Mu­seum’s God­frey ed­its Smith­so­nian fos­sil pub­li­ca­tion

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Calvert Ma­rine Mu­seum Cu­ra­tor of Pa­le­on­tol­ogy Dr. Stephen J. God­frey as­sisted on a multi-au­thored vol­ume, “The Ge­ol­ogy and Ver­te­brate Pa­le­on­tol­ogy of Calvert Cliffs, Mary­land, USA,” which was re­cently pub­lished in the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion Schol­arly Press.

Calvert Ma­rine Mu­seum artist Steven Scheirer also had il­lus­tra­tions in the vol­ume.

“We hope that both am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional pa­le­on­tol­o­gists will en­joy this pub­li­ca­tion,” God­frey said in a press re­lease. “I thank God, the con­tribut­ing au­thors, Tim Scheirer for his il­lus­tra­tions through­out, and the ed­i­tors at SISP. I’m stand­ing on the shoul­ders of gi­ants.”

Calvert Cliffs ranks high among the best­known fos­sil de­posits of any age, with Miocene epoch fos­sils rang­ing from 8 mil­lion to 22 mil­lion years old with more than 600 kinds of or­gan­isms. The fos­sils that are pre­served in the cliffs in­clude those of crocodiles and the mega-tooth shark me­ga­lodon. Be­cause the last com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the fos­sil ver­te­brates from Calvert Cliffs was pub­lished more than 100 years ago, the new­est pub­li­ca­tion up­dates some of the ge­o­log­i­cal fea­tures of Calvert Cliffs and pro­vides re­views of fos­sil sharks, skates, rays, fishes, crocodiles, and sea cows. God­frey, Pe­ter Vogt and Ralph R. Eshel­man de­scribe how the 65 to 130-foot-high Calvert Cliffs pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about the Miocene ge­ol­ogy, the ma­rine and ter­res­trial ver­te­brate fauna, and the ori­gin and evo­lu­tion of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and Calvert Cliffs up to the present time.

Con­trib­u­tor Bret­ton W. Kent de­scribes the car­ti­lagi­nous fish fauna, con­sist­ing of 54 species, in­clud­ing three rat­fishes, 12 skates and rays and 39 sharks. In an ad­den­dum to Kent’s chap­ter, he and David J. Ward de­scribe a new species of gi­ant thresher shark with ser­rated teeth.

God­frey and Gior­gio Carnevale also re­view 38 bony fish species. These fishes were adapted for life in a well-oxy­genated sea floor dom­i­nated pri­mar­ily by shal­low wa­ter species and sec­on­dar­ily by species pre­fer­ring the sunlit zone of the ocean.

Con­trib­u­tor Robert E. Weems de­tails the crocodil­ians which be­long to the genus The­cachampsa, and whose clos­est liv­ing rel­a­tive is the false ghar­ial of South­east Asia (Tomis­toma schlegelii). Two species The­cachampsa seri­codon and T. an­tiquus were present, and the fos­sils of these crocodil­ians are found in shal­low ma­rine coastal de­posits, in­di­cat­ing they in­hab­ited coastal wa­ters.

Cn­trib­u­tor Daryl P. Domn­ing re­ports that fos­sils of the Miocene ma­rine fauna in­clude rare sea cows of the fam­ily Du­gongi­dae. Three taxa are known of these her­biv­o­rous ma­rine mam­mals: Me­taxytherium cratae­gense, Nanosiren sp., and aff. Co­rys­tosiren.

The pub­li­ca­tion is ded­i­cated to the landown­ers who live along Calvert Cliffs and other trib­u­taries flow­ing into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and who al­lowed pa­le­on­tol­o­gists to quarry fos­sils from their prop­er­ties. The ma­jor­ity of the finds along the cliffs are made by am­a­teur col­lec­tors, who do­nate many of their finds to pub­lic mu­seum col­lec­tions, prin­ci­pally the Calvert Ma­rine Mu­seum and the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory. Seventy per­cent of the fos­sils in the per­ma­nent pa­le­on­tol­ogy col­lec­tion at CMM were do­nated by av­o­ca­tional pa­le­on­tol­o­gists, and most of the fos­sils il­lus­trated in the pub­li­ca­tion were also col­lected by am­a­teurs.

The com­plete pub­li­ca­tion can be found on­line at https://opensi.si.edu/in­dex.php/smith­so­nian/ cat­a­log/book/107

For more in­for­ma­tion on the pa­per, please con­tact Stephen God­frey at 410-326-2042, ext. 28 or email Stephen.God­[email protected]­coun­tymd.gov.

PHOTO BY STEPHEN GOD­FREY

The Calvert Cliffs at War­rior’s Rest Sanc­tu­ary. These 12-mil­lion to 15-mil­lion-year-old sed­i­ments from the Miocene epoch pre­serve fos­sils of ma­rine or­gan­isms.

PHOTO BY KAREN NEL­SON / SMITH­SO­NIAN IN­STI­TU­TION SCHOL­ARLY PRESS

Some of the shark fos­sils, in­clud­ing me­ga­lodon teeth, found along Calvert Cliffs.

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