I went to the American Museum of Natural History yesterday, for the New York Paleontological Society’s first meeting of the ’10-’11 year. This is also my first year as a member. I’m constantly itching to get out of the city, and when I was both a youngster in the Adirondacks of NY and a college student in central NY, I loved smashing rocks open and being the first human to shed light on a fossil. I’m quite sure I’ll still enjoy it, especially if it means I get to invest in a purple hard hat. Plus, plenty of chances to meet some really ancient mollusks!
The meeting went for longer than I had anticipated, but I did get to run around the museum for about an hour before it closed. I found a hallway with an impressive mollusk collection that isn’t labeled on the floor plan, which I will report about later, but there’s also this most excellent fossil in the Grand Gallery.
This is a magnificent ammonite fossil, about two feet across and iridescent as all get out. The nacre of the shell fossilizes into a mineral called aragonite. It’s considered a gem (the other two gems that derive from life are opal and amber. 2/3 mollusks!) The fossil was donated to the museum by the company that promotes ammolite (see what they did there?) as a gemstone, so it’s half smarmy marketing, half unbelievably gorgeous fossil.
Ammonites are cephalopods who met their demise at the same time as our dinosaur friends. They are indeed useful fossils, since it’s always great to know where the sea used to be, and also the genus Perisphinctes is a good index fossil for the Jurassic period.
My other favorite thing in the gallery that housed the ammonite is the spider silk tapestry. Over a million wild golden orb spiders contributed their silk to this project, and it’s completely stunning and unique in the world. Since the spider can’t be domesticated, this isn’t a viable fabric on any scale, but what I wouldn’t give to see what it feels like.
(photo: Angela Rutherford)
Just how sticky is it?
After enduring the hottest summer on record in New York City, this was the welcomest, welcomest sight. I’ve never anticipated winter quite so much in my life. I may come to regret that when I’m slogging through the dirtiest slush imaginable come January, but I will stand by it for now.