World's 'Most Perfect Fossil' Found in Illinois by Professor of Biology
West Indies Expedition Nets New Species of Worms, Bugs, Reptiles
Two important discoveries were reported by the Department of Biology during the summer. On the Illinois prairies William C. Darrah, instructor in Biology, discovered "the most perfect plant fossil over found," and in the trackless forests of the Pico del Yaque Mountains in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Phillip J. Darlington, assistant curator of insects in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, found many new species of insects, worms, and reptiles, hitherto unknown to science.
Sex Preserved in Illinois
Because of the "unbelievable" preservation of the specimen found in Illinois, a club moss cone over two hundred million years old, located in Carboniferous rock in Grundy County, scientists may have a new test for the hypothesis that the world's underground stores of petroleum derive from plant life, Darrah said.
The fossil is so perfectly preserved that the generative elements, which are often indiscernable in living organisms, can be seen. Moreover, although the original plant fiber has disappeared, the oil has been preserved, in a hardened state, thus forming a perfect mummified picture of the cells. Whether this oil has been an important source of natural petroleum is a question geologists have been studying for years.
The detail with which the fossil is preserved will enable the hitherto impossible comparison of the sexual generation of ancient plants with that of the living relatives.
The specimen has been named "Selaglnella Amesiana", in honor of Oakes Ames, Director of the Botanical Museum. A near living relative is the common ground pine in New England.
Log Attacks Halti Beetles
Meanwhile Dr. Darlington, down in the Haltian Mountains, was wending his way through the jungle behind a "pratico," who cuts out the trail with a machete. In 1934 the had made the first zoological studies in that particular region.
Among the species found which were previously entirely unknown, or had not been recorded in the Caribbean region, were black snails, Carabidae beetles, earthworms, locusts, a small rock lizard, a frog, and caterpillars.
A fateful collision with a large log was narrowly missed as the mule pack was picking its way across a furious rapids at the brink of a huge waterfall. The log was thundering down directly towards the mule currying the finest lot of Dryopid water beetles ever taken in the West Indies, when it suddenly struck the head of a man-eating crocodile which was about to attack the practice and swerved to the left, missing the mule by five-eighths of an inch.