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Shark Teeth in Greene County Alabama Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 July 2009

Shark Teeth in Greene County Alabama


 Recently, I participated in an adventure with two of my grandchildren, Devon(12) and Hannah(13) in a field paleontology collection exercise in the Black Belt area of our state about 40 miles south west of Tuscaloosa. We met at 8AM at the Museum of Natural History of the University of Alabama,, signed in and organized a few details and took off with Mr. Randy Mecredy, our leader, driving a 15 passenger van and while we followed in our car. We stopped in Sawyerville for a couple of men teachers who happen to also be father and son. Another small group was to meet there, too, but they were late and we left a note and went on our way to the first collection stop.

 Our first collection effort was at a beautiful little creek with a very hard limestone bottom that cut through a rural area of fields and woods. The creek’s beauty, however, was marred by a practice of ignorance and apathy of some using the roadside and creek as receptacles of trash. All of us wore shoes with good bottoms to protect our feet from the numerous pieces of broken glass that littered the creek bed and banks.

 The water was cool, pleasant to our feet and not very deep. In some places there were small deposits of gravel and that’s where we investigated. Using shovels we scooped sand and gravel into the screens and shook them in the water to reveal fossils left behind. A canopy of trees and limbs with lush green foliage gave plenty of shade on this hot morning so there was little need for sunscreen. The result was a cool, watery trek.

 I came behind the group( dragged up the rear) due to looking for something in my auto so their exact path was not known to me. Walking along the sound of voices could be heard but the path could not be found. Noticing that the voices were dimmer I went back to simply follow the sounds. On my way to the voices I managed to clear several spider webs with my body by accident and found one that was still occupied and its maker dangling from my forehead. Saw briars raked across my ankles and lower legs leaving tracks of my red badges of courage. Some marks are still visible. It’s happened before and will happen again in future hikes but no big deal. It was a lesson in being a little more careful about how I wander through the woods.

 Devon and Hannah were already digging and screening as I climbed down the bank to join them. They were also interested in what the others were finding, too. A little insect repellant came in handy but there was not a huge population of bloodsuckers and biters. Finding ancient fossils increased the interest of all.

 Our stragglers joined us at the first creek finally and in about an hour we left traveling in caravan style toward the second creek that has the name of Sharks’ Tooth Creek and is in Greene County near the community of Clinton. On the way we stopped briefly at a store for snacks, etc. Soon we were at the bridge over the creek and took lunch break.

 The bridge was about twenty feet over the stream that varied in width from about 15 to 20 feet and was not much over knee deep. On the near side was a small sandy beach. Again as with the other creek a green canopy covered most of the creek.

 We took our gear down and began to screen for shark teeth and were not disappointed. Often we had one or more of the fossils in our screen ranging from ¼ inch to almost 2 inches. Many had pieces broken but several were perfect. They were black in color and shiny when cleaned well.

 A man and his six year old grandson, Lawrence, worked near us sometimes and it was very easy to tell that the youngster was totally interested in his quest and findings. He was on task without any promptings.

 About 2:30 in the afternoon we began to pick up our equipment and get ready to leave. Our collecting bag bulged and Randy gave Devon and Hannah a few of his larger ones and some of a different species that he had found. He explained that he had worked out a good procedure and also knew where to look to get bigger and more specimens. Next time we go we will watch to see where Randy goes and copy his technique.

 The museum offers a variety of interesting adventures during the summer and other times of the year for scientifically exploring Alabama. If interested one could go online to Alabama Museum of Natural History to find details. One adventure in particular is the annual archaeology or paleontology expedition where participants become thoroughly involved through week long field experiences.


Jerome Adams

Exploring Alabama


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