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Old Stomping Ground

In my “youth” I used to collect crinoids and any other fossils / rocks that looked interesting to me.


About 25 years ago while exploring the woods (as a kid) with some friends in Fayette County by an area along Wolf Creek; we came across some fossils in small tributary.  My friends didn’t think much of it, but I went “nuts” hoarding everything I could get my hands on.  I could not believe how many different fossils there were. We found primarily crinoids, horn coral, brachiopods, gastropods, in addition to a unique “unidentified” specimen.  I didn’t know what it was at the time; however, was fortunate enough to have the insight that it was something very unique and kept it.   I stuffed as much as I could in my pockets.


Illinois was covered by a shallow ocean approximately 325 to 540 million years ago (mya).  My research in fossil identification appears to be consistent with the Carboniferous Period, specifically the Lower Carboniferous. 


I recently dusted off my collection and further researched my unique fossil.  I discovered it to be a tooth from an ancient shark called a petalodont (Petalodus polyrhizodus).


The rounded, lighter part of the tooth is the crown, while the lumpy part is the base, which is the shark tooth equivalent to the root of a human tooth.  The genus-level identification polyrhizodus is based on the divided finger-like extensions (worn though they may be) of this genus.


I got in touch with my old friend and asked him if he was interested in going fossil hunting / screening.  He couldn’t believe I still had those fossils.  I asked him to scout the area before I came up.  He emailed me a brachiopod he found which really got me psyched.  I recently made the trek back to Illinois (for parent’s anniversary) and we went back to his dad’s place and explored our old stomping grounds, now with our kids.


The area was inundated with rain prior to our “expedition” so the tributary he recalled where we found them had about 2 feet of mud / silt.  We screened the creek that the tributary led to hoping some washed out in that area. That area also fairy mucky and the only thing we found was a horn coral and some crinoids.  My friend’s brother thought the former area was at a different tributary location.  Apparently there used to be a rock pile from a barrow pit was hauled in for the roadways in the woods leading to proximate oil fields. The pile was no longer there; however we did find few small brachiopods, crinoids and coal in this area and by proximate dry creek bed.  


Don’t know were that elusive location was, but told my friend to “keep” an eye on the area.  Twenty-five plus years does a number on the memory not to mention how the area changed.  His oldest son, around 7, is now hooked on finding fossils.  He found a handful of crinoids, a brachiopod and some of both in a rock matrix during our expedition.  My friend recently told me that his son found some crinoids in the road gravel by his house.  If he sees a rock pile he goes investigated it.  Sounds a lot like someone I knew as a kid…….me.





Location Fayette County, Illinois, USA

Date Added8/20/2008

Petalodus polyrhizodus - The rounded, lighter part of the tooth is the crown, while the lumpy part is the base, which is the shark tooth equivalent to the root of a human tooth.
Petalodus polyrhizodus - detail views
the 25+ year reunion haul - some small crinoids, fossils in rock matrix, horn coral and coal
brachiopods - from my youth
brachiopods - from my youth
gastropods - from my youth
crinoids - found throughout my youth from both Effingham and Fayette County


- 8/27/2008
Reviewer : Daryl from Maryland United States
Total Rating : 10
Awesome post! I love reading the story and the pictures are excellent. Great job with the collage pictures too. Content Quality : 10 of 10

Drool Quotient : 10 of 10

Picture Quality : 10 of 10
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Great Story - 12/21/2008
Reviewer : byronbbb from
Total Rating : No Rating
Hi Brachiomyback, Cool story...there's nothing like childhood memories and the finds you make. I grew up on the Outer Banks of NC and moved to Ellerbe, NC by the time I was 10 or 11. In Ellerbe, we had several fields that we hunted for arrow heads in....I have no idea what happened to our collection. Now I'm living in St. Louis and when I go back to visit my Grandparents, I always take my sons to those old fields and stomp around for an arrow head. I've done much better keeping up my collection since then...I'll have to post them her sometime, it's only about 8 decent points, but I'm proud of them just like any body would be ;-) I went to school at the Citadel in Charleston and never realized that I was sitting on fossil Valhalla. They dredged the river once (this back in late 80's early 90's) and my dad and I found some teeth, but nothing memorable. I'm heading back to NC first part of the new year and am going to steal a quick trip down to Charleston to take my oldest son out for a little looksie. Hope we find something...he's only four and he's in love with rocks already...I try to keep him from bringing people's gravel into the car, but it's no use. If anyone knows of some place within a few hours of St. Louis where a fellow might do a little fossil hunting, I'd be much obliged. I feel like I'm in a fossil desert out here, only after my "awakening" to the hunting fever ;-) Anyway...Merry Christmas to all! Cheers, Byron
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