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Creek Running North

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March 25, 2005

Friday branching glass sponge blogging!

About forty years ago, my uncle was plowing a field in the Finger Lakes region of New York when he found the fossil pictured here (photo taken by Craig). It was an oddity, and he brought it to his mother-in-law — my grandmother — for display on her patio. We kids always called it "the meteor" — that was probably my fault, in my role as oldest grandchild and science geek.

My aunt owns the rock now; it's achieved "family heirloom" status. And it's a very old heirloom indeed: it's a 375 million year old glass sponge, one of a large number still to be found in the area around Interlaken, NY. In 1999 one of my Grandmother's neighbors found a bunch of them, one of which made its way to the possession of a Cornell University paleontologist. A particularly slow news day got the find some national press.

I called my grandmother when I read the stories, and said "Hey Grandma, you ought to call that guy Dr. Chiment over to Cornell; I think he'd want to take a look at your 'meteor.'" She said something like "that's nice" and we talked about something else. Probably just as well: Chiment might have been a bit busy at the time unearthing the Chemung mastodon.

Glass sponges are strange, immobile animals with siliceous exoskeletons. Unlike other sponges, glass sponges (Hexactinellida) cannot contract in response to external stimuli, but they are far from passive organisms. They have what one could call a nervous system: different parts of the sponge communicate with one another by way of electrical impulses.

In recent years huge polar reefs of glass sponges have been found, in one notable instance when researchers attached cameras to Weddell Seals which then went about their business diving beneath Antarctic ice. How odd to be reminded, reading a book on a dangerous research expedition to an deadly ocean canyon beneath the most inhospitable climate on earth, of my uncle in shirtsleeves puzzling over a basketball-sized rock wedged against the moldboard.

Posted by Chris Clarke at March 25, 2005 07:23 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

2 blog(s) linking to this post:

Friday Ark
Excerpt: Cats, Dogs, Spiders and ? every Friday. I'll post links to sites that have Friday (plus or minus a few days) photos of their chosen animals as I see them (photoshops at my discretion and humans only in supporting roles). Leave a comment or trackback to...
Weblog: Modulator
Tracked: March 25, 2005 09:36 AM
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Rare Fossil From Central New York
Excerpt: This past summer after seeing my grandmother for the last time we stopped off at my aunt's and just as we were leaving I took a couple quick photos of what we always called "the meteorite." I've known it wasn't actually a meteorite since at least 19...
Weblog: Personal and Frivolous Crud
Tracked: March 26, 2005 05:22 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


dammit, *I* was gonna do this one!!! :(

I couldn't find my photos of it though, where did you find this one?

Posted by: Craig at March 25, 2005 10:40 AM
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also tho photo doesn't give you an idea of the size. This might be bigger than the ones others found - its about the size of a small laundry basket and probably weighs at least 150 pounds.

Posted by: Craig at March 25, 2005 10:43 AM
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Hate to disagree with you, dear brother - no, really I do - but I've lifted it, so it can't possibly be 150 pounds.

Anyway, what's keeping you from blogging about this? It's Friday Glass Sponge Blogging Friday!

Posted by: Chris Clarke at March 25, 2005 11:38 AM
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You lift things?!?!

OK, well I haven't lifted it but still I bet its pretty heavy.

What's keeping me from blogging about this:
1. I couldn't find the photo
2. I hate writing

anyway I'll probably do a trackback to you with or something at some point. I still owe the other buffalog guy a friendly mention since he did that for me and I haven't even gotten around to that yet.

Did I mention I hate writing?

Posted by: Craig at March 25, 2005 01:01 PM
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Sorry Chris, thought i posted in the right place, but anyway the rock sits out here, is quite a conversation piece to some,i never knew what it was, thanks for such great writing.Aunt Dot

Posted by: Doris Bennett at March 26, 2005 11:37 AM
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Just thought somebody who isn't a relative ought to comment. Neat find Chris...nothing more to say.

Posted by: OGeorge at March 26, 2005 09:00 PM
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Thanks, Carl, but you might as well be family, living in the Mohawk Valley and all.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at March 27, 2005 07:52 AM
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