A day in the lives of some very ancient worms.
The Catskill Geologists
Robert and Johanna Titus
Dec. 22, 2017
To live the life of a geologist is to experience some truly stunning moments. To stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, to gaze at rocks that are billions of years old, to find a perfect fossil or crystal; they are all unforgettable moments. But, in a way, finding genuinely ordinary moments from the distant past are also parts of the trade and, indeed, important parts.
We were walking along one day, when we found a nearly dried-up mud puddle and there, before us, was a wonderful geologic feature – a worm! Well, not just a worm but several trails that it, and its buddies, had produced. See our first photo. It had recently rained and those worms had been driven out of the waterlogged ground. They crawled around for a while and left those trails behind.
Well, we can imagine your response to all this – and you may not be all that thrilled. So, let’s continue and describe something else that we frequently encounter – fossil worm burrows. Take a look at our second photo. It shows a stratum from the bottom of the Devonian age Catskill Sea. It’s just a run-of-the-mill rock that became, perhaps, a bit more interesting by having been deposited at the floor of an ancient ocean. This really was the bottom of the sea. Later these sediments hardened into rock. We like to step up on to such rocks and talk about standing on the bottom of that ocean. That’s a bit goofy but it is fun.
What becomes even more interesting is when we combine these two commonplace features – and come up with an ancient sea floor and some ancient worms. And that is what you see in our second photo. We found this rock in our backyard, so it didn’t take a lot of hunting.
This is one of those things we want you to, having been reading our columns, become familiar with. These are genuine fossils and they are out there, waiting to be found by you. These are not bones or shells or teeth; these are what geologists call “trace fossils.” They record the activities of long ago animals, activities that left traces in the sediments that came to be hardened into rocks.
They record a few moments or a few hours in the lives of those very ancient creatures. Those creatures were just worms but we still think that is something.
Contact the authors at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join their facebook page “The Catskill Geologist” Read their blogs at “thecatskillgeologist.com.” They are everywhere!