The bulk of the VMNH vertebrate paleontology collections come from three places. Two of these, Carmel Church and Shell, I have talked about at length (and will continue to do so). The third is the Solite Quarry in Cascade, Virginia. In fact, we had a large Solite collection long before we began collecting at either Carmel Church or Shell. This year I’m going to spend a little more time talking about the site.
The rocks exposed at Solite are Late Triassic lake deposits of the Cow Branch from the Danville Basin. This lake, and hundreds like it, formed in a rift valley during the breakup of Pangea (see my post on this from last year). The Solite Quarry is located far enough toward the middle of the basin that we can see a variety of environments as water levels in the lake fluctuated. This is expressed in the cyclic nature of the deposits, which is visible in the alternating sand and mud layers (sands are brown, muds are black):
Many of the Solite beds contain fossils of aquatic animals such as fish, and current-formed bedforms such as ripples:
However, there were certainly times when these beds were exposed. The large numbers of terrestrial organisms we find, such as plants, were probably washed into the lake. But you need exposure to air to form desiccation cracks:
We’re currently planning an excavation at Solite, to begin late in March (after Carmel Church). I’ll be posting information about some of the Solite fossils that have already been collected in the lead-up to that excavation.
Last Thursday and Friday, Stephen Godfrey from the Calvert Marine Museum visited VMNH. On Thursday, Stephen gave a talk on evolution and religion, based in large part on his excellent book (with Christopher Smith) Paradigms on Pilgrimage. In Stephen’s words:
“The intent of this talk is to show that Genesis presents an observational cosmology (how the Universe appears to an Earth-bound observer). The Bible does not, nor does it claim to present an objective scientifically accurate description of the Universe. The original readers would and should have taken Genesis literally, but we are not obligated to do so today. By reconstructing the structure of the universe based on the Bible, a person of faith should gain new insights and maturity into what it means to have faith in God. For all attendees, this presentation should affirm their interest in the wonder of scientific inquiry and provide resolution to this needless debate.”
The lecture was attended by over 100 people (there are photos available on the VMNH website), and Stephen did an wonderful job presenting on a sensitive topic. Thanks, Stephen!