Everyday Fossils

If you're like us, you're constantly noticed the stone used in buildings and interior wherever you go. The stone used to build offices, churches, banks, government buildings, and residences always tells a story - Where did it come from? Why was this stone chosen? What's special about this material? Beyond those questions, there's the millions of years old story of how the stone was formed in the first place. In the case of limestone, that story includes fossils.

Most limestones form in shallow, calm, warm marine waters. That type of environment is where organisms capable of forming calcium carbonate shells and skeletons can easily extract the needed ingredients from ocean water. When these animals die, their shell and skeletal debris accumulate as a sediment that might be lithified into limestone. Their waste products can also contribute to the sediment mass. Limestones formed from this type of sediment are biological sedimentary rocks. Their biological origin is often revealed in the rock by the presence of fossils.
— geology.com

Phenix Marble (named thus in the early 20th century because our limestone has unique qualities that allow it perform as a marble) has many distinctive fossil inclusions, some of the most common being brachiopods, horn coral, bryozoans, and crinoids (the Missouri state fossil!).

Since Phenix and other limestones are used so frequently in historic and modern construction, chances are you walk by or on multiple fossils each day without realizing it. Atlas Obscura has an excellent guide to help you start hunting fossils in your daily life and on your travels.

How to Spot the Fossils Hiding in Plain Sight

Some of the most arresting evidence of prehistoric life is enshrined in museums: fossils, hoisted onto pedestals, interpreted with placards, illuminated by spotlights. But fossils can be anywhere-you likely pass some every day. Countless fragments of shells, corals, and other traces of long-extinct life are embedded in outcrops and the building materials that we stack to make everything from skyscrapers to town halls.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources Geologic Survey has an excellent guide to the fossils that can be found in the Missouri State Capitol.

Once you start noticing what's hidden in the stone all around us, it's a hard habit to break. Happy hunting!

Mary NeelyComment