Carmel Church birds

Ward removed the bone shown above from one of the whale jackets. This is the left humerus of a bird, probably a gannet. Gannets (genus Morus) are the most common birds in the Calvert Formation, and at least three species are known from the unit.

Birds seems to be particularly rare at Carmel Church, and so far we’ve only collected 3 or 4 (as far as we know). We have previously identified Morus from the quarry, based on this partial tarsometatarsus (part of the foot):

The humerus that Ward removed from the jacket this morning was broken into several pieces, yet inside the delicate internal framework of the bone was still preserved:

This is one of the oddities of Carmel Church preservation, the mix of bad crushing and delicate details, sometimes in the same bone.

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6 Responses to Carmel Church birds

  1. Aydin says:

    How did bird & whale bones end up in the same formation?

  2. Alton Dooley says:

    Gannets are sea birds, so they are quite likely to end up in marine deposits. Carmel Church was clearly deposited in the ocean, and marine animals make up by far the majority of our fossils there, including whales, sharks, fish, and sea turtles. The only birds we’ve identified there (gannets) are known to live near (and fly over) the ocean.

    Because birds can fly over such distances, very occasionally land birds (like songbirds) will also be found in marine rocks. Songbirds have been described from the marine rocks at Lee Creek Mine in North Carolina, but we have not found one (so far!) at Carmel Church.

  3. Doug says:

    I have heard pseudontorns are known from the Calvert Formation. Which species is it?

  4. Alton Dooley says:

    The genus Pelagornis is known from the Calvert Formation in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, but we’ve never found one at Carmel Church. They’re also known from the Lee Creek Mine. I don’t think the material is identifiable beyond the genus (at least, the publications I have on hand just call it Pelagornis sp.).

    The only pseudodontorn material in the VMNH collection is a possible fragment, maybe from a humerus, from Calvert Bed 14 at the Mill Pond Creek site in Virginia.

  5. Doug says:

    “I don’t think the material is identifiable beyond the genus”
    Most of the time it never is. Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I saw a specimen in a museum labeled “sp.”

    Perhaps the nature of deposition at Carmel Church doesn’t favor birds. Perhaps the only reason you find gannets is because they were common enough that them being found there was just a matter of time.

  6. Alton Dooley says:

    Another mystery!

    We probably have a few more birds than I think; there’s a ton of small fossils that have never been sorted and identified, and there are probably a few birds among them. They certainly aren’t common, though.

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