fossil sharks and rays from the Cretaceous of The Netherlands

- collecting localities -

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where to collect Lichtenberg horizon - details collecting methods

Where to collect

Fossil sharkteeth can be found in the entire Maastrichtian limestone-package of the Netherlands and the adjoining area in Belgium, but are quite scarce. A few horizons contain concentrations of remains of fish and sharks. One of these horizons is the "Lichtenberg horizon", which is present in several exposures in the Netherlands/Belgium Limburg - area around Maastricht.

One of the best places where this Lichtenberg-horizon is exposed is the ENCI-quarry near Maastricht. This quarry is exploited by the firm "ENCI" for the production of cement, and is normally NOT accessible for collectors! However, until now collecting-excursions have been organized every year by the "Nederlandse Geologische Vereniging (NGV) afdeling Limburg" (the Dutch Geological Association, Limburg-region). During many years these collecting-excursions were open for non-members too, but from the start of 2006 this has ended: due to restrictions of ENCI B.V. Maastricht the excursions are open for members of the "Nederlandse Geologische Vereniging (NGV) afdeling Limburg" only. Because the quarry will close in the near future new excursions are uncertain for 2007.
Please read the conditions and the excursion-dates on their website: Nederlandse Geologische Vereniging (NGV) afdeling Limburg Excursies ENCI en t Rooth (Dutch Geological Association, Limburg-region / excursions; text in Dutch !).

Lichtenberg horizon - details

The Lichtenberg-horizon is a thin horizon at the base of the Maastricht formation, between the Lanaye Chalk (upper part of the Gulpen formation) and the Valkenburg Chalk (lower part of the Maastrichtian formation) . Its thickness varies from almost 0 to 10-15 cm. It consist of fossils, fossilfragments and small rounded particles of limestone and glauconite.
In the ENCI-quarry, it is exposed in the middle part of the quarry (a stratigrapic scheme of the quarry is available at the NGV-site). The fossils-contents consists of brachiopods, many disaggregated stems of small crinoids (abundant), sea urchins (many fragments, but complete specimen of Oolopygus pyriformis are quite common), shells (mainly small oysters and pectens), belemnites and remaines of vertebrates.
The vertebrate-fauna consist of remains of bony fish (scales, small vertebrae, teeth and small coprolithes *), reptiles (occasionally even mosasaurus-teeth occur), and -the most striking part of the fossil-contents of the Lichtenberg-horizon - sharkteeth.

* Note: due to the occurence of these coprolithes the Lichtenberg-horizon is -in older French literature- also known as "niveau à coprolithes".

photo: Lichtenberg horizon (jpeg)

my son digging for sharkteeth in the Lichtenberg-horizon / june 2002


photo: Lichtenberg horizon (jpeg)

detail of the Lichtenberg-horizon (other part of the quarry)

photo: sample lichtenberg-horizon (jpeg)

A typical sample of the Lichtenberg-horizon :
a 30 x 25 mm block containing small shell-fragments, brachiopod Thecidea papillata, some isolated spines of a sea-urchin and a tooth of shark Palaeohypotodus bronni

The Lichtenberg-horizon is not always well exposed (this depends on excavation-works in the quarry). During the past ten years it was sometimes exposed at the surface of platforms in the quarry (which was easy to examine), but many more times it was only exposed as a small layer in the vertical quarry-walls (making tiring excavating necessary).

Collecting methods

How to collect depends on what you want to find!
If you are only interested in the larger teeth (> 5 mm), it is sufficient to dig in the Lichtenberg-horizon with a hammer and a chisel and inspect the extracted material for teeth.
If you are interested in the smaller teeth too, you should take all the excavated material home. At home you can carefully dissaggregate the sediment in hot water and sieve it. After drying you can pick the small teeth out (a method in literature called "bulk-sampling").

Warning ! Don't expect to collect here a lot of big teeth in a short time !! In the entire Limburg-area, even the richest teeth-bearing horizons are poor compared with e.g. most horizons of the Belgian Tertiary. Further, the collected teeth are very fragile, and most of them are smaller than 1 cm.

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Last updated April 2nd, 2006