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Geosciences student finds rare starfish fossil in Happy Valley


 A starfish fossil from the Ordovician (485-444 Ma) Reedsville Shale found in Pine Grove Mills, PA.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Anna Whitaker, a rising sophomore and an honors student in Geosciences, recently went searching for fossils and made an impressive discovery.  Fossils have been prolific at the flank of Tussey Mountain above Pine Grove Mills, just minutes away from the campus, but this find – a starfish from the Ordovician (485-444 Ma) Reedsville Shale – is perhaps a first!


Geosciences Professor Emeritus Duff Gold and Charlie Miller, a Penn State alum, were assisting Whittaker at the site. Miller commented, “This area of Tussey Mountain has been known to yield some of the finest fossils from the Reedsville.  At many central Pennsylvania localities, Reedsville fossils are disarticulated so that extrication is difficult.  In contrast, some biozones here are weathered enough so fossils easily separate out.” 


Miller went on to explain that fossils at this site have been prolific, both in actual numbers and in taxa.  Straight-shelled cephalopods, normally rare at most sites, are more common here.  Fossil taxa include brachiopods, pelecypods, bryozoans, crinoids, trilobites, gastropods, cephalopods, and graptolites.  He added “I don’t think any starfish fossils have previously been found in the Reedsville.  Some are known from the correlative Martinsburg Shale at Swatara Gap, but not from here. This is a very interesting find!”  Emeritus Professor Roger Cuffey confirmed Anna’s identification.





Brent Hurley,

Work Phone: 814-863-7072

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