Class finds traces of fossils in rocks over 500 million years old in northern Wisconsin

Class finds traces of fossils in rocks over 500 million years old in northern Wisconsin

A category from Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College just lately found proof of creatures that when thrived alongside an historic shoreline half a billion years in the past in northern Wisconsin.

Mike Heim, a pure science professor on the college, takes college students in his Earth Science class on discipline journeys every fall to go to geological formations. They vary from 1.7 billion years outdated to glacial deposits left about 12,500 years in the past. In October, the category visited the Mount Simon sandstone formation which stretches alongside the higher Mississippi Valley and southern Nice Lakes area and dates again greater than 500 million years to the Cambrian Interval.

Heim stated his college students had been trying alongside an space a number of miles from Hayward College the place the town had blasted bedrock to widen a street after they got here throughout footprints in a rock. At first, Heim thought the scratches might need come from a backhoe or earth-moving tools.

“However after I regarded nearer, I spotted no, it wasn’t brought on by people,” Heim stated. “I spotted it was some form of fossil observe of an animal that walked throughout the sand of that shallow seaside a very long time in the past. It was actually thrilling. My college students, they had been all excited too.”

After some analysis on-line, Heim stated his finest guess is that it’s a hint fossil – fossil of a path or footprint – often known as Climacthnites which was in all probability produced by some kind of mollusk or mollusk-like animal. The researchers discovered that it’s one of the largest traces of identified Cambrian fossils, and the animals might have reached as much as over 2 ft in dimension. Related fossil traces have been discovered within the Elk Mound Group sandstone formation in central Wisconsin.

Prior to now, Heim stated he took his class on a discipline journey to a different location that had sandstone rocks with tiny shell or brachiopod fossils.

“Nevertheless it’s by far the largest fossil we have discovered on this space, so it was actually, actually thrilling,” he stated.

Such fossils aren’t usually present in northern Wisconsin on account of glaciers and erosion which have worn away bedrock over tens of millions and tens of millions of years, Heim stated. The Cambrian interval marked the start of an explosion of life the place animals diversified significantly. Heim stated it was uncommon to search out animal fossils earlier than this time.

“In Cambrian occasions, Wisconsin and most of North America was slightly below the equator, so stunning tropical seas simply west of the LCO reservation,” Heim stated. “And, the shoreline fluctuated between Hayward and St. Croix (county), and that was on account of ice ages coming and going within the southern hemisphere.”

On the time, the shallow sea was bordered by greater floor often known as the Wisconsin Dome. Heim stated that a big river that adopted the course of the Namekagon River at present carried eroded sands to the ocean, and the currents unfold this sand alongside the shore. Heim then in contrast the world to that of Wisconsin Level, which is a big freshwater sandbar on Lake Superior.

On one other go to, Heim stated he and a Sawyer County Report reporter noticed traces of jellyfish fossils within the sandstone.

“We discovered the jellyfish footprints in one of many massive blocks that they’d bulldozed down the facet,” Heim stated.

This is not the primary time jellyfish stays have been noticed in Wisconsin. Greater than 20 years in the past, fossilized jellyfish footprints as much as 3 ft vast had been discovered in a quarry close to Mosinee, which is about 15 miles south of Wausau. Hundreds of individuals washed up in a small lagoon greater than 500 million years in the past to be buried beneath the sand.

The jellyfish footprints noticed close to the college look like concerning the dimension of a fingernail. Heim stated he hasn’t contacted any geologists concerning the discover, however he welcomes anybody who would possibly have the ability to make clear the traces of fossils and the animals that left them behind.

He stated the invention exhibits how geological adjustments have formed the world over time.

“Dinosaurs come and go. Seas come and go. In order that’s one other great proof of how fascinating Earth historical past is,” Heim stated. “Like all of Northern Wisconsin’s historical past is superb.”

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