Opalized Fossils

Opalized wood

Opalized wood

If I had a pet pliosaur, I would name him Eric, right before he killed and ate me.

In 1987, a miner in Coober Pedy discovered Eric’s seven-foot skeleton. Now, if you know anything about Coober Pedy, you know they mine opals there. And that’s what the miner found: Eric had been completely opalized.

Eric doesn't look like much here...

Eric doesn’t look like much here…

...but let's take a closer look.

…but let’s take a closer look.

I think I first heard of opalized fossils watching an episode of Bones. I was immediately enchanted.

The fossils come from the Cretaceous, when Lightning Ridge and surrounds were heavily forested, and there was a shallow sea.  Mostly the opal settles into the shape of the animal or plant, but rarely, if the organism hasn’t rotted away, internal structure is preserved as well.

Opalized shell

Opalized shell

Mollusks, snails, and plant matter are the most commonly found fossils.

Opalized pine cone

Opalized pine cone

Exporting opalized fossils from Australia is illegal without a difficult-to-get permit. The Australian government offers a tax credit for opalized fossils, to help keep them in the country.

Opalized belemnite, a squid-like cephalopod.

Opalized belemnite, a squid-like cephalopod.

Along the way, I also learned about Ammolite. While opals are made of silica, ammolite is made of mollusk shells, mostly ammonites. Naturally, you get ammolite ammonites.

This monster was stolen from a Vancouver jewelry store. Maybe don't put it in the front window next time.

This monster was stolen from a Vancouver jewelry store. Maybe don’t put it in the front window next time.

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