US housewife discovers fossil amphibian footprints

This video is called Geologic Time Carboniferous Permian.

From the Birmingham News in the USA:

Walker County woman finds ancient amphibian fossil

By Thomas Spencer — The Birmingham News

April 12, 2010, 6:15AM

Over Easter weekend, a Walker County housewife made a fossil find that would make a professional paleontologist envious: seven well preserved footprints made by a huge amphibian 300 million years ago in the muddy flats of prehistoric Alabama.

Cindy Wallace was on a field trip with her son, Gavin, to one of the world’s richest sites for Coal Age fossils, the former Union Chapel surface coal mine located near Sumiton in Walker County.

While Gavin scoured the rock piles for fossils, Wallace used a tiny watch screwdriver and a rock to chip at a piece of slate. When the layers broke apart, it revealed the hand-sized tracks of Attenosaurus subulensis, a wolf-sized salamander that was the largest terrestrial creature living during the period prior to the emergence of the dinosaurs.

“It has some of the best preserved tracks of the Attenosaurus that have been found,” said Carl Sloan, secretary of the Alabama Paleontological Society, which has been instrumental in the discovery, preservation and fossil collection at the Union Chapel Mine site.

Jun Ebersole, the collections manager of McWane Science Center, agreed.

“The tracks are some of the best ever found in the state,” he said.

At the time the Attenosaurus was prowling Walker County, the area was an alluvial plain of tropical forest and tidal flats on the coast of an ancient ocean. The remains of the lush tropical forests accumulated in thick blankets of peat which were then covered over and buried. Over time, under pressure and heat, the peat was transformed into the coal deposits the region is known for.

The Union Chapel Mine site was discovered in 1999 by a high school science teacher, Ashley Allen, who found a treasure trove of fossil impressions of plants and animals from the Coal Age in the area.

The mine was due to be covered over under the requirements of the Mining Reclamation Act until a coalition of amateur fossil hunters waged a campaign to have it preserved.

Currently owned by the state of Alabama, the site, now known as the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site, has produced thousands of plant fossils and animal and insect tracks. The Paleontology Society manages access to the site, and visitors are allowed to keep fossils unless they are deemed to be significant enough to merit further study or inclusion in a museum collection. Wallace’s find is headed for the McWane Center collection.

Wallace had taken her 12-year-old son, Gavin, on the expedition with Fresh Air Family, an organization that leads parents and children on outdoor explorations around the state.

Gavin started collecting fossils at 5 and has amassed a collection of more than 600 fossils. Most have come from the wooded area near his family’s home in Empire, with others coming from his grandfather, a retired coal miner, who’d gathered fossils of starfish and ferns he’d found in the mines.

But for Cindy Wallace, the Attenosaurus tracks were her first find.

“It was my very first fossil,” Wallace said.

“Mexican salamander helps uncover evolution, genetics of stem cells – Oneindia”: here.

Fossil and present giant salamanders: here.

Also amphibians had their glory period during the long history of life on our planet; this happened during the Permian Period (299-251 million years ago), when they thrived together with the Synapsids reptiles. This, before the great mass-extinction that exterminated about 90% of all living species. Eryops megacephalus (from the Greek “mega”=“large” and “cephalos”=“head”) was one of the most common amphibians of that period and it lived in the swampy areas of North America about 270 million years ago. It was named by Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) in 1887.

Some extinct amphibians developed very particular forms of their body to have better chance to survive. Diplocaulus, for example, had a wide boomerang-shaped head that maybe made difficult for predators to swallow it and/or was used as a rudder for swimming. This particular head has made Diplocaulus one of the most popular amphibians, not only among the specialists.

Amphibians were able to reach enormous dimensions and an appearance similar to that of the gigantic crocodiles of the Mesozoic when they didn‘t find enough competitors for food in their environment. Their “champion” was surely Prionosuchus that lived in the late Permian, about 270 million years ago in the southern area of the super-continent Pangaea corresponding to Brazil.

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5 thoughts on “US housewife discovers fossil amphibian footprints

  1. Pingback: Cockroaches more ancient than dinosaurs | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Sweden’s first carnivorous dinosaur discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Mammal-like reptiles coexisted with dinosaurs, discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Dinosaur-age crocodiles walked on two legs | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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