Airport Fossils

Trapped at SeaTac Airport in Seattle with nothing to do?  I am sure the people stranded there would rather be someplace else but the extra time will allow intrepid travelers to explore the many fossils found in the walls of the food court in concourse A.  The fossils make a captivating cast of characters that lived 155 million years ago in what became Germany.  During the Jurassic Period when dinosaurs roamed the land, a shallow sea covered much of Europe.  Many critters from that sea are now preserved in the tan to gray limestone cladding walls at SeaTac. 

155-million-year old ammonite – Good examples are in the pillars just past the security check, particularly the one nearest Ex-Officio.

The stone is known as the Treuchtlingen Marble, although it is not marble but limestone.  It was never metamorphosed.  As the animals died they settled to the bottom of the sea.  The most common fossils are sponges, bottom dwelling, filter feeders that formed small mounds.  They may be round, straight, or irregularly shaped and are darker than the surrounding limestone.  Also common are ammonites, coiled-shell animals that resemble a top down view of a cinnamon roll.  The biggest ones in the German limestone are about five-inches across, whereas the largest ones that ever lived were six feet wide.  Ammonites were prevalent marine predators in the Jurassic but went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous.  Their modern relatives include squids, chambered nautiluses, and octopi.  

You can also find another squid relative, belemnites, which look like a cigar.  They are dark brown and somewhat shiny.  Also seek out brachiopods, clam-shaped animals known as lampshells due to their resemblance to ancient oil lamps.  Unlike clams, brachiopods cannot move and feed by opening their shell and consuming bits that float by.  And finally, the white specks that look like oatmeal are single-celled sea dwellers called foraminifera. I hope this at least helps some people pass the time at SeaTac.

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