Garrettsville – Summertime for a certain 9-year-old boy is an endless string of sun-filled days spent cooling off in Silver Creek, digging for buried treasures alongside his cousin and grandpa. A typical day along the creek bed turns up ancient brachiopod fossils, historic bricks from long-gone Garrettsville streets, or even desiccated cattle bones that could be mistaken as the skeletal remains of a dinosaur.
Until one fine day, as they were creek walking near Liberty Street and the water treatment plant. It was June 26. Grandpa Larry Beatty asked, “What’s this?” Grandson Brendan picked up the blackened, 2-inch, cone-shaped relic, convinced they’d found a dinosaur tooth.
There was only one way to find out. Mom Tara Bailey contacted Dale Gnidovec, Curator Orton Geological Museum at Ohio State University, asking if he could identify the relic by a photo.
The next morning, a reply from Gnidovec was in her email box, confirming that Brendan’s treasure was indeed an ancient fossil, estimated to be 299-419 million years old! It is a fossilized horn coral; once an upside-down jellyfish/sea anemone that lived in a cone-shaped shell. These creatures first appeared in the Ordovician Period around 450 million years ago and didn’t become extinct until the big Permo-Triassic extinction event 250 million years ago, according to Gnidovec.
Gnidovec added that most of the rocks in this area were formed during the Pennsylvanian Period, 323 to 299 million years ago (MYA), but some of the streams cut down into much older rocks, including those from the Devonian Period (419-359 MYA) and the Mississippian Period (359-323 MYA), so Brendan’s fossil may be anywhere between 299 to 419 million years old.
Community outreach identification services are available for treasure-hunters curious about their finds. If it’s an artifact — something made by humans, such as an arrowhead — contact the Ohio Historical Society (http://www.oplin.org/point/index.html).
If it’s a rock, mineral, fossil or bone, Gnidovec is the scientist to contact (614-292-6896; email@example.com). You can arrange an appointment to bring it to the Orton Museum in Columbus for identification, or send photos via mail or email. Make sure the photos are in focus, show more than one side of the object, and include something for scale (a coin, ruler, etc.)
Horn corals, colonial corals, snails, clams and brachiopods are among the most common fossils in the local area. At the time they were alive — 380 million years ago during the Devonian Period — Ohio was under a warm tropical sea and was situated much closer to the equator. Today, Ohio lies 40 degrees north of the equator, but during the Devonian Period, Ohio was only about 20 degrees south of the equator, about where Australia is today.
It’s hard for Brendan to imagine that Garrettsville was once covered up by a warm and tropical ocean, and that Ohio was comparable to the Bahamas. But his imagination has been fired up by this recent find, and he’s hungry to unearth a dinosaur tooth next.
As he heads into fourth grade at James A. Garfield Elementary, Brendan is armed with a prime show-and-tell treasure that’s certain to inspire his fellow classmates to put down their electronic gadgets and head outside for an old-fashioned hunting expedition along Silver Creek.