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Red Hill Fossil Site: Devonian Fish and Tetrapods - Pennsylvania

Fossil Hunting at the Red Hill Devonian Fossil Site: Fish Fossils - Oct 2010

The Red Hill Fossil Hunting Location

When we arrived, the road cut was partially veiled by fog, making an interesting picture.

The Red Hill Fossil Hunt

The famous Devonian outcropping at Red Hill is a paradise for anyone interested in tetrapod evolution. The river and pond deposits that make up the Red Hill sediments contain a diverse fauna and flora from the critical time period when vertebrates first developed legs. Two of the worlds earliest tetrapods and a giant lobe-fin fish that is closely related to tetrapods can be found here.

Nestled among these giants of tetrapod evolution is an insignificant freshwater shark. Fossil remains of this shark are limited to fragile comb-like fin spines and tiny teeth. Shark fin spines are generally much more difficult to find than other shark fossils. However, at Red Hill, these fin spines are deemed common.

It is a chance at finding one of these intact fin spines that keeps me coming back to Red Hill. In October I made a return trip to Red Hill with the DVPS. This trip was similar to all of the previous trips in that I had found no complete fin spines, just fragments. By the end of the collecting day I had found a couple small teeth and some scales of Hyneria (that giant lobe-fin fish), and some fin spine fragments. Many people, however, did well at this fragmentary site. I even saw a nice hyneria tooth, that was approximately 2 inches in size.

If you are interested the transition from fins to feet and Tetrapod Evolution, I strongly suggest:

Gaining Ground, Second Edition: The Origin and Evolution of Tetrapods (Life of the Past)
by Jennifer A. Clack

This book, full of comparative illustrations and photos, tells the story of tetrapod evolution, how it started 370 some million years ago, and goes through the different interpretations of the various early tetrapods. It is a must for anyone interested in Tetrapod evolution. If you have ever fossil collected at Red Hill, this book puts everything in perspective.

Below are pictures and fossils from the Devonian Red Hill fossil hunt:

view of the Red Hill fossil site.

Here is a broken Hyneria tooth sticking out of the rock.

This is another broken fossil Hyneria tooth eroding out of the matrix.

Here are a few of the small/broken hyneria teeth. They are each about 1/2" in length.

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