On Saturday 1st September we ran a fossil hunt at Salthill Quarry, Clitheroe, Lancashire.
Salthill is a former limestone quarry, which ceased working in 1959 and is now a Local Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its geological features and wildlife. Salthill is famous for its crinoids and is one of the best sites for Lower Carboniferous echinoderms in Northern Europe.
The reserve is also known for its wildflowers, insects and birds and a variety of curious-sounding species can be found including cowslips, birds-foot trefoil, lady’s bedstraw, bee orchid, blackcap, willow warbler, garden warbler and chiffchaff.
Although they resemble plants and are often called “Sea Lillies”, crinoids are actually marine animals of the phylum Echinodermata, a group of animals that include starfish and echinoids. The name comes from the Greek word krinon, “a lily”, and eidos, “form”. Some species of crinoids are alive now and they can live in both shallow and deep waters.
Crinoids attached themselves to the seafloor by way of a holdfast, and at the top of the vertical stem would sit the calyx, which housed the gut, mouth and anus. From the calyx led the arms and cilia, which would gather food and pass it down the arms to the mouth.
Some crinoids would be free-floating in the water column and some were capable of “walking” across the sea floor.
We had a lovely mixed group of adults and children, who crowded around the “crinoid seat” – a bench made of crinoidal limestone with a sculptured crinoid back – where Andrew gave us a rousing talk on the site, crinoid structure and morphology, and how to identify them. It went something like this:
- Make a starfish out of your hand
- Put your elbow on top of your hand and put your arm upright
- Splay your fingers
- Wave your arm around in the air
- Now you have a crinoid!
Andrew also reminded us that shark’s teeth could be found in the area, but any teeth found were effectively his property as he mistakenly discarded one many years before.
Then we were off!
The whole exposure was jam-packed with partial crinoid columnals but with some careful looking through the soil we started to find more interesting fossils. Soon enough we found some large diameter columnals and we were very lucky to find quite so many crinoid calyces.
The award for bulk find of the day goes to Darren Simons, who found no less than 19 calyces!
Mike Greaves found this embedded rarer blastoid. This unfortunately had to stay behind as we are not allowed to collect from the bedrock (SSSI rules):
A massive thank you to everyone who attended this hunt. We hope that you enjoyed it and we will see you again!
Salthill LNR is managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust and is open entry | Hammering of the rock face is not permitted | Please collect responsibly and abide by the fossil code