Saturday, February 16, 2008


Ammonites are an extinct group of marine animals. They are excellent index fossils, and it is often possible to link the rock layer in which they are found to specific geological time periods. Their fossil shells usually take the form of planispirals. Their spiral shape begot their name, as their fossilized shells somewhat resemble tightly-coiled rams' horns. Plinius the Elder (died 79 A.D. near Pompeii) called fossils of these animals ammonis cornua ("horns of Ammon") because the Egyptian god Ammon (Amun) was typically depicted wearing ram's horns.

This lovely speciman was shown at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. Fossil Ammonites from Whitby in England have been sold as petrified snakes. The formidable St. Hilda was said to have caused a plague of snakes to have been turned to stone and local craftsmen often carved snakes heads on the fossils for sale to pilgrims. One of the ammonites was called Hildoceras after the saint. The coat of arms of Whitby include three 'snakestones'. St. Hilda was so revered that one local legend says birds flying over her Abbey dip their wings in her honour. Women rule even in legend.

This fossil is Xiphactinus audax and this particular specimen is 17 feet long and was discovered by Mike Everhart in 1996. It's been found with undigested prey in its stomach but the eater was also eaten and it's been found in the stomachs of larger predators. The species went extinct when the Niobraran Sea began to dry up in the late Cretaceous period. I set this as desktop wallpaper to get a close up personal look at its teeth and they are biiiig. Makes my little fish fossil limestone look like whitebait.


Edward Yates said...

That fossil of the nautilus shell is so pretty! I would have thought most fossils would be kind of dull and well...rock like... Like the historical bit of this blog post and the link to the mythical.


JahTeh said...

Edward, this blog is like my mind, nothing sharp edged but very convoluted.

Brian Hughes said...

"St. Hilda was so revered that one local legend says birds flying over her Abbey dip their wings in her honour."

This was usually accompanied by the crack of a twelve bore and the shout of "Oive bagged another of the little bar-stewards, Gertie!" from one of the local aristos.

Ann O'Dyne said...

the phactinus is that

R.H. said...

I would like to apologise to all the feminists I have been rude to. And the social workers. And the latte set. And Piggy Kirner, who is entitled to have as many Williamstown streets and buildings named after her as she likes. And I'm sorry for fellow socialist steve bracks battling on ten grand a week there and with not even a urinal named after him. Life's a dog. Yes, so I was wrong. Okay? Shut up. This is Australia and we are all Australians, if you don't like it go live in China and be a Chinaman. Okay? See how you like that. Old fossil John Howard will soon be getting a knighthood, that's what you get when you don't get a street named after you, or a bridge, or a drop in centre, and that's what's good about Australia, everyone's the same, no one cares, you can be on the dole forty years and still love democracy.

President. Ex-Labor Premier's Appreciation Society.

JahTeh said...

Hughes, you are such a cynic. The only birds dipping wings over Fleetwood would be carrion eaters looking for the remains of clubbed antiquarians in the bottom of wrongly recorded diggings.

Annie, there 17 feet of boney fish behind those teeth. That's the length of my lounge room. I measured it to get a perspective.

Rh, an apology? Have bloggers been beating you up again? Rumour has it that the Queen will make the little rodent a Knight of the Garter. I can't see it myself, she never liked him much.

Andrew said...

Whitby? I expect I will be there in a few months visiting the places of my partner's childhood. Do you want me to bring you back a rock from the beach? Any particular colour?

R.H. said...

Politicans, not the Queen, hand out knighthoods.

Gangster premier Bob Askin actually sold them

JahTeh said...

Andrew, You know Whitby is where Dracula landed in England, in the book. Yes I will have rock of any colour and please tape the customs officer listening to your explanation of why you're bringing it into the country. "Well, sir, I was just bringing back a rock from Dracula's holiday place for a witch I know."

The Queen gets to name the Garter Knights all on her own and ordinary Knights are suggested by various bodies and I just can't see Kevvie giving JHo a shot. Trading Knighthoods was a dishonourable part of politics which I hope has gone for good, Rh.

R.H. said...

Bob Askin charged about eighty thousand for a Knighthood.
The Queen as far as I know has never knocked back nominations for Knighthood from politicans, which was the usual way of granting them.

dysthymiac said...

dear Mr RH - 1615 blogreaders have followed your various diatribes back to your non-blog Markus Knowallus looking for a SORRY or for more brilliance, depending on whether you are Jekyll or Hyde that day, so maybe you should say it there.

and Her Majesty is a gracious woman and as the heir horrifies me, long may she reign please god.

R.H. said...

The sorry business is ridiculous, if all this keeps going we'll be wearing powdered wigs.
I do regret that insulting comment at Highriser. I've deleted it.