ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • Life Sciences

I Found a Fossil on the Beach and Wondered

Updated on February 15, 2018

A favorite past time for many of us is combing the beaches for interesting items the surf washes in. Whether you're walking along the shoreline of one of the world's oceans or the USA's Great Lakes, your imagination is on high alert to pick up something you just can't let go! Suddenly, something catches your eye! But, it's not driftwood or beach glass or even a pretty rock. You may not know exactly why, but you suspect you have found something that was once a living creature.


Crinoid Fossils Found on Beach

Crinoid Pieces Embedded in Lake Michigan Beach Brownstone
Crinoid Pieces Embedded in Lake Michigan Beach Brownstone

Has that ever happened to you? A deep sense of curiosity and childlike imagination drives us to find out what we may have picked up along our freshwater and saltwater shorelines. Having collected quite a few samples from Lake Michigan's shoreline, I finally decided to fulfill my nagging curiosity and followed through with a rewarding investigation. The more I learned about my stony sand-smoothed findings, the more I wanted to know. I wondered what the creatures may have looked like when alive and how they lived. I also wanted to know how they showed up so prevalent along our fresh water beaches. Some time later, after many answered questions, I can honestly say I now enjoy a cool hobby. Taking things a step further, I have drawn illustrations of their living beings and started a more in-depth fossil blog of all my discoveries. You can find the link at the end of this article. For now, enjoy interesting information from seven of my favorite, beach fossil-finds in the pages below enhanced with photos and colorful living renditions.

Crinoid Fossils Found on Beach

Crinoid Fossil Stems and Individual Pieces Found on Lake Michigan Beach
Crinoid Fossil Stems and Individual Pieces Found on Lake Michigan Beach
Lake Michigan Scattered Crinoid Pieces Embedded in Prehistoric Ocean Floor
Lake Michigan Scattered Crinoid Pieces Embedded in Prehistoric Ocean Floor

Crinoids

Some of the most prevalent fossils found along the Great Lake's beaches are crinoids (shown above). They have been coined with a several names due to the animal's features and by the character of their fossils discovered throughout history. One common name for them is "Indian Beads". Native Americans were known to make necklaces with their broken pieces which resemble the shape of cheerios perfect for stringing. They've also been referred to as "Lucky Stones"! Spotting one takes a keen eye as most of the pieces are quite small.

As living creatures, each circular section was stacked one over the other constructing the animal's entire framework. They possessed branching arms that sat atop of long single stems. They were sessile creatures, in other words, they remained attached to the sea floor. Some varieties are known to have towered several meters in length. Their loose structure resulted in the living organism's beautifully colored and flower like appearance which granted them the nickname of "Sea Lilies". They captured tiny food particles passing by on ocean currents with their feathery network of arms that functioned like traps. Crinoids fit into the phylum of Echinoderm, meaning spiny skin, and are cousins of starfish, sea urchins and feather stars.

Sea lily crinoid's lengthy history began during the Ordovician Period around 500 million years ago, although most fossils are from the Mississipian Period around 345 mya and are preserved in limestone. Today there are far fewer species and most lack the long meandering stem common in Paleozoic varieties.


Rendition of Paleozoic Crinoids
Rendition of Paleozoic Crinoids

Answered Question

In the course of my investigation, I had often wondered why so many crinoid fossils ended up along the beaches of the freshwater Great Lakes; particularly by the fact that they had thrived in saltwater environments. The answer about saltwater creatures is easy enough to explain. During the "sea lily" crinoids lifetime, much of the world's continents were covered under warm, shallow, saltwater oceans where their living species died and settled on the ocean bottom buried in sediment. Millions of years later they fossilized. I've since learned their prehistoric fossilized remains have been discovered widespread throughout North America.Yet, I still wondered why their fossils are so prevalent lying on the beaches of the big lakes? Here's why; ten thousand years ago when the giant glaciers sculpted the deep basins forming the Great Lakes, they also dug into the deep layers of sediment where their remains rested. In the process, their remains were released and consequently the constant wave action of the lakes deposit them on the beach where we love finding them! It's a satisfying feeling when something you've been curious about for a long time is finally realized!

Bryozoan Fossils Found on Beach

Bryozoan Fossil Lake Michigan Beach
Bryozoan Fossil Lake Michigan Beach
Bryozoan Fossil Lake Michigan Beach
Bryozoan Fossil Lake Michigan Beach

Bryozoans

Another common beach find are Paleozoic Era "bryozoan" fossils, often called lace corals because of their delicately threaded appearance, but they were not true corals. Instead, they were moss-like animals belonging to the family of Fenestellida for their fan-shaped, mesh appearance. They lived in tight colonies sculpted by hard, limy, branching structures. The colony consisted of thousands of individual animals called “zooids”. Each individual zooid lived inside its own limy tube called a zooecium. The zooecium were the size of sewing needles. A single zooid began the colony. A modern day bryozoan colony has been observed growing from a single zooid to 38,000 in just five months. Each additional zooid is a clone of the very first one.

Interesting how they feed, Each zooid has an opening through which the animal can extend its ring of tentacles called lophophores. Their lophophores capture microscopic plankton from the water passing by. If one zooid receives food, it nourishes the neighboring zooids because they are joined by strands of protoplasm. If only we humans could be more like them ensuring everyone on the planet is fed!

Their fossil record dates back 500 mya with 15,000 known species. Today there are about 3,500 living species.

Clam Fossils Found on Beach

Clam Fossil Lake Michigan Beach
Clam Fossil Lake Michigan Beach
Lake Michigan Beach Clam Shell Fossil
Lake Michigan Beach Clam Shell Fossil
Flip Side Lake Michigan Beach Clam Shell Fossil
Flip Side Lake Michigan Beach Clam Shell Fossil

Clams

I found these clam fossils on the shore of Oval Beach in Southwestern Michigan. The shell of the darker sample has been completely replaced by minerals and is petrified to stone. It's likely the mold of the shell where sediment and minerals permeated. Its smooth surface is a telltale demonstration of the lake's sand and water action. The lighter colored sample clearly reveals the hardened muddy sediment that has completely encrusted its shell.

"Clam" can be a term that covers all bivalves. Some clams bury themselves in sand and breathe by extending a tube to the water’s surface. Bivalve oysters and mussels attach themselves to hard objects and scallops can free swim by flapping their valves together. All types lack a head and usually have no eyes, although scallops are a notable exception. With the use of two adductor muscles they can open and close their shells tightly. Very fittingly, the word “clam” gives rise to the metaphor “to clam up”, meaning to stop speaking or listening.

Bivalves have occupied Earth as early as the Cambrian Period 510 million years ago, but they were particularly abundant during the Devonian Period around 400 million years ago. Their fossils are discovered in all marine ecosystems and most commonly in near shore environments. In 2007, off the coast of Iceland, a clam was discovered to be at least 405 years old. It was declared the world’s oldest living creature by North Wales, Bangor University researchers.


Brachiopod Fossil Found on Beach

Brachiopod Fossil Lake Michigan Beach
Brachiopod Fossil Lake Michigan Beach

Brachiopods

No other organisms typify the Age of Invertebrates more than brachiopods. They are the most abundant Paleozic fossils, except for maybe trilobites. Because of this, paleontologists use them to date rocks and other fossils. Countless billions accumulated on the ocean floor with over 30,000 forms. Today there are far fewer species, only about 300 which live mostly in cold water, deep ocean environments.

Brachiopods look like clams but are very different inside. To tell them apart, clams have uneven shaped shells, but both top and bottom halves are identical. Brachiopods are symmetrical at a glance, but the bottom shell is smaller. Brachiopods are commonly called "lampshells" due to their similarity in shape to a Roman oil lamp.

They live in communities attached to objects by a muscular foot called a pedicle. They strain water in and out of their shells filtering microorganisms with their lophophores, a crown of tentacles.

Brachiopods in the Ocean Mist Drawing
Brachiopods in the Ocean Mist Drawing

"Petoskey Stone" Coral Fossils Found on Beach

Polished "Petoskey Stone" Coral Fossil
Polished "Petoskey Stone" Coral Fossil
"Petoskey Stone" Coral Fossil Unpolished
"Petoskey Stone" Coral Fossil Unpolished
"Petoskey Stone" Coral Fossil Worn Down by Natural Elements
"Petoskey Stone" Coral Fossil Worn Down by Natural Elements

Petoskey Stone Corals

During the Devonian time slot over 350 million years ago, Michigan was covered by a shallow saltwater sea. That's where mass colonies of corals called Hexagonaria, percarinata, commonly known as Petoskey Stones, thrived and flourished. The saltwater seascape must have been lit up with a quilt-work of colors by the mass colonies. Unfortunately, they became extinct at the end of the Permian Period's mass extinction.

The name “Petoskey” originated from an Ottawa fur-trader chief named Petosegay. A northern Michigan city was named after him, except the name was modified to Petoskey. Because the coral fossils are so abundant along Michigan shorelines, especially in the northern regions near the city of Petoskey, Governor George Romney signed a bill in 1965 making the Petoskey Stone the official state stone.

When observing one of the fossils, each coral hexagon structure, visible to the eye, held a single animal which opened a mouth to expose tentacles. The tentacles took in food and were also used to sting any organism or other corallite that came too close. Calcite, silica and other minerals replaced the original corallite exoskeleton. The last photo example above demonstrates Lake Michigan's natural polishing process from the wind, wave and sand movement.

Ancient Seabed Drawing with Petoskey Stone Corals, Crinoids, Clams and Byozoans
Ancient Seabed Drawing with Petoskey Stone Corals, Crinoids, Clams and Byozoans

Favosite Coral Fossils Found on Beach

Lake Michigan Beach Favosite Coral Fossil
Lake Michigan Beach Favosite Coral Fossil
Lake Michigan Beach Favosite Coral Fossil
Lake Michigan Beach Favosite Coral Fossil

Favosite Corals

FAVOSITE CORALS

An extinct order of coral called tabulate corals also formed reefs and lived in warm shallow waters during the same period as the Petoskey Stone corals. They were the favosite corals. The tabulae (horizontal internal layers) were built outward as the organism grew. These layers can clearly be seen in the photo above. The favosites can also be identified by the honeycomb pattern on the exterior of their fossilized remains.


Stromatolite Fossil Found on Beach

Lake Michigan Beach Stromatolite Fossil
Lake Michigan Beach Stromatolite Fossil
Lake Michigan Beach Stromatolite Fossil (Wet)
Lake Michigan Beach Stromatolite Fossil (Wet)

Stromatolites

You're combing the beach in search of something interesting to examine. You pick up a common smooth stone admiring its sleek texture. Little did you know, it's actually a fossil. When wet, the stone reveals its layers of striations. It's a stromatolite fossil, the oldest of all fossils dating as far back as 3.5 billion years ago. Their hay day was long before the Cambrian creatures evolved actually paving the way for their existence. Stromatolites were simple cyanobacteria capable of photosynthesis. Their structures grew solid, layered and varied, some of which looked like giant mushrooms reaching eight feet tall. Through photosynthesis, they changed Earth's atmosphere from carbon dioxde rich to oxygen rich. Scientists had believed they were extinct before 1956 when living stromatolites were discovered in Shark Bay of Australia. Since then there have been many more discoveries around the globe.

The stromatolites forming today in the shallow waters of Shark Bay, Australia are built by colonies of microbes. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison
The stromatolites forming today in the shallow waters of Shark Bay, Australia are built by colonies of microbes. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison

© 2010 Kathi

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 3 years ago from Essex, UK

      Nice introduction to fossils and fossil hunting for beginners Kathi.

      I like the line:

      'A deep sense of curiosity and childlike imagination drives some of us to find out what we picked up along the freshwater shoreline.'

      That's the unfortunate point I think. For some reason, as people grow out of childhood too many lose their childhood fascination for such things as fossils, as well as other wonders like the creatures which live in a pond, or the stars to be seen in the night sky. That's sad - if only everyone could keep that sense of curiosity and imagination as they grow up - the world would be a much more wondrous place for all - adults, as well as children.

      I hope some at least feel inspired as they walk along a shoreline or beside a cliff face, to turn over a few stones and see what they can find. Alun

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 4 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Thank you Ps... sorry I missed this so long ago! Appreciate you angels messages so much! Have a great week ahead! Kathi :O)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Yes, Fossillady, I did enjoy this. This has been an afternoon of learning. I have read so many interesting articles this afternoon and this one is definitely one I will remember. I had no idea. It is amazing how much there is to learn about fossils.

      Voted up+++

      Sending many Angels your way this afternoon. :) ps

    • profile image

      Jon 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great resource. Been collecting fossils on the beach in Chicago for a year or so and your site and information is the best out there. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Pete 5 years ago

      Hey this is so cool i just bought my first fossil and wana talk with people abot this stuff . someone text me haha

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Hey Micky, good to see you, sorry so late as I've been so busy lately with new jobs and all! I miss the regular contact with all my hubber friends! Thank you for the great comment, you're very kind to say so! Hope everything is great with you! Hugs my friend

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 6 years ago

      Your hubs are so pretty! Thank you dear Fossillady!

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Ha, What do you know, I'm a geo-jokster and don't even know it...hee

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 6 years ago from home

      Ha fossillady something new...LOL and were talking about fossil Ha that's a great geo-joke...

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Extremely pleased with this discussion Tom and Birdy, learned something new!!!!!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I guess it is like a tree with the circles. Interesting.

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 6 years ago from home

      All,

      I am pretty sure the accretion lines on the top of a clam will reveal its age-like the rings on a tree the clam gets bigger and another ring is added-

      TH

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I will talk fossils with you any day. I am in touch with both sides of my brain! Sometimes I surprise myself, lol.

      "In 2007, off the coast of Iceland, a clam was discovered to be at least 405 years old. It was declared the world’s oldest living creature by North Wales, Bangor University researchers." How do they know this and where is the clam at now? How does one determine the age of a clam that has seen centuries pass? Oh, I think a poem just came to mind. Both sides of that brain are reacting at the same time.

      Thanks for a great and well researched Hub.

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Very kind of you Janet! I had never worked with pastels before so there's lots of room for improvement, they are mostly targeted for children! Next time you're at the beach or in nature I hope you can recognize some of these fossils!

    • tumblintumblweed profile image

      tumblintumblweed 6 years ago

      Very interesting hub,Fossillady !Very informative and I love the artwork! It's awesome.I never knew some of these were fossils! Well,I sure learned something tonight!

      Thanks for sharing both info and art...nice combo!

      TTW

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 6 years ago from home

      FL,

      i know its kinda funny I always liked Ross too and my wife would always look at me when he would say something geological...

      don't worry- post a fossily hub i'll read it...

      ya got one fan...its a start

      TH

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      I know what you mean, nobody wants to talk about fossils with me either. Reminds me of Ross on Friends. He always wants to share his information about fossils and the others won't have anything to do with it!lol

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 6 years ago from home

      FL,

      I am just glad to talk fossils ith someone- my kids likem but.. even they tire of looking quick

      TH

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Great advice Tom, Very much appreciated!

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 6 years ago from home

      IZ, Wkmom,

      When cleaning crinoids- ya gotta know what kinda rock is clinging to them- depends on the rock type you findem in around here it iseasily found in shale i usually rtry to clip off- the best i can with toe nail clippers - be careful- then i will use a pretty dilute HCL solution between .1 and .25 dilute-use a "soft wire brush" maybe nylon brush-ajust hcl to rockhardness- always use acid in wellventilated area use safety glasses and neoprene or nitrile gloves- sandstone embeds- can be picked off the crinoids and a final acid wash

      TH

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Hi Workingmom, Good to see you here! I wish I had advise for cleaning fossils, I would think as long as you don't use anything too harsh,it will be okay!

      It sounds like it's not all that hard for you to find the crinoids where you are! I get so excited whenever I can spot one! lol...take care!

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Love this hub! I was actually thinking about writing a hub about crinoid beads (actually about using them to create jewelry, since I do that). My husband is an amateur archaeologist (aka rock hound), and he started taking me with him when we first started dating. I didn't care much about finding the arrowheads that he was hunting, but I fell in love with the beads! We were just down in Monroe Co., KY, and found quite a few within a few minutes by some of the many creeks. By the way, do you know a good method for cleaning fossils? I need to clean those beads if I'm going to make jewelry out of them!

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Hi Tom,Oh it sounds like a rick fossil find area. I have never found a trilobite, my husband did once while working on the railroad. I like to find crinoids that are still attach, but it would be even better to find one fully intact! Thanks for stopping by!

    • tom hellert profile image

      tom hellert 6 years ago from home

      We have the sme devonian aged fossils near Lake Erie- that shallow sea was really big when my son went hunting with me he said what are all these nuts and washers doing here-on the ground of course we were in a crinoid rich area. There were a ton of Brac's s well-then we found some smaller trilobite halves and a had a great time diggin the dirt and shale shards He kept pulling up shale and asking what it was then he gave me one with a Trilobite trace fossil (imprint) it was really a good one

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Hi WillStarr, You made your children feel very special that day! A wonderful fatherly thing to say. I would love to go to Kentucky and check out the shale bank. Kentucky has several fossil sites I've read about! I recognize you from other hubs and I see you're now following me, right back at ya!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      The Kentucky farm where we lived for a few years had a shale bank on one side of a stream that was loaded with fossils. My children were fascinated when I told them they were looking at the beginnings of life on Earth, and that their eyes were the first human eyes to ever see what they had found.

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Great, I'm glad you made a new discovery, I hope you find lots of fossils! It really is fun when you find one! It's gratifying later when you can identify it!

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 6 years ago

      Wowwee! Great hub. I live in Long Island New York, where there are miles and miles of beaches. I never knew some of the things I was looking at could be fossils. When the weather is warmer I will revisit your hub to look and learn more. Thanks for educating me. Rated up and awesome.

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      My jaw dropped when you mentioned coelacanth fish that was found! I've read that too! I would love to come there and fossil hunt. I've never been across the ocean. Hope to do that before my day comes around!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, you should come over to England, you would have a great time! lol the last time I went to Lyme Regis, Jurassic coast, they were filming for TV, and they had a fossil programme filled with all they had found, I would imagine that there are still loads of what we believe to be extinct animals still out there living in the deep ocean, I remember reading that fishermen found a coelacanth fish still living back in 1933, and I believe they have caught a few more since then, so you never know! cheers nell

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Well, you have made my day and I hope yours is filled with love and joy! Hugs

    • BrendyMac profile image

      BrendyMac 7 years ago

      Love this article very much...so informative..so interesting...and I love your little drawings as well as those awesome photos. I will be back for more and more!!?

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      As a matter of fact I am working on one partly thanks to your encouragement! It is much appreciated!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ..Hello Kathi - yes I love to walk along my beach in the spring, summer and fall and pick up 'found objects' and flotsam and jetsam washed in from the tide especially after a storm or high winds but as I speak there is so much snow and ice down there right now you can't see anything except a big blanket of white - everywhere you look - I imagine I will have to wait until the spring now to discover anything new and get back to my days of 'beachcombing' .......if you have any more photographs about your days at the beach or just around where you live it would be nice to see you make another photographic hub on that subject ......

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      I can't help but feel sorry for poor deaf kitty, but I'm sure he/she's in good hands. We have the same lake effect on the west coast of Michigan caused by the westerly winds. In fact we're in a snow belt area. Last couple of years we've had record snowfall over 120 inches. Do you pick up fossils when you stroll the beach? Thanks again for your support!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 7 years ago

      ...absolutely fascinating hub subject you have written about here .... I live on the northern shores of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada and I walk everyday along my beach with my deaf cat (on a leash). I live 100 feet away from the lake ......and I always see flotsam and jetsam and found objects which are washed up on a daily basis whether it be man made or miracles of natures.

      By the way how is the weather where you live?

      We often get what is known as lake effect conditions because of the winds off the lake.

      Again you have really done some wonderful research here on your hub and would be a worthy addition in any classroom!

    • Fossillady profile image
      Author

      Kathi 7 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Pheonix, sorry this response is so ridiculously late, but what did they ever find on the beach that day?

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      Very cool hub , I have a friend I am going to show this to. They are probably on the beach right this minute on the west coast collecting shells as I write this!

    working