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Calvert Cliffs

Calvert Cliffs Fossils:

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Location: Calvert Cliffs State Park, Calvert County, Maryland

Time: 20 to 10 million years ago, during the Tertiary period

About this Famous Find: Drive east through Maryland today and you cross the Appalachian highlands before traveling many miles across low-lying Atlantic Coastal Plain to reach the sea. The trip to the shore would have been much shorter during the Middle Tertiary (Miocene). Ten to 20 million years ago, a warm, shallow sea covered most of southern Maryland, at times bringing the shoreline as far inland as present-day Washington, D.C. Rivers running east from the Appalachians deposited sand and mud along wide stretches of the Miocene coast, just as they do today. Today, these sediments can be seen along much of the coast of the Chesapeake Bay. They are particularly well-exposed at Calvert Cliffs State Park.

Maryland’s Miocene sea was home to a wide variety of marine life, including ostracods, clams, oysters, corals, echinoids, foraminifera, brachiopods, gastropods, fish, turtles, crocodiles, whales, and long-snouted dolphins. Within the forests, cypress swamps, and tidal marshes along the margins of the sea lived many different animals such as tapirs, mastodons, rhinoceros, peccaries, camels, elephants, horses, dogs, and birds.

Remains of all of these animals and plants have been found in the rocks in and around Calvert Cliffs State Park, including the state fossil of Maryland, Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae. The most fossiliferous deposits belong to the Calvert Formation. Of the 624 species identified in this formation, 408 are molluscs. The most common fossils found weathering out of the cliffs are pieces of clams and snails. Shark and stingray teeth are common, but other vertebrate remains are rare and most are fragmented due to transport by river or ocean currents.


Parks (1 listing)

Calvert Cliffs State Park: This site has information on the fossils and rocks of the park, including maps, trail guides, activities, and events.

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Museums (1 listing)

Calvert Marine Museum: This regionally-oriented museum highlights three maritime themes of the area: Miocene paleontology, modern estuarine life, and maritime history.

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Government Agencies (1 listing)

Calvert Cliffs Fossils- Maryland Geological Survey: Hosted by the Maryland Geological Survey, this page and its links provide detailed information on the geology and fossils of the park, including fossil identification guides, references, maps, and publications.

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Research and Collections

Ongoing Research Projects (1 listing)

The Ecphora, Calvert Marine Museum Fossil Club Newsletter: The Ecphora is a quarterly newsletter from the Calvert Marine Museum's Fossil Club. It features paleontology articles of general and specific interest on Miocene marine fossils, mostly. In addition to articles based on original research, this online publication includes news and happenings in paleontology at the museum, fossil club field trip schedules, and information about upcoming public lectures in paleontology at the Calvert Marine Museum.

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