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INTRODUCTION

 

Pomognathus eupterygius; compound image of a complete individual from the Chalk of Southerham, Lewes, Willett collection, Booth Museum, BMB 007183, x0.5.  In reality the head is exposed on the reverse of the block, lying beneath a second, smaller fish which it was perhaps preying upon.

These pages are designed as a general guide for all those interested in the fascinating fossils of the British Chalk.  Hopefully this will be a useful resource for academics and students alike, whilst at the same time aiding the enthusiastic amateur to identify and understand their finds.  The various fossil groups are illustrated (with kind permission) by representative specimens from numerous public and private collections, and the generous assistance of many individuals must be acknowledged.  The quality and diversity of Chalk fossils has been recognised for centuries, and a common passion for the formation amongst collectors in the UK has generated vast museum and private collections.  The 'Golden Age' for Chalk collecting was the 18th and 19th centuries, when numerous large, hand-worked quarries produced many beautiful specimens.  Though the turnover for such high quality material is much reduced today,  rare and well-preserved specimens can still be found by the persistent collector.

Chalks are found the world over in rock successions dating from the Late Cretaceous (98-65 million years ago).  They record a period of extreme warming and unusually high sea-levels, when much of the world's  continental platforms were flooded by marine waters.  In many regions (such as NW Europe),  these shallow seas were so isolated from land that there was no supply of terrestrial sediment.  Instead, the calcareous remains of nannoscopic plankton, known as coccoliths, settled out of the water column to form a chalk-ooze on the seafloor.  In Britain, the resultant deposit is known as the Chalk Group, which is divided into the Grey Chalk ('Lower Chalk') and White Chalk ('Middle' and 'Upper Chalk') Subgroups.  The White Chalk is an extremely pure limestone, whereas the Grey Chalk received a slight terrestrial-clay input at the time of deposition.  At the coastal margins of the Chalk sea sand-rich sediments were deposited, which now form coarse and fossil-rich limestones in areas such as Devon.  Many concise and detailed descriptions of the British Chalk have been written, and a list of these is given in the References.

The Chalk fauna has been the subject of intense scientific study, and a very detailed fossil-zonal scheme now exists.  However, it is an unwritten rule that the 'best' specimens are found in loose boulders, rather than in situ, and much of the material from my own collection cannot be constrained to a precise horizon.  Further, many specimens shown on these pages come from old collections with little or no locality data.

I hope this site helps to further the interest and fascination for fossil collecting, both in the British Chalk and beyond.  If you have any specimens for identification, or which you would like displayed on this website, please submit an image.  I will also be pleased to answer any questions.

(Robert Randell; site author)

Acknowledgements

 

 

I would like to thank the following individuals for all their help with this project; Roy Shepherd and Lucinda Algar of Discovering Fossils for supporting the site and providing the web space; John Cooper, Gerald Legg, Jeremy Adams and Tasnein Karim of the Booth Museum; Dave Kemp and the staff of Gosport Museum; Anne Wise and the staff of Worthing Museum; Loc Villier and Chris Mah for detailed advise and identification of Asteroids; the staff of Chichester museum; Dave Lewis, Gwyneth Campling, Andrew Ross, Peter Forey, Scott Moore-Fay and the staff of the Natural History Museum, London; staff of the Grant Museum; West Sussex Geological Society; Roy Strevens for unlimited use of his spectacular private collection; Mike Everhart for ongoing advise and support; Gary Woodall for use of images; Fred Clouter for advise, support and use of images; Charlie Underwood for sharing his extensive knowledge of the Cretaceous sharks; Pieter De Schutter, Guy Van den Eeckhaut, Jean-Pierre Biddle,and John Bastiaansen for identification of shark teeth; Christopher Consoli and David Ward for technical input; Martin Rigby (Fossils Direct), Gary Donaldson, Andy Schmidt, Josef Williamson, Alan Winter, Keith Little, Pete King, Alan Prowse and Joe Shimmin for use of images from their personal collections; my family and wife, Denise, for all their encouragement and support.