Delaware State Symbols: State Fossil Belemnite

06.05.2016

Delaware doesn't have as many state symbols as some states, but they do have a state fossil and a state  mineral.  I'll start with their state fossil the belemnite.

More specifically, their state fossil is the Bellemnitella americanus belonging to the phyllum mollusca and class cephalophoda.  This marine mollusk was related to modern day cuttlefish, although they looked more like modern squids.  The belemnite lived for a period of about 140 million years, disappearing about 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretacious Period.  The name comes from the Greek, belemnon, meaning like a dart or javelin.  This is a depiction of the anatomy of a belamnite from www.ucmp.berkely.com

These little cephalopods were only about 2-6 inches long, but they were fast, efficient carnivores that caught small fish and marine animals with their 10 hooked tentacles.  They also had a beak-like jaw.  The tail had a bullet shaped feature of the skeleton called the rostrum or guard. The part that is found as a fossil is the rostrum or guard from the back end of the animal.  This fossil is the hard external skeleton; modern squids do not have this, so they are more closely like modern cuttlefish. 

These creatures lived all over the world.  This is a picture of a fossil rostrum that was found in the U.K. Photo from demon.co.uk/fossils

The best place to look for belemnites in Delaware is in the dredge spoil piles near the mouth of the Chesapeake and Delaware canals, just west of St. Georges.  You can also find them just east of the north side of the Reedy Point Bridge.  The best time to look is right after they dredge the canal.

According to www.fossilguy.com, in this same location (where you can find belemnites), you can also find pelecypods; generally two kinds - exogyra costata (pic from thefossilshop.com)

 

and pyncnodonte mutablilis (pic from newton.physics.uiowa.edu).

These will generally be small, no more than 3 inches. Finally, you can also find fossil sharks' teeth at these sites.

This last belemnite pic is of an opalized belemnite fossil - would LOVE to find one of these!  The pic is from ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com

If you would like more information on where to locate fossils in Delaware, check out www.dgs.udel.edu/delaware-geology/fossil-sites-delaware

 

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