Fossils on Majorca – the collection José Juárez Ruiz and an excursion to Majorcan Lower Cretaceous

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To German readers, the Balearic Island Majorca is usually known as a destination for summer vacation. Just a short flight, mostly good weather and wonderful beaches have created attractiveness. So it was for me – when thinking of Majorca, these things came to my mind first, in addition to places such as Ballermann, Palma or S’Arenal as well as drunken tourists. Therefore, I considered Majorca to be a place where I don’t necessarily have to spend my vacation.

However, eventually I heard from friends that there is another side of the island that is different from "package holiday Majorca": quiet places far away from tourist centres, wonderful nature and mountains with interesting geology, ideal for hiking. When I read a report about a fossil-related trip to Majorca at the website of Trias Verein Thüringen (Triassic Association of Thuringia) later on, my interest was finally triggered.

So we – my family and myself – decided to spend two weeks on Majorca in summer 2013. We booked the flight and a rental car, rented a cottage and off we went in early June.

Before the journey, I tried to gather some information about collecting fossils there. Apart from a rather basic article in an old issue of the journal "Fossilien" and a few results that I found via Google, I was not really successful. While doing research I asked some fossil collector friends, and one oft them told me about the local collector José Juárez Ruiz, who I contacted via facebook a few months before our trip. We chatted frequently, exchanged some e-mails and decided to go for an excursion together when I spend vacation on Majorca.

And so we did. One Friday morning I started from our cottage close to Fornalutx to meet José in his home town Binissalem – which by the way is a centre of winemaking on Majorca (yes, the wines from there are really recommended!). We agreed to meet at the station there, close to José’s house. Binissalem is a typical Majorcan town, with narrow lanes that make parking rather difficult. Right after my arrival, José appeared together with two Italian collectors, Gianluca Boninsegni and Marco Ferreri. Unfortunately, I neither speak Spanish nor Catalan, but communication in English was perfectly possible. We decided to see his collection first – I already heard in Germany that it is really well worth seeing.

José is a friendly, open minded and relexad young man of 25 years, a typical Majorcan. Born and raised in Palma, he moved to Binissalem with his parents a few years ago. His passion for fossils arose when his parents gave him a sliced and polished ammonite at the age of 5. Today he knows that it was a Hildoceras bifrons from Aveyron zone (France). This experience as well as some fossil excursions formed the base for his ever growing interest in fossils in general and ammonites in particular.


José with two large Majorcan fossils: left Skirroceras bayleanum, Lower Bajocian, and right Zetoceras aff. anatolicum, from Upper Pliensbachian.


Consequently, José studied geology in Madrid later on but changed to the University of the Baleares in Palma to continue with history. He is however planning to return to Madrid to graduate as master in palaeontology and stratigraphy.

His collection is indeed more than well worth seeing. Here you find in one place almost everything Majorca has to offer in terms of fossils – which is quite a lot. As already said, his main interest is dedicated to ammonites, in particular to heteromorph forms from Tethys of Lower Cretaceous (which can be found very close to his place). Most pieces in his collection were found and prepared by himself. Apart from ammonites, it also contains molluscs from Pliocene and Pleistocene. Besides fossils, José is also interested in archaeology, mainly in the lithic industry of Palaeolithic. Apart from that he is a passionate and virtuous violin player.


Collection Part 1 – in the preparation workshop. Most fossils here have their origin on Majorca.



José’s preparation table



Hypanthoceras reussianum from Halle (Westphalia), Upper Turonian



Scaphites gibbus (M), Lower Campanian. Ostmünsterland



Left: Crioceratites matsumotoi, Lower Hauterivian, Alpes de Haute-Provence; right: Spiroceras orbignyi, Upper Bajocian, Alpes de Haute-Provence


His collection consists of about 3000 pieces, most of which are ammonites, but also nautilids, belemnites and gastropods. The key aspects are Majorcan Lower Cretaceous and Jurassic – most ammonites are found in these layers. José already collected about 250 species of cephalopods there alone! The highly jointed geology of the island also reveals Upper Cretaceous and Triassic – first is free of macroscopic fossils, while in the latter those are extremely rare (please see the report from Trias Verein referenced above, describing some old finds from Majorcan "Muschelkalk"). Most modern ammonites on Majorca come from Upper Albian, the oldest ones (leaving out the extremely rare pieces from Triassic) from Lower Pliensbachian – but even there, ammonite finds are more than rare.


Collection part 2 – vitrine in José’s room. Majorcan Lower Cretaceous at its best! In foreground, Gianluca Boninsegni is peering the pieces closely. – Further pictures of fossils from José’s collection can be found below at the end of this article.


José is not only collector, but he also evaluates his finds from a scientific standpoint. He is the co-discoverer of a new genus and species of heteromorph ammonites from Lower Cretaceuos, Xerticeras salasi from Lower Aptian of Castellón (Spain). He expects that his collection may contain a few more new species, which is subject of his current work. Besides his publication of Xerticeras salasi he is working on a few more interesting publications about heteromorphs from Lower Cretaceuos. For his studies, he is cooperating with palaeontologists such as Gérard Delanoy, Didier Bert, Miguel Company, René Hoffmann and others.

Apart of the usual finds from Majorcan Lower Cretaceous – mostly in remarkable preservation – his collection houses a few very rare ammonites, such as the best preserved documented Xerticeras salasi (the specimen is not a holotype because it was collected ex situ, by co-discoverer Domingo Tolós), the best preserved Paracostidiscus radians, a practically complete Megacrioceras, various species of Artareites, the most complete Spanish Macroscaphites yvani, Audouliceras, some rare pathologies of ammonites and much more. Most pieces were collected and prepared by himself (for preparation, José uses hammers and chisels and a Dremel Engraver), but he also trades with collectors in Europe and all over the world, for instance Hervé Chatelier, Andrea Petri, Gianluca Bonisegni, Mikel Urrabasco, Tim Skipper, Steve Friedrich, Tom Linn, Erik Bleeker, the author of this article and several others. I fully share his opinion that collectors have to do what academic scientists alone are unable to accomplish – to carefully collect in (temporary) outcrops, to document the finds in a scientific manner and thus to increase our knowledge of the past piece by piece. Therefore, collaboration of collectors and scientists is not only important, but indeed indispensible. Not only fossils of esthetical value are needed for that, but also finds that might seem unimpressive at the first look.


Xerticeras salasi, Lower Aptian, Xert, Castellón de la Plana


After an hour and a half of visiting his collection, we started our excursion. Without the help of a local collector, collecting fossils on Majorca is virtually impossible: the island is almost completely parted into tracts of land, surrounded by fences. Thus, even visiting natural outcrops is only possible with the help of personal contacts.



On the way to the outcrop: building fronts give a hint that there might be fossils around here... :-)



Arrival in Biniamar: left to right Gianluca, Marco and José


Since José’s "home quarry" near Lloseta can only be entered during weekends, we drove to the nearby village Biniamar, parked the cars on the market place and José opened a gate, via which we reached spacious grasslands, passing by the watchdog ("Go right, there is a dangerous dog on the left!"). Layers from Hauterivian and Barremian cropped out there. We collected at various places from 11 am to 4 pm, which brought me close to my physical limits, as we moved in open and mostly sunny terrain at more than 30°C.



In the outcrop: first sights of weathered fossils on the way


But in the end I had an exciting day, full with great fossil finds and interesting talks. I would really like to express my sincere thanks to José here! Exchange with him continues after my visit on Majorca, and I’m looking forward to meet José next year, when we plan to visit this wonderful island again.


In the outcrop: left José, Gianluca, Marco; right José, Gianluca, myself (left to right).



In open terrain in the heat of noon: only a few Olive trees cast some shadows.



The first finds...


In summary, also I could discover that Majorca offers a lot of beautiful nature, and it is home of friendly and relaxed people with an interesting, unique culture. Meanwhile, I’m really nauseated by the arrogance of many Germans who ignore the local couleur and consider Majorca the 17th state of Germany, just because they spend their summer vacation there in a rush of sun and alcohol.

At last, I would like to reference the Steinkern forum here, where I show my finds that are now prepared bit by bit – see the thread "Mallorca: Fundstellen und Literatur" ("Majorca: fossil places and literature"). Further, I have posted a "fossil wish list" for José, listing fossils he would like to have for his collection – please see the thread "Ammoniten-Gesuche für mallorquinischen Sammler" ("Ammonites wanted by Majorcan collector").

Below you will find a few further impressions of José’s collection. To all who would like to see more, I can really recommend his facebook page "Ammonites and more" where he frequently shows fossils from his collection.


I found this Acrioceras terveri (Nicklesi zone (?)) during our excursion. Since it was broken in multiple parts I left it to José, as he is much more experienced in the preparation of these fossils. He sent me this picture in the evening right after our excursion – very nice piece!



Toxancyloceras aff. ebboi (the two ammonites). Upper Barremian. Imsouane region, Morocco. Variuos belemnites from Hauterivian and Barremian from Majorca.



Scaphites aequalis, Middle Cenomanian, Sussex



Left: Megateuthis gigantea and M. elliptica from Sengenthal, Plesioteuthis from Solnhofen and various ammonites and belemnites from Spanish cretaceous; right: Juvenile Ampullina leviathan from the Valanginian of Castellón de la Plana



Just like home: fossils even on the shelf in the garden... :-)



José with a freshly prepared Crioceratites nolani from Majorca.



Crioceratites nolani, Upper Hauterivian, Majorca



Crioceratites majoricensis, Upper Hauterivian, Majorca



Crioceratites majoricensis (little) and Crioceratites binelli (big), Upper Hauterivian, Majorca



The Crioceratites nolani of the other photo (see above)



Acantholytoceras tenuicostatum pseudoaudouli (little) and Audouliceras collignoni, Upper Barremian, Majorca



Audouliceras (?) lythancyformis, Upper Barremian, Majorca



Audouliceras collignoni, Upper Barremian, Majorca



Megacrioceras doublieri, Upper Hauterivian, Majorca



Macroscaphites yvani, Upper Barremian, Majorca



Ptychoceras puzosianum, Upper Barremian, Majorca



Acrioceras sarasini, Lower Barremian, Majorca



Pseudothurmannia catulloi (top) and Paraspiticeras guerinianum (bottom), Upper Hauterivian, Majorca



Various ammonites (Audouliceras, Acantholytoceras, Macroscaphites, Crioceratites) from Hauterivian and Barremian of Majorca



Various ammonites from the island. Most of them are from Biniamar.



Ammonites from Lower Bathonian of Majorca



Emericiceras thiollierei, Lower Barremian, Alpes de Haute-Provence



Various Crioceratites from Majorca



Various ammonites from Hauterivian and Barremian of Majorca



Heteroceras sp. and Phyllopachyceras infundibulum, Upper Barremian



Heteroceras moriezense and Heteroceras coulleti, Upper Barremian



A Crioceratites nolani was published in a book about lower cretaceous ammonites from spain.



Nostoceras (Didymoceras) postremum, Upper Campanian, Vistula River, Poland



Spiroceras orbignyi, Upper Bajocian, Alpes de Haute-Provence



Audouliceras renauxianum, Lower Aptian, Ulijanovsk region, Russia