Featured Fossil: Hardouinia mortonis Urchins

By Sadie Mills

This issue, we feature two echinoid specimens found by Linda McCall of the North Carolina Fossil Club and the Special Friends of the Aurora Fossil Museum. Linda presented about these echinoids during our most recent webinar, Fossils of the Carolinas.

Hardouinia mortonis specimens

The pictured specimens were found in a sand pit, located in the Rocky Point member of the Pee Dee formation in Eastern North Carolina. They date between 66 million and 70 million years old. Despite their differences in appearance, they are both Hardouinia mortonis specimens. Linda explained that sea urchin spines are attached by soft tissue. When an urchin dies, the soft tissue decays and the spines fall off. Accordingly, the specimen on the left (without spines) is a fossil of an urchin that became buried after the animal had died. The specimen on the right, however, retains its spines, suggesting it was buried alive! While this may have made for a bad day for this ancient sea urchin, it becomes a great day for the fossil hunter who is able to recover the specimen with its spines intact. Thank you to Linda for sharing these wonderful specimens with us!

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