Posted by: tylereddy | July 21, 2013

Fossil of the Week: Random Marine Fossil

Museo Egidio Feruglio was our primary destination while in South America. It was with the endorsement of Museo Egidio Feruglio (Mef) that we embarked on our trip to Argentina. With their agreement, and the support of the RoyalTyrrellMuseum and its Cooperating Society, we launched to this foreign land. After several months of communication with Mef we had already painted a picture in our minds, but it was finally time to experience Trelew for ourselves.

We hadn’t heard many good reviews of Trelew before we arrived. Most people spoke negatively about the city, but invariably everybody would end their comments with “…but they have a great museum…” and they were right. Mef is the premiere tourist attraction in the city of about 80,000 people and it is located in the heart of the town. The Museum is a colourful and modern building in central Trelew and beckons to visitors from the end of the main street.

Welcome to Mef!

Welcome to Mef!

We were welcomed to the Museum by Ignacio Escapa who has worked at the museum since being a teenager. Now a Ph. D researcher Ignacio studies Jurassic plants and is building his research and collections around the impressive specimens from Patagonia.  The galleries contain many specimens from Patagonia and represent many type specimens from the Jurassic through the Cretaceous. We were lucky enough to visit the nearby Geopark Bryn Gwyn with Pedro who offered to show us some of the fossil riches of the area.

Ready for a hike. Family - check, Sun - check, wind - check.

Ready for a hike. Family – check, Sun – check, wind – check.

The park is thirty-some kilometres from Trelew near the Welsh settlement of Gaiman. It houses a small interpretive centre which leads to an impressive hike up the valley wall. The hike takes you from 40 million years to 10,000 years ago while ascending over a hundred metres. My first though was that I’d been on this hike before…changing environments, fossil deposition, great preservation…yadda yadda yadda but we were about to be pleasantly surprised.

E2 starts out strong.

E2 starts out strong.

It was a windy day in Patagonia (most are) but the beginning of the ascent took us up through a winding tunnel providing much needed relief from the wind. While the landscape was familiar the hike started off immediately with some cool fossils. A preserved hornets nest stuck out of the hillside. It looked exactly like a modern hornets nest and there were even some hornets that had conveniently built a nest nearby as though they had never left that spot. As we ascended through the Sarmiento, Gaiman and Puerto Madryn Formations we came across cases installed by Mef that housed specimens of terrestrial and marine mammals, reptiles, sharks, whales, dolphins and oysters. The diversity of animals discovered in this small areas is impressive. Our guide Pedro told us to keep our eyes open as there are often shark teeth sitting on the soil surface.

Bryn Gwyn scenery

Bryn Gwyn scenery

The “Bryn Gwyn” or “White Hill” for which the park is named, loomed in the distance.  It was named by the Welsh who settled the area, and though the name might lack some creativity, it is really is a white hill. As we fought through the wind to ascend the valley wall there were doubts whether E2 would make the trek, at times the wind would gust and blow him backwards. But with the unbridled enthusiasm of a three year old he would run ahead of us on the trail and run back downhill increasing his travel distance three fold. The last thirty metres of altitude were quite steep and as the trail switch-backed up the valley wall, evidence of clamshells emerged from the hillside. The fossilized beds were metres thick in some spots and millions of clams glistened in the late afternoon sun. We finally reached the summit and while E1 held onto the sign to prevent himself from blowing away, E2 decided to add some weight and fuel with a peanut butter sandwich.

Fossilized clams - lots of them!

Fossilized clams – lots of them!


E1 hangs on for dear life at the summit.

E1 hangs on for dear life at the summit…


...while E2 displays his new hairdo eating a sandwich.

…while E2 displays his new hairdo eating a sandwich.



As we descended the hill E1 came across a fossil. It was his first find in South America, probably a random marine mammal as it was discovered in the Gaiman Formation. E1 beamed with excitement as E2 made a few laps around to ensure that no fossils had been missed. The winter sun began to set in the distance and it was time to retreat from the wind with a cup tea and delicious cake. We left the park wind burned and tired, and thankful for another great day in Patagonia. Thanks Pedro!

E1 shows off the fossil find!

E1 shows off the fossil find!



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