Museum’s Godfrey edits Smithsonian fossil publication
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.
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.
Some of the shark fossils, including megalodon teeth, found along Calvert Cliffs.