U-Dig (www.U-DigFossils.com) is a private, fee-dig trilobite quarry near Delta, Utah. It contains one of the most prolific trilobite assemblages in the world. I dug my first trilobite there more than 15 years ago, and countless others have been introduced to the world of fossil collecting at U-Dig. It’s a great place for pretty much anybody to find their own fossils including families, kids and people who’ve never collected a fossil. For a hourly fee, they supply tools helpful guidance, unlimited rock to split and you get to keep everything you find.
For the previous week I had been in search of rare trilobites in the deserts of Utah and Nevada. The process involved days of moving heavy overburden and cracking hard limestone with a sledgehammer. I had been going on three or four days straight of not finding a decent complete trilobite, so not only was my body feeling a bit worn out, but I was getting pretty frustrated. I decided that take a day off and “rest” by visiting U-Dig to split some nice soft shale. Plus, I was basically guaranteed to find some complete trilobites even if they were just common species.
A shipment of large Moroccan crinoids of the species Scyphocrinites elegans just arrived yesterday. The highly detailed crinoids are Upper Silurian in age (420 million years old) and are mined near Boutschrafin, Erfoud, Morocco. To reach the crinoid layer the workers must dig deep vertical shafts, sometimes 30 feet in depth. They then tunnel horizontally along this layer to extract plates of crinoids. These plates must then be brought up to the surface in small pieces using a bucket where they prepared. One can only imagine that is back-breaking, hot and dangerous work.
The crinoids plates are then reassembed on the surface, and typically prepared using chemical methods. Below are photos of the preparation. I'm not totally sure but I believe the chemical being used is Potassium hydroxide. It's a very strong base (opposite of acid) and will disolve the surrounding rock without damaging the crinoids fossils which are calcite based. This is actually a very tedius process that takes weeks to complete. Small bits of solid potassium hydroxide must be applied and left to disolve before more can be applied. It has to be done carefully so no too much rock is removed causing the fossil to fall apart.
Side by side in the photo below is a very large Megalodon Tooth at just over 6 inches long and a replica of a near record size Great White tooth at 2 1/2 inches long.
The largest known Megalodon tooth is about 7 3/8 inches in length. There have only been a handful EVER found exceeding 7 inches. The largest confirmed great white shark teeth are less than 3 inches long. As you can see there really isn't much of a comparison, it would be hard to confuse the two.
I was going through some old photos and I found a detailed preparation sequence of a spiny Olenoides nevadensis trilobite from the Wheeler Shales of Utah. I prepared this specimen for my own collection years ago, but I thought it would be interesting to shale. Like most trilobites from the site it was found splitting shale with some of the shell on the negative and some on the positive. This requires both halves to be glued back to together and then the matrix (rock) removed from the top. It took about 15 hours of work in total to microscopically prepare this exceptional specimen using air scribes and air abrasives.
I get the chance to head out in the field pretty frequently to collect fossils myself. Before starting FossilEra I would take maybe three or four collecting trips a year, but now the job gives me a good excuse to do it a little more frequently. I thought it would be fun to chronical some of my collecting trips on this blog to give people an idea of the type of work that goes into finding specimens like some of those being sold on this site.
Last April I got an invite from Dan Cooper (a true legend in the trilobite world) to join him and a group of about a dozen other trilophiles down on his lease in the Haragan Formation of Oklahoma. The Devonian aged Haragan Formation, produces arguably the most beautiful and highly detailed trilobites in the United States. It has been famously collected by Bob Caroll for over 3 decades at “Black Cat Mountain”. Dan’s lease was basically one hill over from Bob’s lease at Black Cat Mountain. See Oklahoma trilobites for sale on FossilEra, many collected and prepared by Bob.
I have gotten several times lately from customers wondering about the pricing on Megalodon teeth. Why is that 6 inch tooth less than the 5 1/2 inch tooth that you are selling? Shouldn’t it be more expensive?
Fossils are all unique, so of course pricing is a little subjective but there are many factors that go into putting a price on a Megalodon tooth. View Megalodon teeth for sale on FossilEra. Some of the factors that include size, overall condition, location, does it have restoration, etc.
On the way back from my recent trilobite collecting trip down in Utah and Nevada I had the opportunity to stop by a large petrified wood importer/wholesaler. I was blown away not just by the diversity and quantity of the petrified wood he had for sale, but also the quality of the polishing which he was doing. The majority of petrified wood I've seen has been poorly polished with scuff marks and dull spots visiable, but this material was fantastic. With higher quality petried wood the manual labor and materials that go into getting a great polish typically represents much more of the overall cost than the raw materials themselves.
Like a kid in a candy store I was able to go through stacks of material and pick out a varied selection to purchase for sale here on FossilEra. I acquired material in many forms and from many locations around the world including Oregon, Wyoming, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, etc. Yesterday I spend much of the day photographing these new acquisitions, writing the listings and they are now offered for sale on this site.
Below is an example preparation sequence of a large (2 3/4 inch) Utaspis marjumensis trilobite from the Marjum Formation of Utah. It was personally collected in the spring of 2013 from a lease in the House Range. This shows how much skilled work goes into a quality fossil even after it has been found. Click on the images for larger versions.
Here at FossilEra.com we decided to run a promotional contest during the month of March. We will be giving away an amazing Walliserops "Trident" trilobite (valued at over $1,000) to one lucky customer. Every order that you place on the site (max 1 entry per day) gets you an entry to win this spectacularly prepared, 380 million year old piece of natural history.
We will be drawing a winner at random to receive this trilobite in the first week of April. Click on the image below for more details and photos of the prize.
Species: Walliserops trifurcatus
Location: Foum Zguid, Morocco
Size: 3 inches if outstretched
Preparation Time: 40+ Hours
The answer is when they are found they are encased in solid limestone, and are found by literally sledgehammering blocks of limestone looking for cross sections of trilobites. The pieces are then glued back together and the surrounding matrix (rock) is removed using air abrasive techniques (think minature sand blaster) under high magnification. A well prepared trilobite of one of this species often takes in excess of 40 hours of work by a master preparitor. Not a task for the impatient person but the results can be spectacular. This is also the reason for the price on many of these trilobites, it's the preparation cost, more than the cost of the actual fossil you are paying for.
Here's an example of a spiny Walliserops trilobite in it's unprepared state. This is the one with long trident coming off of it's head and about 40 free standing spines. This particular specimen I'm planning to prepare sometime in the next month and will post a time lapse of the preparation process when I am done.
Shipping and transporting trilobites and other fossils with delicate free standing spines is a real challenge. One of the most effective methods is to physically bolt the fossil to the inside of a container so that nothing but air is touching it during shipping. This is how most of the spiny Moroccan trilobites gets shipped to me from my supplier.
I've had some questions on how this is actually accomplished so after some experimenting here's some instructions.
Recently I have done a number of interviews related to FossilEra and first question that always comes up, is what led me to start the company.
Like many kids I grew up being obsessed with dinosaurs and fossils. My parents can tell stories about how I would spend all day digging in the sandbox looking for dinosaurs. I’m sure I checked out every book at the library related to fossils a dozen times, and I dreamt of being a paleontologist when I grew up.
Unfortunately, there is a long history of fake and heavily restored fossils being marketed as authentic. Even a lot of well known dealers don't disclose the amount of restoration work that has been done on specimens they sell. In many cases I don't think it's a problem of dishonesty. I think most simply don't know better. The methods of restoring/reconstructing fossils have continued to advance and many of the signs people are used to looking for just don't work anymore.
I go through great lengths to ensure that the fossils being sold on FossilEra are accuretely represented. I am able to fall back on nearly two decades of experience collecting and preparing fossil trilobites to assist in this. For example some of the reconstruction on trilobites has reached a level that even with my experience, and under microscope I sometimes can't pick it out. That's why I often need to resort "destructive" methods to expose potential restoration such as air abrading away possible paint or using solvents.
Here is an of the very spiny trilobite, Comura bultyncki which has a full compliment of over 40 vertical spines along it's back.