This page shows examples of types of fossil found at Whitman's Hill Quarry. Hover your mouse over an image to see its name and dimensions. If you have visited the quarry and collected samples, this page should help you identify your finds.
Brachiopods, such as Atrypa, Leptaena and Orbiculoidea, are a type of shellfish. They are the most common type of fossil found in the rocks at Whitman's Hill, and still exist today, but are much rarer than they were in the Silurian.
Brachiopods are filter feeders, using a special feeding organ called a lophophore. They are often confused with the unrelated bivalves which have two shells (or 'valves') which are identical, such that a line of symmetry runs between the two shells. Conversely, the two valves of brachiopods are different from one another, and of different sizes, but are symmetrical about an imaginary line running straight down the middle of the valve.
Bivalves are a group of molluscs which include oysters, mussels, scallops and clams. They exhibit many different shapes and sizes, reflecting different lifestyles, such as burrowing, boring into rock or swimming. Most feed by using their gills to filter food from the water. Bivalves were much rarer in the Silurian than they are today; Pteronitella is one of the more commonly found bivalves at Whitman's Hill.
Corals are simple animals, closely related to sea anemones and jellyish. Although solitary forms do exist, they often live in colonies of many genetically identical individuals ('polyps'), secreting a hard skeleton of calcium carbonate, which can sometimes form 3 large reef structures. Whilst they are different to modern-day corals, Silurian solitary corals (as shown here) and colonial corals were important reef-builders, as can be seen by the corals making up the bioherm at Whitman's Hill.
Calcareous algae deposit calcium carbonate (limestone) in their tissue, leaving a fossil 'skeleton' behind when they die. Whilst these are not real skeletons, these deposits are important in binding reef deposits together. Examples of these, such as Ischadites, can be seen in the bioherm and surrounding rocks at Whitman's Hill.
Bryozoa or 'moss-animals' are colonial animals, commonly found today in shallow seawater but also in freshwater. Although they are not related to corals, they also build stony skeletons of calcium carbonate, which house tiny animals called 'zooids'. They are most easily spotted on the bioherm and encrusting other organisms at Whitman's Hill.
Crinoids, which are more commonly known as 'sea-lilies' or 'feather-stars', are sea-dwelling animals which belong to the spiny-skinned group of animals known as echinoderms. Although they still exist today, they were much more abundant and diverse in the past. Complete crinoids are rare but the individual 'polo mint' ossicles which made up the stalk are frequently found as fossils.
Gastropods, such as Poleumita, are a group of molluscs which includes snails and slugs. Whilst today they are found on land, in lakes and in rivers, as well as in the sea, during the Silurian all gastropods lived in the sea.
Nautiloids belong to a group of molluscs called cephalopods. They are related to ammonites, squids and octopuses. Orthocone Nautiloids, such as Dawsonoceras, were the top predators during the Silurian, feeding on smaller animals on and around the reef. They swam by water- jet propulsion and had shells with separate chambers which were used for buoyancy control.
Trilobites are now extinct but were an extremely successful group of animals, existing for 300 million years. Calymene, the 'Dudley Bug', is the most famous fossil that can be found at Whitman's Hill. Trilobites are related to crustaceans such as lobsters and crabs, having hard shells, segmented bodies and jointed legs. They were among the irst creatures to develop complex eyes, with lenses made from crystals of calcite.
All fossil line drawings © The Natural History Museum, London.
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