Having said that, it turns out you can get pretty enthused about even the least charismatic of fossils, providing you found it yourself. I recently accompanied the Edinburgh University 3rd year undergrads on the first of a series of field trips for their Palaeontology class. We travelled an hour and half on roller-coaster roads south of the city to Dob's Linn: a ravine near Moffat in the Scottish borders. There, we found graptolites.
|The road to Dob's Linn (Image: author's own)|
Sheep startled and scattered at the approach of forty sets of undergraduate boots, tramping along the river to the first of severel sites known for their graptolite fossils.
|The short walk down to the mouth of the ravine. (Image: author's own)|
|Reconstruction of a floating graptolite colony from the |
Redpath Museum, Montreal*
|The waterfall cascades over greywackes into the |
shale ravine. (Image: author's own)
|Amazing stratigraphy in the ravine (Image: author's own)|
Although not the only creatures alive in the seas during the Palaeozoic, graptolites were composed of collagen and polymers that preserved in anoxic shales where other organic materials did not. As a result they've become vital in rock dating: beds from the Ordivician and Silurian are often dated based on assemblages of these strange creatures, sometimes with exceptional precision.
|Little silvery graptolie fossils in shale from Dob's Linn. (Image: author's own)|
|Violets growing in the shale scree, as students hunt for fossils. (Image: author's own)|
We all returned to the bus with our pockets filled with fossils (and for one unlucky student, shoes filled with peaty stream water...) and returned to the university ready to get out the books and identify our species.
Nothing beats fossil hunting, even for "rubbish" fossils.
*UPDATE - I've since been told the reconstruction of a graptolite colony in the Redpath Museum I've included here is innacurate, there is no evidence they had floats. Thanks David Bapst (@dwbapst) for the heads up!