Trilobites In The Marble Mountains, Mojave Desert, California

Visit a classic fossil site on California's Mojave Desert--the specific place that first inspired my life-long interest in paleontology. The locality now lies within the Mojave Trails National Monument.

Click on the image for a larger picture. A Google Earth street car perspective--snapped in March, 2008--that I edited and processed through photoshop.

The beckoning dirt trail (at just left of center) leads slightly east of due north to the southern end of the Marble Mountains (tallest peak in upper center), Mojave Desert, California, wherein lies one of the most famous fossil localities in all the world--the classic trilobite quarry in the lower Cambrian Latham Shale (roughly 515 million years old). It's a place I first visited as a child with my parents on a weekend camping excursion--the very experience that inspired my life-long fascinattion with paleontology.

The Marble Mountains trilobite locality presently lies within Mojave Trails National Monument (officially authorized and established on February 12, 2016) and is obviously now off-limits to all unauthorized fossil collecting.

The Marble Mountains Contents:

 The Field Trip

 Images Of Fossils

On-Site Images

 Fauna From Latham Shale

 Fauna From Chambless Limestone

Fauna From Cadiz Formation

  Early Cambrian And Trilobite Links

Email Address

 My Other Web Pages

Health Advisory

And now for the preliminary obligatory words of caution. Endemic to the Mojave Desert of California, including the Las Vegas, Nevada, region by the way, is Valley Fever. This is a potentially serious illness called, scientifically, Coccidioidomycosis, or "coccy" for short; it's caused by the inhalation of an infectious airborne fungus whose spores lie dormant in the uncultivated, harsh alkaline soils of the Mojave Desert. When an unsuspecting and susceptible individual breaths the spores into his or her lungs, the fungus springs to life, as it prefers the moist, dark recesses of the human lungs (cats, dogs, rodents and even snakes, among other vertebrates, are also susceptible to "coccy") to multiply and be happy. Most cases of active Valley Fever resemble a minor touch of the flu, though the majority of those exposed show absolutely no symptoms of any kind of illness; it is important to note, of course, that in rather rare instances Valley Fever can progress to a severe and serious infection, causing high fever, chills, unending fatigue, rapid weight loss, inflammation of the joints, meningitis, pneumonia and even death. Every fossil prospector who chooses to visit the Mojave Desert must be fully aware of the risks involved.

Field Trip To The Marble Mountains

There have been many popular rockhounding and fossil-bearing areas on the vast Mojave Desert, but one site in particular used to consistently attract a great deal of attention. This was the classic Marble Mountains fossil quarry now situated in the Mojave Trails National Monument, San Bernardino County, California. Here, abundant and well-preserved fossil trilobites could be found dating from the early Cambrian geologic age, or roughly 518 million years old, some of Earth's most ancient identifiable animals with hard parts. Although the noted Marble Mountains fossil quarry is no longer accessible to unauthorized visitors, due to its inclusion in a national monument district, many avid amateur collectors and professional paleontologists alike still remember with wistful fondness the days when abundant paleontological remains could be recovered there--days of glorious exhilaration when fossils of exceptional quality and scientific importance came to light in the primordial rocks--those ancient, wonderful trilobites that as a group survived for nearly 300 million years before their eventual extinction just prior to the rise of the dinosaurs some 245 million years ago. Today, of course, trilobite hunters who visit the Mojave Desert must content themselves with fossil localities that occur outside the boundaries of the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument.

The fossil trilobites in the Marble Mountains occur in a greenish to rusty-brown, platy-weathering shale called the Latham Shale, a detrital rock formation dated as lower Cambrian on the geologic time scale, or roughly 518 million years old. The Latham was named in 1954 by geologist John C. Hazzard for its excellent exposures on the western slopes of the Providence Mountains near an old and famous miner's cabin approximately 40 miles north of the Marble Mountains site--a specific place within the Providence range that is now off-limits to unauthorized collectors due to its inclusion in a federally protected wilderness area (one requires a special Bureau Of Land Management permit in order to collect legally within a federally administered wilderness region). Throughout its "type locality," in the region around the cabin where it was first described in the geologic literature, the formation is at least 60 feet thick and contains an abundant fauna of early Cambrian trilobites and brachiopods. At the classic trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains, the Latham Shale averages around 50 feet in thickness and is also loaded with fossilized carapaces of trilobites, brachiopods, a siliceous sponge, a soft-bodied coelenterate (perhaps a jelly fish of some sort), an echinoderm and a mollusk or two. Virtually all of the trilobite specimens found at the old quarry--and in other exposures of the Latham outside wilderness boundaries, as well--were fragmental, although a few extraordinarily fortunate individuals reported that a whole, perfect fossil popped out at them from the shales.

The main reason there are so few complete, intact trilobite specimens to be found in the Latham--and at other early Cambrian sites, for that matter--has to do with the original fragility of the animal's exoskeleton. In actual life, trilobites possessed a thin outer covering composed of chitin--a hard, horny substance protecting the delicate soft-bodied organism within. While this material can be preserved in the rocks for millions of years, the problem is that the primitive early Cambrian trilobites--among the earliest known animals with hard parts--had loosely attached body segments. Thus, the head, thorax (middle portion) and tail tended to separate very easily upon the animal's death. Also, trilobites molted throughout their lives, periodically shedding their chitinous external covering in much the same way their modern-day relatives, insects, crabs, scorpions and pill bugs regularly shed their own exoskeletons during the molting process. The result was that the trauma of the molting often caused the already free-moving body segments of the trilobite to disassociate and break off, to be scattered by the sea currents.

All the trilobites found in the Latham Shale belong to a single significant family of trilobites called Olenellidae, or as they are more commonly called, olenellids. These were marvelously specialized arthropods, well adapted--for a time, anyway--to their life of burrowing in the muds of the shallow marine shelves along the margins of the early Cambrian land masses. Perhaps their most fascinating feature was their set of compound eyes, consisting of numerous minute calcite crystals in a closely packed arrangement. called scientifically a holochroal eye. It's not known for certain just how clearly the earliest trilobites were able to focus these eyes, but there is little question that, at the very least, they were able to distinguish adequately between predator and prey in their marine habitat. Mysteriously, though, the olenellids never survived beyond the early Cambrian, roughly 513 million years ago. Why they became extinct has never been fully explained, although the most logical idea is that, ultimately, they were ill-equipped to wage a successful struggle for life in their increasingly competitive environment. The Cambrian Period had ushered in the Paleozoic Era--the first occurrence of abundant complex animal life on Earth. It was a time of explosive biological diversification, and numerous burgeoning plants and animals were vying for every available ecological niche. Perhaps the olenellids, generally recognized by paleontologists as the earliest family of trilobites to appear in the geological record, could not overcome the inevitable encroachment of other increasingly aggressive varieties of trilobites into their domain. As a group, though, trilobites made it past the Cambrian Period and went on to flourish for close to another 300 million years or so, until at last they became extinct at the conclusion of the Permian Period, around 245 million years ago.

Roughly 280 million years earlier, though, trilobites flourished, and their remains have been found on practically every continent on Earth. In the western United States--in California and Nevada, specifically--most well-known trilobite localities occur in early Cambrian through middle Ordovician-age rock deposits. And, of course, one of the most famous places in California to find early Cambrian trilobites was at the prime fossil quarry in the Marble Mountains. There, the oldest geologic rock formation exposed is the early Cambrian Zabriskie Quartzite. This is a massive, resistant accumulation of heat and pressure-altered sandstone, mostly unfossiliferous except for a stray olenellid or two, plus distinctive vertical tubes that paleontologists call Skolithos. These represent the feeding burrows and living chambers of some kind of ancient, extinct suspension feeder. Sitting directly atop the Zabriskie--in bold, dramatic stratigraphic contact--is the fabulous early Cambrian Latham Shale, the specific rock deposit which contained a profusion of trilobite remains at the fossil quarry in the Marble Mountains; it's approximately 50 feet thick here, consisting of rusty-red to greenish-colored shale that typically weathers to recessive slopes, often masked by eroding debris from the overlying, younger rock formations in the local stratigraphic section.

All told, roughly 21 different species of fossils--from tracks and trails of soft-bodied organisms (who left no other evidence of their existence)--to a siliceous sponge have been identified from the Latham Shale of the Marble Mountains. In addition to trilobites, the fossil faunal list includes a coelenterate (possible jelly fish), three species of brachiopods, two kinds of mollusks, an annelid (worm), an echinoderm, anomalocaris fragments (this was the largest predator of the early Cambrian seas--olenellids likely ducked whenever they saw this monster lurking about...), and Girvanella nodules (precipitated by a species of cyanobacteria, blue-green algae).

But by far the most-common specimens found are trilobites, whose remains in the shales typically consist of a lone head shield called a cephalon (although thoracic and tail segments are sometimes encountered, as well). While this fragmental preservation might appear meager and nondiagnostic, a single isolated cephalon is quite enough to accurately identify the genus-species of the animal from which it originated. The seven most-abundant species of trilobites found in the Latham Shales are (in no particular order of dominance in the fauna): (1) Bristolia bristolensis; (2) Bristolia insolens; (3) Olenellus nevadensis; (4) Olenellus mohavensis; (5) Olenellus fremonti; (6) Olenellus clarki; and (7) Olenellus gilberti. Additional trilobites identified from the Latham Shale include Bristolia anteros, Peachella iddingsi and two new species--one an olenellid, the other a ptychopariid.

After the prolific trilobite remains, probably the second-most commonly found fossil specimen at the Latham Shale quarry was an unusual variety of brachiopod, referred to scientifically as Paterina prospectensis. This is one of the oldest species of brachiopods ever found, a significant find, indeed, but it was often overlooked by collectors in their single-minded eagerness to uncover trilobites. When spotted on the shales it closely resembles a tiny phonograph record, a flattened, circular to oval specimen slightly less than a half-inch in diameter.

Lying directly above the trilobite-rich Latham Shale is a gray to dark blue ledge-forming limestone approximately 140 feet thick. This is the slightly younger lower Cambrian Chambless Limestone, within whose dense, rather massive strata occur prolific remains of a fossil algae. Many collectors at the trilobite quarry often developed quite a fascination and fondness for these extinct plant remains, taking time out from their intense trilobite-searching to look for the dark oval structures, roughly a half-inch to two inches in diameter, embedded in the lighter-colored grayish-blue limestones. For decades, paleontologists have called these curious algal bodies Girvanella, a catchall genus used to describe any nonspecified cyanobacterial remains present in rocks of Cambrian through Ordovician (475 million years ago) age in the Mojave Desert and neighboring Great Basin. Although very little is know about the possible life history of Girvanella, it is believed to have been a species of blue-green algae which, based on its exclusive occurrence in silt-free limestone, apparently preferred to propagate in warm, shallow, clear sea waters. In addition to Girvanella cyanobacteria bodies, the Chambless Limestone also yields two species of brachiopods, a mollusk, seven kinds of trilobites and an echinoderm.

For all intents and purposes, the Chambless Limestone marks the uppermost, or youngest exposed horizon of the lower Cambrian system in the vicinity of the trilobite quarry. Above it occur shales, sandstones, quartzites and limestones of the predominately middle Cambrian Cadiz Formation, a sparsely fossiliferous unit approximately 75 feet thick. Some five species of trilobites have been recovered from it, in addition to three kinds of brachiopods. And above the Cadiz Formation, capping the entire sequence of Cambrian formations in the Marble Mountains, is the Upper Cambrian Bonanza King Dolomite, whose massive, thick accumulations of magnesium carbonate yield occasional, rare, "bonanza" layers of trilobites, plus locally abundant Girvanella algal bodies.

It should be noted, of course, that the stratigraphic terminology used to describe Cambrian rock formations in the Mojave Desert and western Great Basin can be confusing. For example, throughout the northeastern Mojave Desert and southern Great Basin the three lower to middle Cambrian rock formations that outcrop in the Marble Mountains (Latham Shale, Chambless Limestone and Cadiz Formation) correlate stratigraphically with the lower (oldest) three members of the very widespread Carrara Formation; quite recently, by the way, one specific Carrara locality, many miles from the Marble Mountains, has generated a great deal of excitement among amateur fossil seekers, since it represents one of the few remaining places in all the Mojave and Great Basin deserts where unauthorized visitors can still legally collect early to middle Cambrian trilobites from the Carrara Formation.

Then, too, in western Nevada and the neighboring northern Death Valley district of California, the stratigraphic nomenclature changes once again. Here, the fossiliferous Latham Shale correlates with the upper portion of the Harkless Formation, or the locally recognized Saline Valley Formation, where it is present in the famous Waucoba Spring section of Death Valley National Park. Above the Harkless/Saline Valley complex, lies the Mule Spring Limestone, whose massive bluish-gray accumulations of Girvanella-bearing calcium carbonates correlate quite nicely with the Chambless Limestone in the Marble Mountains. And the lower to Middle Cambrian Cadiz Formation is equivalent to the Monola Formation in northern Death Valley and the Emigrant Formation in adjacent western Nevada.

All of these numerous Cambrian rock formations can be dated pretty accurately at some 518 to 515 million years old. At that distant time, the Marble Mountain trilobite quarry was situated near the equator in warm, shallow tropical sea waters that encouraged a genuine proliferation of early marine plants and animals. Today of course, thanks to the slow, sure inexorable power of Continental Drift--working its geologic magic through millions upon million of years--the trilobite-rich deposit occurs well north of the equator in present-day North America, where in the midst of a vast arid desert an uplifted, lithified bed of primal marine ooze holds the bodies of innumerable extinct arthropods, the trilobites, preserved for eons in a state of suspended animation, attaining a grand kind of immortality.

Unfortunately, as is generally well-known among rockhounds and fossil seekers, the Latham Shale trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains is no longer accessible to unauthorized visitors, as it's now part of the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument. Still, persistent paleontology enthusiasts have been able to discover additional fossil-bearing exposures of Latham Shale that lie outside the wilderness boundaries. There, trilobite hunters happily fall into their own individual styles of fossil-finding. One major collecting method is to sit upon the talus slopes and sift through the shale debris discarded by previous visitors. The idea here is to try to locate specimens that may have been left behind by hunters who in their rush to quarry the larger, more dramatic head shields, overlooked the less-obvious, though often better-preserved trilobites. A second and arguably more efficient technique is to clear a small, localized area of the overlying loose shale and then, with a quality chisel, in combination with a geology rock hammer or sledge hammer (be sure to sear safety glasses at all times), work your way through the shales, layer by layer, splitting the rocks along their natural bedding planes. This obviously involves a lot of work, but it is definitely the most productive way to find fossils. Wrap the pieces of fossiliferous shale in heavy-duty paper towels or even newspaper, to ensure their safe transport back home. Very little cleaning of the specimens is usually required, perhaps just a careful scrubbing with water and an old toothbrush to remove any dirt or grime caking the surfaces of the shales.

Occasionally you may want to try to expose an inviting-looking, partially exposed head shield obscured by a layer of matrix on a large slab of fossiliferous shale. Proceed with caution, though, since the fossilized chiton carapaces are deceptively fragile; they tend to crack or crumble if subjected to an improper chiseling technique. Before attempting to work out a potentially exceptional find, practice on less well-preserved specimens or those you wouldn't mind losing should you make an accidental and fatal slip of the hand.

There are of course loads of trilobites still remaining to be found in the Latham Shale, even after many decades of intensive collecting by both amateur paleontology enthusiasts and professional invertebrate paleontologists.

The history of fossil explorations in the Marble Mountains begins in the early 1900s when geologist N. H. Darton discovered the southwesternmost exposure of fossiliferous Cambrian rocks in the United States. Darton was thus the first to collect trilobites in the Marble Mountains, but it's not clear whether his finds came from the exact area of the present-day trilobite quarry. For identification and age-assignment of the specimens, Darton submitted his collection to perhaps the most famous and knowledgeable Cambrian Period expert of all time, Dr. Charles D. Walcott, who considered the fossils to be "undoubtedly of Cambrian age, probably Middle Cambrian." That would indeed be correct, if Walcott had identified trilobites collected exclusively from the Cadiz Formation--but nobody knows for certain where in the local stratigraphic column the fossils came from. If on the other hand he examined collections Darton secured from what today we call the Latham Shale, then Walcott was decidedly incorrect on the specific geologic age-assignment. At any rate, the question is probably moot, since the exact faunal succession of the Cambrian Period had not yet been definitively worked out in the early 1900s.

In 1907 Darton published a brief announcement of his find in the Journal Of Geology, volume 15, number 5--a paper entitled, "Discovery of Cambrian Rocks in Southeastern California." At that time Darton referred to the area of discovery as the Iron Mountains, a name soon to be discarded, interestingly enough, by geologist Clifton W. Clark, who published the first detailed geological study of the region in 1921. In that paper, published in the University of California Publications Bulletin of the Department of Geological Sciences, volume 13, number 1, Clark wrote that he preferred the name "Bristol Mountain" to "Iron Mountain," because this was the name given on "the official map of San Bernardino County." While this would appear to be a sound and logical approach to deciding the name of an important geographic area, evidently that "official" map was far from the definitive source. Twelve years later, in 1933, John C. Hazzard and Colin H. Crickmay published their "Notes on the Cambrian Rocks of the Eastern Mohave Desert, California," University of California Publications in Geologic Science, volume 23, number 2, in which we find the "common name" given to this area is now the "Marble Mountains;" and besides, report Hazzard and Crickmay, "this has likewise been used on the topographic maps made by the Los Angeles Water Bureau."

End of discussion. If the Los Angeles Water Bureau of 1933 could ignore the evidence of the "official" map of San Bernardino County and conclude that the region should be called the "Marble Mountains"--not the Iron Mountains or even Bristol Mountain--there can be little room for doubt regarding the authenticity of the name.

A great bulk of scientific writing has been published on the fossils of the Marble Mountains. Likely candidates for the best reference works available include-- "The Lower Cambrian Olenellidae of the Southern Marble Mountains, California," by Joseph F. Riccio, Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, volume 51, part 2, May-August, 1952; "Fauna of the Cambrian Cadiz Formation, Marble Mountains, California," by John F. Mason, Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences, volume 34, number 2, 1935 (Even though Mason specifies that his studies focused on the fossils of the Cadiz Formation, his descriptions of specimens leaves little doubt that he was actually investigating the faunas of what was later understood to be the Latham Shale.); "Early Cambrian faunas from the Marble and Providence Mountains, San Bernardino County, California," by J. D. Mount, Bulletin of the Southern California Paleontological Society, volume 6, number 1, 1974; "Characteristic of Early Cambrian Faunas from Eastern San Bernardino County, California," by J. D. Mount, Paleontological Tour of the Mojave Desert, California-Nevada, Southern California Paleontological Society Special Publications, number. 2, 1980, pp. 19-29; and "Cambrian Fossils from the Mojave Desert," by C. E. Resser, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, volume 81, number 2, 1928, which bears a noted distinction: it's the very first systematic discussion of fossils from the trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains.

The Marble Mountains trilobite quarry certainly used to be a great place to bring children and others who wished to experience the joys of fossil collecting for the first time. The trilobite specimens were easily spotted in the shales, and because they were so exceptionally abundant everyone was almost certain to take home a memorable find. Camping sites there tended to be dry, as most folks who wished to spend time collecting brought along their own food, water and wood, pitching tens or parking their cars along reasonably flat, level areas considerably downslope, well-removed from the actual fossil quarry.

The trilobite quarry in California's Marble Mountains holds a special place in my heart. I was taken there as a youngster on my very first fossil-hunting trip (long before the federally established Trilobite Wilderness, of course). We arrived in the dead of night, a winter wind howling from the north, the temperature hovering around freezing; and we pitched our tent on the rock-strewn ground near a prominent, convenient parking area amidst the rugged desert terrain. I found sleep difficult to come by that night, but it wasn't the cold that kept me alert. Nothing as "commonplace" in southern California as a wind chill factor in the teens could have prevented sleep. I was all revved up, ready to find those trilobites right then and there, with a flashlight if necessary. I lay awake listening to the savage whipping of the walls of our canvas tent, envisioning numerous perfect trilobites specimens in my hot little hand, knowing that they represented some of Earth's oldest identifiable remains of an animal with hard parts--a creature who 518 million years ago had actually witnessed its primordial environment through crystal eyes of calcite, an amazing adaption in the progression of life on our planet.

That following morning we hiked up the footpath to the quarry, against the crazy frigid sting of a Mojave Desert wind. All along the trail I kept inspecting the exposed shales, trying to imagine what a real trilobite in the rocks would look like. I had often poured over their pictures in books--but, to genuinely hold one, to actually touch the once-living representative of such awesome prehistory was anticipation of the most electrifying kind.

At last we arrived, and the fossil quarry was before us. I started probing through the shales left behind by others. Trilobites began to show up almost everywhere I happened to look. This was indeed, a fossil-hunter's paradise. With each head shield that came to light, I inspected the sad stony eyes of a creature whose descendants survived for almost 300 million years.

It didn't seem fair that the first of these great animals, the olenellids, should die out while their lucky relatives endured for eons to come. There was an injustice here I firmly decided, although the uncluttered mind of a child could not then have known of the Darwinian struggle for survival of the fittest and other such impressive explanations for the olenellids' disappearance.

I never did find that perfect, complete trilobite I had dreamed of during my first fossil hunt in the Marble Mountains. But it didn't matter. That single experience charged me with a life-long fascination with fossils and the stories they can tell us of distant, long-vanished ages.

Images Of Fossils From The Marble Mountains

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Click on the images for larger pictures. Here is a series of fossils from the early Cambrian geologic sequence at the famous trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains. Left to right--(1) a head shield, or cephalon, of a trilobite from the Lower Cambrian Latham Shale--the genus species is Olenellus gilberti; (2) a chunk of limestone from the Lower Cambrian Chambless Limestone bearing dark oval nodules called Girvanella, an extinct genus of blue-green algae precipitated by cyanobacteria; (3) a trilobite head shield from the Lower Cambrian Latham Shale--the genus-species is Olenellus fremonti. Please note that all specimens were collected long before the Marble Mountains became the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument.



Click on the images for larger pictures. Here is a series of mostly complete trilobites from the lower Cambrian Latham Shale, California--specimens I did not collect, by the way. The images are courtesy various sources on the Internet.

Left and far right--Mesonacis fremonti (formerly genus Olenellus); middle--Bristolia mohavensis. Please note that all specimens were collected long before the Marble Mountains became the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument.

On-Site Images From The Marble Mountains Trilobite Quarry

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Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right--(1) A group of fossil seekers explores with eager attentiveness an exposure of the Lower Cambrian Latham Shale at the classic trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains (collecting here was done long before the area became part of an established, federally protected national monument); (2) A group of paleontology enthusiasts sets up camp near the famous trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains.


Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right--(1) A scenic overview of a portion of the Marble Mountains in the vicinity of the trilobite quarry, revealing the rugged aspect of sedimentary outcropping amidst the early Cambrian sequence of geologic rock formations; (2) A panorama southward from the Marble Mountains, near the trilobite quarry, to a long train sliding across the vast Mojave Desert. Please note that all photographs were taken long before the Marble Mountains became part of the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument.


Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right--Two views of the famous, long-abandoned Vaughn Quarry in the Marble Mountains, near the classic trilobite quarry. For many years high-grade marble from the early Cambrian times, some 530 million years old, was commercially mined here. These are vintage photos taken by my late father during one of his early experiences in the Marble Mountains. Please note that all photographs were taken long before the Marble Mountains became part of the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument.


Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right--(1) An old friend, the "Desert Hound" himself, Inky, had loads of fun during occasional outings to the Marble Mountains trilobite quarry, Mojave Desert, California; (2) A fossil enthusiast digs into crumbly, poorly exposed early Cambrian sedimentary rocks during a weekend outing in the Marble Mountains trilobite quarry. Please note that all photographs were taken long before the Marble Mountains became part of the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument.



Click on the images for larger pictures. Left to right--(1) A typical primitive, dry camp near the base of the trail to the classic trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains; (2) A view to distinctive ledge-forming outcrops of the Lower Cambrian, fossil algae-bearing Chambless Limestone near the famous trilobite quarry in the Marble Mountains; (3) Visits to the Marble Mountains used to involve attempting to negotiate the rock-strewn desert terrain to a convenient camping locality well-downslope from the classic trilobite quarry. Please note that all photographs were taken long before the Marble Mountains became part of the federally protected Mojave Trails National Monument.

Fauna From The Lower Cambrian Latham Shale

This list was compiled from Jack D. Mount's paper, "Characteristic of Early Cambrian Faunas from Eastern San Bernardino County, California," Paleontological Tour of the Mojave Desert, California-Nevada, Southern California Paleontological Society Special Publications, number. 2, 1980.
  • Baugaeria radiata--A coelenterate
  • Paterina prospectensis--A brachiopod
  • Mickwitaia occidens--A brachiopod
  • Nisusia fulleri--A brachiopod
  • Hyolithes whitei--A hyolithid mollusk
  • New species of annelid--A worm
  • Olenellus clarki--A trilobite
  • Olenellus fremonti--A trilobite
  • Olenellus gilberti--A trilobite
  • Olenellus mohavensis--A trilobite
  • Olenellus new species--A trilobite
  • Bristolia anteros--A trilobite
  • Bristolia bristolensis--A trilobite
  • Bristolia insolens--A trilobite
  • Bristolia new species--A trilobite
  • Peachella iddingsi--A trilobite
  • Onchocephalus new species--A trilobite
  • Anomalocaris canadensis--A predatory arthropod
  • Gogia ojenai--An echinoderm
  • Girvanella--Blue-green algae

Fauna From The Lower Cambrian Chambless Limestone

This list was compiled from Jack D. Mount's paper, "Characteristic of Early Cambrian Faunas from Eastern San Bernardino County, California," Paleontological Tour of the Mojave Desert, California-Nevada, Southern California Paleontological Society Special Publications, number. 2, 1980.
  • Baugaeria radiata--A coelenterate
  • Eothele spurri--A brachiopod
  • Paterina prospectensis--A brachiopd
  • Novitatus new species--A mollusk
  • Olenellus clarki--A trilobite
  • Olenellus fremonti--A trilobite
  • Olenellus gilberti--A trilobite
  • Olenellus puertoblancoensis--A trilobite
  • Olenellus new species--A trilobite
  • Bristolia bristolensis--A trilobite
  • Ptychopariid new genus species--A trilobite
  • Gogia species indeterminate--An echinoderm
  • Girvanella--Blue-green algae

Fauna From The Lower-Middle Cambrian Cadiz Formation

This list was compiled from Jack D. Mount's paper, "Characteristic of Early Cambrian Faunas from Eastern San Bernardino County, California," Paleontological Tour of the Mojave Desert, California-Nevada, Southern California Paleontological Society Special Publications, number. 2, 1980.
  • Hudrotreta primaaea--A brachiopod
  • Dictyonia pannula--A brachiopod
  • Wimanella highlandensis--A brachiopod
  • Olenellus clarki--A trilobite
  • Olenellus gilberti--A trilobite
  • Olenellus puertoblancoensis--A trilobite
  • Olenellus new species--A trilobite
  • Peachella iddingsi--A trilobite

Links To The Early Cambrian And To Trilobites

The Early Cambrian happened 542 to 513 million years ago

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  • Back To Badwater--A Cyber-CD: Listen to me play 32 covers and original compositions on 6 and 12-string guitars; it's all free music.
  • For an all-text page that includes all 332 of my guitar mp3 files placed on the Internet, go to All Inyo All The Time. That's where you'll find access to all of my musical selections, in order of their appearance on the Web--from my first Cyber-CD ("The Acoustic Guitar Solitaire Of Inyo") to the last, "The Rarities And Alternate Recordings Of Inyo."
  • Inyo 7--A Cyber CD Listen to me play 30 covers of some of my favorite songs, plus originals (all free music).
  • The Rarities And Alternate Recordings Of Inyo--A Cyber-CD Listen to me play 32 seldom-heard, rare, alternate recordings of some of my previously released tracks.
  • Jump on over to my page It's A Happening Thing--Music From The Year 1967. Includes YouTube (and other sources) links to all songs that charted US Billboard Top 100 in year 1967 (close to a thousand, as as matter of fact), plus links to records that bubbled under US Billboard's Hot 100 charts that year (releases that placed #101 to #135); peruse, too, my extensive personal database of year 1967 music.

Paleontology-Related Pages

Web sites I have created pertaining to fossils

  • Fossils In Death Valley National Park: A site dedicated to the paleontology, geology, and natural wonders of Death Valley National Park; lots of on-site photographs of scenic localities within the park; images of fossils specimens; links to many virtual field trips of fossil-bearing interest.
  • Fossil Insects And Vertebrates On The Mojave Desert, California: Journey to two world-famous fossil sites in the middle Miocene Barstow Formation: one locality yields upwards of 50 species of fully three-dimensional, silicified freshwater insects, arachnids, and crustaceans that can be dissolved free and intact from calcareous concretions; a second Barstow Formation district provides vertebrate paleontologists with one of the greatest concentrations of Miocene mammal fossils yet recovered from North America--it's the type locality for the Bartovian State of the Miocene Epoch, 15.9 to 12.5 million years ago, with which all geologically time-equivalent rocks in North American are compared.
  • A Visit To Fossil Valley, Great Basin Desert, Nevada: Take a virtual field trip to a Nevada locality that yields the most complete, diverse, fossil assemblage of terrestrial Miocene plants and animals known from North America--and perhaps the world, as well.
  • Fossils At Red Rock Canyon State Park, California: Visit wildly colorful Red Rock Canyon State Park on California's northern Mojave Desert, approximately 130 miles north of Los Angeles--scene of innumerable Hollywood film productions and commercials over the years--where the Middle to Late Miocene (13 to 7 million years old) Dove Spring Formation, along with a classic deposit of petrified woods, yields one of the great terrestrial, land-deposited Miocene vertebrate fossil faunas in all the western United States.
  • Late Pennsylvanian Fossils In Kansas: Travel to the midwestern plains to discover the classic late Pennsylvanian fossil wealth of Kansas--abundant, supremely well-preserved associations of such invertebrate animals as brachiopods, bryozoans, corals, echinoderms, fusulinids, mollusks (gastropods, pelecypods, cephalopods, scaphopods), and sponges; one of the great places on the planet to find fossils some 307 to 299 million years old.
  • Fossil Plants Of The Ione Basin, California: Head to Amador County in the western foothills of California's Sierra Nevada to explore the fossil leaf-bearing Middle Eocene Ione Formation of the Ione Basin. This is a completely undescribed fossil flora from a geologically fascinating district that produces not only paleobotanically invaluable suites of fossil leaves, but also world-renowned commercial deposits of silica sand, high-grade kaolinite clay and the extraordinarily rare Montan Wax-rich lignites (a type of low grade coal).
  • Trilobites In The Marble Mountains, Mojave Desert, California: Take a trip to the place that first inspired my life-long fascination and interest in fossils--the classic trilobite quarry in the Lower Cambrian Latham Shale, in the Marble Mountains of California's Mojave Desert. It's a special place, now included in the rather recently established Trilobite Wilderness, where some 21 species of ancient plants and animals have been found--including trilobites, an echinoderm, a coelenterate, mollusks, blue-green algae and brachiopods.
  • Early Cambrian Fossils Of Westgard Pass, California: Visit the Westgard Pass area, a world-renowned geologic wonderland several miles east of Big Pine, California, in the neighboring White-Inyo Mountains, to examine one of the best places in the world to find archaeocyathids--an enigmatic invertebrate animal that went extinct some 510 million years ago, never surviving past the early Cambrian; also present there in rocks over a half billion years old are locally common trilobites, plus annelid and arthropod trails, and early echinoderms.
  • A Visit To Ammonite Canyon, Nevada: Explore one of the best-exposed, most complete fossiliferous marine late Triassic through early Jurassic geologic sections in the world--a place where the important end-time Triassic mass extinction has been preserved in the paleontological record. Lots of key species of ammonites, brachiopods, corals, gastropods and pelecypods.
  • Fossils In Millard County, Utah: Take virtual field trips to two world-famous fossil localities in Millard County, Utah--Wheeler Amphitheater in the trilobite-bearing middle Cambrian Wheeler Shale; and Fossil Mountain in the brachiopod-ostracod-gastropod-echinoderm-trilobite rich lower Ordovician Pogonip Group.
  • Paleozoic Era Fossils At Mazourka Canyon, Inyo County, California: Visit a productive Paleozoic Era fossil-bearing area near Independence, California--along the east side of California's Owens Valley, with the great Sierra Nevada as a dramatic backdrop--a paleontologically fascinating place that yields a great assortment of invertebrate animals.
  • Late Triassic Ichthyosaur And Invertebrate Fossils In Nevada: Journey to two classic, world-famous fossil localities in the Upper Triassic Luning Formation of Nevada--Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and Coral Reef Canyon. At Berlin-Ichthyosaur, observe in-situ the remains of several gigantic ichthyosaur skeletons preserved in a fossil quarry; then head out into the hills, outside the state park, to find plentiful pelecypods, gastropods, brachiopods and ammonoids. At Coral Reef Canyon, find an amazing abundance of corals, sponges, brachiopods, echinoids (sea urchins), pelecypods, gastropods, belemnites and ammonoids.
  • Fossils From The Kettleman Hills, California: Visit one of California's premiere Pliocene-age (approximately 4.5 to 2.0 million years old) fossil localities--the Kettleman Hills, which lie along the western edge of California's Great Central Valley northwest of Bakersfield. This is where innumerable sand dollars, pectens, oysters, gastropods, "bulbous fish growths" and pelecypods occur in the Etchegoin, San Joaquin and Tulare Formations.
  • Field Trip To The Kettleman Hills Fossil District, California: Take a virtual field trip to a classic site on the western side of California's Great Central Valley, roughly 80 miles northwest of Bakersfield, where several Pliocene-age (roughly 4.5 to 2 million years old) geologic rock formations yield a wealth of diverse, abundant fossil material--sand dollars, scallop shells, oysters, gastropods and "bulbous fish growths" (fossil bony tumors--found nowhere else, save the Kettleman Hills), among many other paleontological remains.
  • A Visit To The Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, Southern California: Travel to the dusty hills near Bakersfield, California, along the eastern side of the Great Central Valley in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada, to explore the world-famous Sharktooth Hill Bone Bed, a Middle Miocene marine deposit some 16 to 15 million years old that yields over a hundred species of sharks, rays, bony fishes, and sea mammals from a geologic rock formation called the Round Mountain Silt Member of the Temblor Formation; this is the most prolific marine, vertebrate fossil-bearing Middle Miocene deposit in the world.
  • In Search Of Fossils In The Tin Mountain Limestone, California: Journey to the Death Valley area of Inyo County, California, to explore the highly fossiliferous Lower Mississippian Tin Mountain Limestone; visit three localities that provide easy access to a roughly 358 million year-old calcium carbate accumulation that contains well preserved corals, brachiopods, bryozoans, crinoids, and ostracods--among other major groups of invertebrate animals.
  • Middle Triassic Ammonoids From Nevada: Travel to a world-famous fossil locality in the Great Basin Desert of Nevada, a specific place that yields some 41 species of ammonoids, in addition to five species of pelecypods and four varieties of belemnites from the Middle Triassic Prida Formation, which is roughly 235 million years old; many paleontologists consider this specific site the single best Middle Triassic, late Anisian Stage ammonoid locality in the world. All told, the Prida Formation yields 68 species of ammonoids spanning the entire Middle Triassic age, or roughly 241 to 227 million years ago.
  • Fossil Bones In The Coso Range, Inyo County, California: Visit the Coso Range Wilderness, west of Death Valley National Park at the southern end of California's Owens Valley, where vertebrate fossils some 4.8 to 3.0 million years old can be observed in the Pliocene-age Coso Formation: It's a paleontologically significant place that yields many species of mammals, including the remains of Equus simplicidens, the Hagerman Horse, named for its spectacular occurrences at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Idaho; Equus simplicidens is considered the earliest known member of the genus Equus, which includes the modern horse and all other equids.
  • Field Trip To A Vertebrate Fossil Locality In The Coso Range, California: Take a cyber-visit to the famous bone-bearing Pliocene Coso Formation, Coso Mountains, Inyo County, California; includes detailed text for the field trip, plus on-site images and photographs of vertebrate fossils.
  • Fossil Plants At Aldrich Hill, Western Nevada: Take a field trip to western Nevada, in the vicinity of Yerington, to famous Aldrich Hill, where one can collect some 35 species of ancient plants--leaves, seeds and twigs--from the Middle Miocene Aldirch Station Formation, roughly 12 to 13 million years old. Find the leaves of evergreen live oak, willow, and Catalina Ironwood (which today is restricted in its natural habitat solely to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California), among others, plus the seeds of many kinds of conifers, including spruce; expect to find the twigs of Giant Sequoias, too.
  • Fossils From Pleistocene Lake Manix, California: Explore the badlands of the Manix Lake Beds on California's Mojave Desert, an Upper Pleistocene deposit that produces abundant fossil remains from the silts and sands left behind by a great fresh water lake, roughly 350,000 to 19,000 years old--the Manix Beds yield many species of fresh water mollusks (gastropods and pelecypods), skeletal elements from fish (the Tui Mojave Chub and Three-Spine Stickleback), plus roughly 50 species of mammals and birds, many of which can also be found in the incredible, world-famous La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles.
  • Field Trip To Pleistocene Lake Manix, California: Go on a virtual field trip to the classic, fossiliferous badlands carved in the Upper Pleistocene Manix Formation, Mojave Desert, California. It's a special place that yields beaucoup fossil remains, including fresh water mollusks, fish (the Mojave Tui Chub), birds and mammals.
  • Trilobites In The Nopah Range, Inyo County, California: Travel to a locality well outside the boundaries of Death Valley National Park to collect trilobites in the Lower Cambrian Pyramid Shale Member of the Carrara Formation.
  • Ammonoids At Union Wash, California: Explore ammonoid-rich Union Wash near Lone Pine, California, in the shadows of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Union Wash is a ne plus ultra place to find Early Triassic ammonoids in California. The extinct cephalopods occur in abundance in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, with the dramatic back-drop of the glacier-gouged Sierra Nevada skyline in view to the immediate west.
  • A Visit To The Fossil Beds At Union Wash, Inyo County California: A virtual field trip to the fabulous ammonoid accumulations in the Lower Triassic Union Wash Formation, Inyo County, California--situated in the shadows of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.
  • Ordovician Fossils At The Great Beatty Mudmound, Nevada: Visit a classic 475-million-year-old fossil locality in the vicinity of Beatty, Nevada, only a few miles east of Death Valley National Park; here, the fossils occur in the Middle Ordovician Antelope Valley Limestone at a prominent Mudmound/Biohern. Lots of fossils can be found there, including silicified brachiopods, trilobites, nautiloids, echinoderms, bryozoans, ostracodes and conodonts.
  • Paleobotanical Field Trip To The Sailor Flat Hydraulic Gold Mine, California: Journey on a day of paleobotanical discovery with the FarWest Science Foundation to the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada--to famous Sailor Flat, an abandoned hydraulic gold mine of the mid to late 1800s, where members of the foundation collect fossil leaves from the "chocolate" shales of the Middle Eocene auriferous gravels; all significant specimens go to the archival paleobotanical collections at the University California Museum Of Paleontology in Berkeley.
  • Early Cambrian Fossils In Western Nevada: Explore a 518-million-year-old fossil locality several miles north of Death Valley National Park, in Esmeralda County, Nevada, where the Lower Cambrian Harkless Formation yields the largest single assemblage of Early Cambrian trilobites yet described from a specific fossil locality in North America; the locality also yields archeocyathids (an extinct sponge), plus salterella (the "ice-cream cone fossil"--an extinct conical animal placed into its own unique phylum, called Agmata), brachiopods and invertebrate tracks and trails.
  • Fossil Leaves And Seeds In West-Central Nevada: Take a field trip to the Middlegate Hills area in west-central Nevada. It's a place where the Middle Miocene Middlegate Formation provides paleobotany enthusiasts with some 64 species of fossil plant remains, including the leaves of evergreen live oak, tanbark oak, bigleaf maple, and paper birch--plus the twigs of giant sequoias and the winged seeds from a spruce.
  • Ordovician Fossils In The Toquima Range, Nevada: Explore the Toquima Range in central Nevada--a locality that yields abundant graptolites in the Lower to Middle Ordovician Vinini Formation, plus a diverse fauna of brachiopods, sponges, bryozoans, echinoderms and ostracodes from the Middle Ordovician Antelope Valley Limestone.
  • Fossil Plants In The Dead Camel Range, Nevada: Visit a remote site in the vicinity of Fallon, Nevada, where the Middle Miocene Desert Peak Formation provides paleobotany enthusiasts with 22 species of nicely preserved leaves from a variety of deciduous trees and evergreen live oaks, in addition to samaras (winged seeds), needles and twigs from several types of conifers.
  • Early Triassic Ammonoid Fossils In Nevada: Visit the two remote localities in Nevada that yield abundant, well-preserved ammonoids in the Lower Triassic Thaynes Formation, some 240 million years old--one of the sites just happens to be the single finest Early Triassic ammonoid locality in North America.
  • Fossil Plants At Buffalo Canyon, Nevada: Explore the wilds of west-central Nevada, a number of miles from Fallon, where the Middle Miocene Buffalo Canyon Formation yields to seekers of paleontology some 54 species of deciduous and coniferous varieties of 15-million-year-old leaves, seeds and twigs from such varieties as spruce, fir, pine, ash, maple, zelkova, willow and evergreen live oak
  • High Inyo Mountains Fossils, California: Take a ride to the crest of the High Inyo Mountains to find abundant ammonoids and pelecypods--plus, some shark teeth and terrestrial plants in the Upper Mississippian Chainman Shale, roughly 325 million years old.
  • Field Trip To The Copper Basin Fossil Flora, Nevada: Visit a remote region in Nevada, where the Late Eocene Dead Horse Tuff provides seekers of paleobotany with some 42 species of ancient plants, roughly 39 to 40 million years old, including the leaves of alder, tanbark oak, Oregon grape and sassafras.
  • Fossil Plants And Insects At Bull Run, Nevada: Head into the deep backcountry of Nevada to collect fossils from the famous Late Eocene Chicken Creek Formation, which yields, in addition to abundant fossil fly larvae, a paleobotanically wonderful association of winged seeds and fascicles (bundles of needles) from many species of conifers, including fir, pine, spruce, larch, hemlock and cypress. The plants are some 37 million old and represent an essentially pure montane conifer forest, one of the very few such fossil occurrences in the Tertiary Period of the United States.
  • A Visit To The Early Cambrian Waucoba Spring Geologic Section, California: Journey to the northwestern sector of Death Valley National Park to explore the classic, world-famous Waucoba Spring Early Cambrian geologic section, first described by the pioneering paleontologist C.D. Walcott in the late 1800s; surprisingly well preserved 540-510 million-year-old remains of trilobites, invertebrate tracks and trails, Girvanella algal oncolites and archeocyathids (an extinct variety of sponge) can be observed in situ.
  • Petrified Wood From The Shinarump Conglomerate: An image of a chunk of petrified wood I collected from the Upper Triassic Shinarump Conglomerate, outside of Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.
  • Fossil Giant Sequoia Foliage From Nevada: Images of the youngest fossil foliage from a giant sequoia ever discovered in the geologic record--the specimen is Lower Pliocene in geologic age, around 5 million years old.
  • Some Favorite Fossil Brachiopods Of Mine: Images of several fossil brachiopods I have collected over the years from Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic-age rocks.
  • For information on what can and cannot be collected legally from America's Public Lands, take a look at Fossils On America's Public Lands and Collecting On Public Lands--brochures that the Bureau Of Land Management has allowed me to transcribe.
  • In Search Of Vanished Ages--Field Trips To Fossil Localities In California, Nevada, And Utah--My fossils-related field trips in full print book form (pdf). 98,703 words (equivalent to a medium-size hard cover work of non-fiction); 250 printed pages (equivalent to about 380 pages in hard cover book form); 27 chapters; 30 individual field trips to places of paleontological interest; 60 photographs--representative on-site images and pictures of fossils from each locality visited.

United States Geological Survey Papers (Public Domain)

Online versions of USGS publications

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