rock. When it was cleaned up, we started to think it mightn't be an animal fossil, so we left it in the care of the Guana team. From there we set off for the beach, and walked 2 or 3 miles into a chilly northwest wind under a bright blue sky skirted with wind-brushed white clouds. It was a lovely Saturday. I do hope yours was at least as fine.


  1. What a delightful day all around! Angie, thank you so much for giving us the head's up on the fossil lecture at Guana. While Jake claimed to only be a self-taught amateur—I learned a great deal from his 1 hour presentation.

    So many outstanding specimens were shared and the discussions have me anxious to get back out the beach and hunt for more!

  2. Suzanne, we were so glad to see you and your charming husband, and enjoyed the event enormously, too! I heard a whisper that there might be another session in a month or would be great to share that one, as well (and maybe we could even have lunch together or something!) I thought Jake did a great job, too and have passed along this blog post to some of the managerial staff at GTMERR to be sure they're aware of the community appreciation for this great teaching opportunity.

  3. A jawbone with one tooth in it... Since my dentures and implants, and if I don't lose the one remaining real tooth in my head, that's what I'll be leaving behind. I hope future generations don't think I was a reptile or something.

  4. Suldog, out of respect and fondness I forego the joke that might well be applied to both of us; suffice it to say that it involves the word "fossils". :)
    I do wish the photo did more justice to the thousands-of-years old jaguar jaw, but you get the idea. Thanks for reading.

  5. What wonderful finds and the speculations on what your discoveries are. You must have had a grand time!

    Sorry I've been a bit absent from reading/commenting. I've been having my hands full with the new bundle of joy. Talk with you more soon! :)


Please share your thoughts. If you have trouble getting past the gatekeeper, email and let me know.