Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 1:00 PM-5:00 PM


DOOLEY Jr., Alton C.1, HECKERT, Andrew B.2, FRASER, Nicholas C.3, BYRD, Christina J.4, VODDEN, Raymond4 and BEARD, James5, (1)Western Science Center, 2345 Searl Parkway, Hemet, CA 92543, (2)Dept. of Geology, Appalachian State University, ASU Box 32067, Boone, NC 28608, (3)National Museums Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF, United Kingdom, (4)Department of Paleontology, Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, VA 24112, (5)Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Ave, Martinsville, VA 24112,

The Virginia Solite quarry is a world-famous Lagerstätte that preserves diverse, abundant, and, in some cases, spectacularly preserved plants, arthropods, fish, and tetrapods in lacustrine deposits of the Upper Triassic Cow Branch Formation on the NC-VA border. Among the many famous fossils from this horizon are hundreds of individuals of the archosauromorph Tanytrachelos ahynis and the holotype of the gliding reptile Mecistotrachelos apeoros. Most important, however, are the extensive collections of arthropods. Although fossils are found throughout the quarry, one particularly rich bed, known as "the insect bed" has yielded the vast majority of insects, which represent at least 11 orders. The quarry complex includes several fossil sites distributed among multiple excavations, some of which have lain dormant for decades. Recently the quarry changed both ownership and operating protocols, resulting in destruction of much of the primary fossiliferous horizon. Fortunately, we have reached an agreement with the current ownership allowing field crews from the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH), with support from other institutions, to access the quarry regularly to excavate as much of the “insect layer” (and overlying vertebrate-bearing horizons) as feasible. This process is ongoing at this time, and has been made possible with support from the National Geographic Society. One result is an enormous amount of rapidly collected, but largely unprocessed, material at the VMNH, including 53 cubic feet of “insect layer” sediment. One important lesson of this process is that privately maintained artificial outcrops, such as quarries, are subject to rapid and unpredictable changes in operation, so paleontologists and funding agencies are wise to focus on extracting fossils and data when it is available.