A trip to southern Ontario (Canada): In the Eurypterid Quarry

deutschsprachig Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar. Zur deutschsprachigen Version wechseln.


I was already looking forward to a week’s holiday in my homeland, mainly to visit my parents and nearest relatives, but I of course couldn’t let the chance slip by to spend at least one day collecting in one of the many fossil sites in the Palaeozoic of southern Ontario. This time I decided on a site in a quarry close to Fort Erie where upper Silurian layers are exposed. It is said that with a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance, one could find nice Eurypterids, ancient Sea Scorpions, here. The horizon where they are to be found, the Williamsville A, belongs to the same-named Formation, the Bertie Group and the Pridoli Epoch.
Since I am not only active in Steinkern, but also in the American/Canadian “thefossilforum” (TFF), it was relatively easy with the help of TFF member Malcolm, who took care of the formalities with the quarry owners, to arrange a date. And so it came to pass that I got up quite early one Friday morning and, after stopping for breakfast at Tim Hortons Donuts, headed off in a southerly direction for the 2 hour drive.
We were to meet at 8am, and everyone got there on time: Malcolm from Mississauga, Dave from Pennsylvania, Peter from St. Catherines, Dave from Midland and John, Todd and Sam from New York State and myself. A lot of miles were already put on the tachometers of this group today!
Malcolm, who knows this quarry like the back of his hand by now, first of all passed out cups of coffee as he usually does to the drivers and the lady at the gate. In return for that we got our work places cleaned up right at the start of the day. Now that’s what I call service!

011.1 kopie

The workplace…



… gets cleaned up.


One works here in a similar fashion to the method which is used in Solnhofen. The idea is, to split the so-called “Waterlime”, a laminated Limestone, into thin plates that are large enough to allow for the possibility of finding articulated fossil samples on them. That is however easier said than done, since all of the digs are directly on the quarry floor, which means you have to first create your own hole in order to get at the layers properly. For this reason the use of stone saws is allowed here, which is not the case in Solnhofen. Gas-driven blowers are also used to clear the work places of accumulated debris.

2012-10-26 10-01-55 457.1

Saws being used on the right and in the background.


IMG 5795.1

Water and debris gets blown away.


2012-10-26 10-03-35 27.1

Manual labor is also necessary. Malcolm at the back and Roger busy at work.


042.1 kopie

Dave splits the plate once more in the hope that…


Perhaps the reader is asking himself by now: „Well… what did you find?“ Before I answer this question however, I must tell you that, like in Solnhofen, the chances of a good articulated find are relatively slight, unless you happen to have the good luck of finding a so-called “Windrow”, as the collections of washings are called here, but that doesn’t occur every day, even when 7 people are working hard at it for 8 hours. (Sam, the eighth, an expert in the field, was wandering around the quarry looking for interesting things.) It’s not like we didn’t find anything, as the following pictures show, but they were mostly relatively humble finds. At least Todd got lucky, and we were all happy for him.


IMG 5794.1

Todd’s Eurypterid find still being extracated.


IMG 5780.1.1

Also from Todd. A rarity. A Phylocarid, otherwise known as a shrimp.


Here are a few representative finds:


Prosomae (Heads) from Eurypterus lacustris (Harlin 1834), each 4 cm wide.



Telson (Spine) positive and negative, also from Eurypterus lacustris. 8 cm long. The absolute majority of the finds here belong to this species.



Stem with Sporangia from the land plant Cooksonia sp. 3 cm.


Already at the beginning of the day, Malcolm had unloaded a few crates from the trunk of his car and placed them on the ground for us to look at. That gave us some extra motivation for the forthcoming operation! Here is what we saw. Some results from a lot of sweat and tears in the past. The following without comment...



023.1 kopie

025.1 kopie

027.1 kopie

029.1 kopie


At the end of the day Malcolm told me that I could choose one of his Eurypterids as a parting gift! I shouldn’t go home with empty hands. I actually wanted to trade with him, and I’d brought some southern German fossils with me for that purpose, but he told me that he only collects eurypterids. At least I managed to talk him into accepting a small Graphoceras ammonite to remember me by. One doesn’t experience such generosity every day! Thanks to you Malcolm, also for organizing the day!



Malcolm’s gift: This Eurypterus lacustris measures 25 cm from the top of it’s head to the tip of it’s tail.

To close off, a photo of the merry pranksters who all contributed to making this day into an unforgettable experience.

038.1 kopie

From the left: Peter, John, Malcolm, Midland Dave, Todd, Penn Dave.


Eurypterids Illustrated. The Search for Prehistoric Sea Scorpions. Samuel J. Ciurca, Jr. Paleo Research. Rochester, New York.

Fossils of Ontario, Part 3. The Eurypterids and Phylocarids. Life Sciences Miscellaneous Publications. Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto, On.

The Eurypterids of New York. Vol 1&2. J.M.Clark & R. Ruedemann. New York State Museum Publications.






Roger Furze