Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the October 12, 2003 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

Mrs. Betty McKay just north of Natchez invited me to visit her and dig up sprouts spreading into her yard from rankly growing Butterfly Bushes, fig trees, Flowering Quinces, and the like, for transplanting here. Therefore, on Monday her daughter Karen Wise picked me up and we headed there with shovels and buckets.

Mrs. McKay has a long history of wandering local bayous, especially St. Catherine Creek, in search of pretty rocks, Indian artifacts and fossils, so today her collection is massive and impressive. Karen took pictures of two of her most interesting fossil finds, which you can see below:

 upper cheek tooth of Ice Age horse Equus complicatus

Above, right you see the upper cheek tooth of a large Ice-Age horse known as Equus complicatus. By large I mean the size of a big draft horse of today, like a Budweiser Clydesdale.

upper molar of mastodon, Mammut americanum

The above picture shows a very worn upper molar of the elephant-like mastodon, Mammut americanum. These finds were identified by my paleontologist friend Earl Manning at Tulane.

Of course many other kinds of Ice-Age animals have been found in our area besides horses and mastodons. On my page at http://www.backyardnature.net/loess/fossils.htm you can see a number of fossils found by Lonnie and Freida Looper of Greenville. There's Llama, tapir, peccary, mammoth, moose, manatee, musk ox and more.

Last week I opined that I missed Kentucky's more solid and more ancient geology. Now I must admit that in terms of fossils it's more interesting here than there. With the bedrock in my home area being around 300,000,000 years old, any fossil found in bedrock there would have been deposited long before higher kinds of plants and animals evolved. Up there you mainly find seed ferns, scale trees, horsetails, and cordaites (which became coal), and rarely something really interesting like a primitive form of reptile or an insect. Up there the rocks were deposited long before any kind of mammal or even a dinosaur trod the Earth.

Therefore, whenever I walk in a bayou or ravine down here, I keep my eyes peeled for spectacular fossils. Still, though I've spent hundreds of hours looking, I've never found anything as exciting as what I saw at Mrs. McKay's. Just imagine the number of happy hours she's spent wandering our bayous, in order to have found so much!