Monday, March 20, 2017

Epidote (the coating form)

Ever since I started collecting minerals, I noticed green splashes of a material coating various pieces of granite and other various rocks. I learned later that the coating consists of the common mineral epidote (pronounced “ep-i-dote”).

Epidote is a calcium, aluminum, iron, hydroxyl-silicate mineral typically found in metamorphic-rock areas where alteration or replacement took place in association with hydrothermal fluids. Epidote is especially common in fractures or joints. Fibrous crystals of epidote can be dark-green, black, or even yellow.

The epidote I find, however, has a very distinctive pistachio or pea-green color. It occurs primarily as surface coatings on cobbles and boulders of biotite-rich granite, which weather out from sedimentary rock conglomerates, as shown below. The name “epidote” is derived from a Greek word meaning “increase,” in reference to its crystalline shape.

Epidote coating a clast (maximum dimension 5 cm) of granodiorite
found on a hiking trail in the Santa Clarita area, Los Angeles
County, Southern California.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Preferred orientation of Turritella

Fossil shells belonging to the shallow-marine gastropod Turritella are prone to have been preferentially aligned by waves and currents because their shells are long an straight. I used the first slide below in one of my earlier posts (July 24, 2014) on the subject of "Taphonomy of Mollusks Shells." Taphonomy is the study of post-mortem processes (waves, currents, bored by other organisms, etc.) that affect shells.

Eocene Turritella andersoni lawsoni shells in the Llajas Formation
of Simi Valley, Ventura County, Southern California. The
longest shell is 6 cm long. These shells occur in situ, in
a bed of silty fine-grained sandstone.

More Eocene T. andersoni lawsoni shells from the Llajas Formation
of Simi Valley. The longest shell is 6 cm long. This slab is a piece of
loose rock ("float") from the formation.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Green fluorite

One of my more recent posts deals with a locality where corundum (sapphire, ruby) can be found in Southern California. This new post deals with another Southern California mineral locality, and it is where green fluorite can be found.

Flourite consists of calcium fluoride. It is a common mineral and used as an indicator of a hardness of 4 on the Moh’s Scale of hardness from 1 to 10. Flourite can come in a wide variety of colors (especially purple), but green fluorite is a relatively less common color.

The green-flourite locality is called the “Felix Mine” locality, which is just north of the city of Azusa, California in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. The mine, established in 1892, is no longer accessible because of urban sprawl, and the vein which yielded the green fluorite has long been mined out. The specimen shown below was recently kindly donated to me by a collector.

Green fluorite (maximum dimension 2.3 cm) from the Felix Mine, Southern California.
The black material is the mineral galena (iron sulfide).

The largest crystals ever found of green fluorite at the Felix Mine were reportedly about 8 cm long. Most of the crystals, however, were very small to small size. The fluorite occurred in numerous subparallel veins cutting through decomposed granite. The mineral galena is commonly associated with the green fluorite.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trigonarca californica

This post concerns a common Late Cretaceous bivalve (clam) that lived in California approximately 92 million years ago (Turonian time). It is Trigonarca californica Packard, 1922, which is known from northern California (Siskiyou County) to southern California.

The specimens shown below are from the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange County, and they were collected from the Baker Canyon Member of the Ladd Formation. As this locale, where specimens can be abundant, this species lived in sandy, warm, shallow-marine waters. A collector recently kindly donated these specimens.

Right-hand valve of Trigonarca californcia Packard. Length 4.4 cm.

This unusual specimen shows the somewhat separated valves of a formerly closed-valved specimen
of Trigonarca californica Packard. The hinge with its distinctive teeth are nicely preserved. Length  of the left-hand valve (at the front of the photograph) is 4.3 cm.

The sturdy shell of this species has the shape of a rounded triangle. Its teeth (dentition) are distinctive and consist of numerous, relatively heavy, short, straight teeth along its hinge.

Genus Trigonarca, which belongs to family Glycymerididae, was widespread, with occurrences in North America, Europe, South Africa, and India. Trigonaraca is of Late Cretaceous age.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Corundum crystals from Southern California

The mineral corundum, which is second only to diamond in terms of hardness, consists of aluminum oxide (Al2O3). Corundum comes in a variety of colors, depending on the trace amounts of other minerals (e.g., rutile = titanium oxide) it contains.

The color can be red, blue, yellow, brown, green, or purple to violet, and some crystals contain color zones. Pure corundum is white. If the color of corundum is red, it is called rubyIf the color is blue, it is called sapphire.

A friend recently gave me some corundum crystals from Cascade Canyon, San Gabriel Mountains, about 2 miles southwest of Mount Baldy, which is near the town of Upland in Los Angeles County, Southern California

A hand specimen (4 cm wide) containing small, scattered
 crystals of corundum. The color is between ruby and sapphire.
Most collectors would most likely refer to these crystals as ruby.
Close-up of the left-middle side of the hand specimen shown above.
The lenticular crystal in the lower right side is 4 mm long.

The corundum at the Cascade Canyon locality formed when complexly deformed sedimentary rock (of Paleozoic age) was contact metamorphosed (heated up) by small granitic intrusions (of Cretaceous age). 

If you want to see outcrop pictures and more information about this locality, just Google the phrase:  Cascade Canyon ruby

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A middle Eocene heart urchin

Heart urchins, also called spatangoids, are echinoderms (sand dollars, sea stars, etc.), which are generally characterized by having 5-rayed (pentameral) symmetry. This post focuses on a middle Eocene heart urchin known as Schizaster diabloensis Kew, 1920. It was named for its occurrence in sedimentary layers near Mount Diablo, just east of San Francisco.

A hand specimen of siltstone rock from the Llajas Formation has three specimens of
S. diabloensis on the same bedding plane. The hand specimen is 5 cm (2 in.) wide.
This species of heart urchin was common in northern and southern California during the middle Eocene (approx. 47 million years ago). The specimens shown here are from the Llajas Formation in Simi Valley, California. This formation was deposited in shallow-marine, warm-water conditions. The entire geologic time range for this species is late Paleocene through middle Eocene.

Five specimens of S. diabloensis from the Llajas Formation. The largest specimens are
  2 cm (0.8 in.) wide. All are top-side up.
Echinoderms, past and present, are strongly gregarious and can occur in great numbers on the ocean floor. Spatangoids have a fossil record extending back to the Cretaceous. They are burrowers and living below the surface provides protection against predators. During the Cretaceous, many new forms of predators evolved, which, which gave the force for some echinoderms (like spatangoids) to adapt to these adverse conditions by becoming infaunal (i.e., burrowers), mainly in fine-grained deposits, like siltstone.

You can readily see the five-rayed symmetry of the feeding grooves on the dorsal (top) surface of each specimen. The central groove, called ambulacrum III, is the longest and is sunken on most spatangoids, whereas the two posterior grooves are smaller. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Late Cretaceous stalked crinoid stem

Crinoid remains are extremely rare in the Late Cretaceous fossil record of California. A friend recently donated a stalked crinoid-stem fossil collected from Upper Cretaceous rocks in the Santa Ana Mountains, Orange County, Southern California. I have seen many fossils from these rocks but never a crinoid. Its geologic age is Turonian (about 90 million years old). The genus of this fossil is unknown.

This specimen is 8 cm long and 3 mm wide. I also put a modern-day crinoid "stem" (from Cuba) alongside, for comparison; it is 6.5 cm long and nearly 3 mm wide. You can definitely see that the fossil is, indeed, a crinoid.

Crinoids are echinoderms. Some other examples are sea stars (starfish), brittle stars, sea urchins, and sand dollars. Crinoids were very common in Paleozoic faunas, and their remains have contributed substantially to Paleozoic limestones. Crinoids today are less abundant than they once were, but at the present time there are approximately 25 stalked genera (all attached to the ocean floor and restricted to depths greater than 100 m). There are also about 90 or so unstalked genera, and these are able to swim about when they are adults.

This drawing shows the main morphologic parts of a stalked crinoid (i.e., having a column or "stem"). The "stem" was originally somewhat flexible during life and could sway slightly with the prevailing water currents.

Both the fossil and modern-day columns shown above in the photo are missing their calyx (where the stomach was located) and their arms.