Physical Geology, 9/e
Charles C. Plummer, California State University at Sacramento
David McGeary, Emeritus,California State University at Sacramento
Diane H. Carlson, California State University at Sacramento
Three undergraduate students from the University of Arkansas made a world-class discovery this week when they uncovered a 325-million-year-old nautiloid fossil just yards from two of Fayetteville's busiest roads. At exactly eight feet in length, their find represents the longest actinoceratoid nautiloid fossil in the world.
On Jan. 20, while the University community celebrated Martin Luther King Day, freshman geology major Sarah Kee and senior Kevin Morgan set out to hunt for fossils. Their excursion led them to a culvert near Interstate 540, where dime-sized ammonoid fossils were known to be abundant.
"We were actually looking for a three-foot nautiloid that was supposedly located there. Kevin was digging. I wandered a few feet off and started digging for ammonoids, and that's when I noticed the calcite," Kee said. Calling Morgan over, the pair began to dig and dig and dig and dig. "It just kept going and going, and that's when we called Jonathan because we knew we'd need more help," Kee said.
Junior Jonathan Gillip arrived at the site, and the trio hammered, chiseled and chopped their way through the splintery, black shale for the rest of the afternoon. When the unusual size of the fossil became undeniable, they phoned their advisor, geology professor Walter Manger.
"I was skeptical until I got down there to see it for myself. But these students knew exactly what they had," Manger said. "It may have been luck that brought them to it, but knowledge took over from there. They recognized what they'd found and were very conscientious about the excavation."
Manger's initial skepticism can be understood, considering the fact that only one other comparable nautiloid fossil is known to exist. Not coincidentally, that specimen was also discovered in Fayetteville in 1963 by University of Arkansas students and geology professor Doy Zachry. Measuring seven feet, two inches, the 1963 fossil was believed to be the largest in existence until Monday's discovery.
To read more about the find continue below or log onto the University Relations news release site at http://advancement.uark.edu/news/ and follow the links at the end of this page.
Links to additional news stories:
USA Today article on the fossil http://www.usatoday.com/news/science/2003-01-23-fossil_x.htm