Tag Archives: Pitkin Formation

Geo-pic of the week: Pyritized Ammonoid

ammanoid cropped

Pictured above is the internal mold of an ammonoid fossil – a group of invertebrate marine animals abundant in the world’s oceans from 416 – 66 million years ago.  They died during the same mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs.

Ammonoids were not stationary bottom dwellers, but had an interesting way of getting around in the water.  Their shells were partitioned into chambers, which are evident in the picture above.  The squid-like ammonite only occupied the final chamber of the shell.  The rest were empty so that the animal could control its buoyancy, and swim by taking in and expelling water.

Because ammonoids were abundant, widespread, and evolved new species quickly, geologists use their fossils to correlate rock units of similar age worldwide.  This one was collected from the Fayetteville Shale in northwest Arkansas.  Its gold color is due to the original organic material having been replaced by pyrite – also known as fool’s gold.

Geopic of the week: Archimedes

archimedes pitkin 3-2 for geopic trip

Pictured is the remains of an animal, called an Archimedes, that flourished in Arkansas about 350 million years ago.  At that time, Arkansas was covered by a warm tropical sea, and invertebrate organisms such as Archimedes lived by straining tiny food particles from the sea water.   Though similar filter-feeders exist today, this particular one is extinct.

In this photo, we see a cross section of the animal; the screw-like pillar supported it from the center and delicate, barely visible lattices whorled around the screw – in cross section they look like ribs of a fish bone (see picture).  Those were the filters the animal used to trap food.  Because the lattices were brittle, they were rarely preserved with the fossil, which makes this specimen exceptional.

The limestone pictured is from the Pitkin Formation in northern Arkansas.

For more views of Archimedes click here

Geopic of the week: Conical Nautiloid



Above is the fossil remains of a marine organism called a conical nautiloid.  These were common in the shallow sea that covered Arkansas during much of the Paleozoic era 540 to 250 million years ago.  This one was collected from shale of the Pitkin Formation in pieces over a period of years as it weathered slowly out of the outcrop.

Conical nautiloids are extinct now, but they are the evolutionary forerunner of the sleeker, more deft coiled nautiloids that thrive in the ocean today.  They were marine predators, akin to squid, except that they had a shell.  They used their shells for protection, buoyancy, and as a means of propelling themselves through the water by squeezing a stream of water out of the empty chambers like a jet.

It’s common to find conical nautiloid fossils that are smaller than a pinky finger; however, some have been unearthed in Arkansas that were as long as 8 feet.

Geopic of the week: Fossiliferous limestone


This is a picture of weathered fossiliferous limestone of the Pitkin Formation.  It was taken in a quarry near Batesville Arkansas.  The picture displays fossil remains of two common aquatic animals that lived in the shallow sea covering northern Arkansas between 360 – 320 million years ago. 

The screw-shaped remains are parts of bryzoans; they are commonly referred to as Archimedes screws.  The nut-shaped fossils- which also resemble rolls of smarties candies- are the remains of crinoids, commonly called sea-lilies, which have living relatives in the ocean today.  Both animals lived by attaching themselves to the sea floor and filtering food, such as plankton, from the ocean water.