Delaware mineralogical society

A Delaware 501(c)(3) non-profit earth-science educational organization


 Fossil Forum: Belemnites  
"Belemnites are coming!!" by Ken Casey

Belemnites Article
Article Contributors
Photo & Graphics Credits
Suggested Reading
Invitation to Members
Future Fossil Forums
belemnite_p1.gif (6577 bytes)Belemnoidea (artist's conception) belemnites_cochise.bmp (704694 bytes)
Belemnite fossils

What are Belemnites?...
...They lived and are now the Official State Fossil of Delaware!

Artwork courtesy of
ABC, BBC ©1999
Photo by and courtesy of R. Weller, Cochise College ©2006


     Welcome to a new format for fossils--the DMS "Fossil Forum"!  In our second installment,
we are connecting the fossil past with this year's DMS educational outreach program at our own
clubhouse: The Greenbank Mill!

     Today, we will be exploring our state's Official State Fossil: Belemnites.  Found around the
world as the remnants of ancient sea creatures, our local favorite is Belemnitella americana.


     Welcome to our second Fossil Forum! 

     This month, our journey takes us into geologic time: the past.  We are investigating a swimming
creature, whose fossil remains are easy to recognize: Belemnites Enjoy!

Myths_Belemnite_ani.gif (43679 bytes) cuttle.gif (64933 bytes) squid_c.jpg (5823 bytes)
Ancient Belemnoides Modern day descendant: The Cuttlefish
(Courtesy of Sarah Vandervlugt ©1998)
Ancient and squidlike, Belemnoides
(From j & h paleoscience
and OZ Fossils)

Belemnites are Coming!!

     What exactly are "belemnites"?  Well, as you can see from the comparison pictures above, they are
and were living sea creatures.  As they maintained only one boney structure, the "rostrum" (or "guard"),
it is the only candidate body part prone to fossilization.  While alive, this boney structure served as a
counterweight to the buoyancy of the creature.

     As we see from the cigar-shaped objects at the top of the page, these leftover bits would litter the
shallow paleosea bottom some 70 million years ago to later become diggable fossils.  They now call
the Mount Laurel Formation their home.

     These squidlike Cephalopods combed the sea in search of food for millions of years back in the
Cretaceous.  Today, their descendants, such as the cuttlefish, do the same.   Their modern bone is
used for pet bird care, and in jewelry metal casting.  I've done the latter with much success.

     As you can see, the belemnites were here, came and went, then came back again as fossils for
us to talk about and collect.  Though they traveled in large schools and were prolific, they died out.

Myths_Belemnite_guard.jpg (6838 bytes) IMGP0208.JPG (207215 bytes) belemnites_csu.jpg (81004 bytes)
Belemnite & Guard "bone" Belemnite Model and Fossil
(Photo: Ken Casey from the Sophie Homsey Collection)
Belemnite Fossil
(Mike Viney, CSU)

     We speak of the cigar-shape of the rostrum "bone", but notice the point at one end.  Doesn't it look
aerodynamic, like the point of a rocket booster on the Space Shuttle.  There is a reason for nature's design here.

     Yes, you guessed it! The fish swims backwards! That's right. The finned area that houses the rostrum is
"aquadynamic". More like a boat hull, than a rocket ship, the belemnite's fins and point act to push it
through the water. And, the tentacles around it's eyes and head do the swimming, much like the octopus. They possessed an ink sac and ten tentacles, as well.

In addition to the biomechanical evidence that I've just mentioned, today's cuttlefish swims in the same

In addition to the biomechanical evidence that I've just mentioned, today's cuttlefish swims in the same

Belemnite3.jpg (19894 bytes) cre01b.jpg (71241 bytes) Myths_Cuttlefish.jpg (6219 bytes)
Belemnite (artist's conception) Belemnite's Cretaceous home
(Graphic from Earth History Resources)
Today's Cuttlefish swimming

    Now that we've seen what our friendly sea creatures look like, we are ready to comb the world for fossils. We'll key in on our club's collecting area: Delaware.

     Strewn in the fossil sands of time, namely the dredge spoils of the Chesapeake & Delaware (C & D)
Canal--well, almost. The simulated fossil dig you see below is part of one of our club's educational programs for the Girl Scouts. Member Sophie Homsey donated some of her belemnites and other marine fossils for the scouts to dig for and keep.

Thanks, Sophie!

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Belemnites in simulated fossil dig Belemnites in simulated fossil dig

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Belemnites in simulated fossil dig (close-up) Belemnites in simulated fossil dig (close-up)

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Belemnite close-up Club member Sophie Homsey hosting fossil dig for the Girl Scouts at one our Educational Programs

DSC02775.JPG (85479 bytes) DSC02780.JPG (96695 bytes)
Actual C & D Canal fossil locale: DMS Members ready to dig! Actual C & D Canal fossil locale: Father & son members, Eric and Jake, sift for belemnites and microfossils

opal_belemnites.jpg (15639 bytes) opalized_belemnites.jpg (62705 bytes)
The rarest find, Opalized Belemnites from Australia
(Photo by Piper Films SA ©2004)
More opalized fossils: Belemnite and brachiopods
(Copyright Renaissance Photography/The
Somerville Collection)


Fossils courtesy of the Sophie Homsey Collection
Fossil Digs Photos by Ken Casey ©2006

    From the pictures above, you can get a general idea of the great fossils finds to be had when looking for Belemnites.  Though no opalized specimens have been known found in Delaware--who knows, maybe an opal-forming environment might be found here one day?

     I know this is such a short primer on the living and fossilized remains of our club state's official fossil, though I hope it whets your appetite to learn more from digging for yourself on site, and sifting through the links below.



Delaware State Fossil
DMS C & D Canal Fieldtrip Page
Belemnoidea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  

Members' Gallery

In our Fossil Forum, here is where DMS Members can add their fossil photos to share with us.

Faceted Delaware Belemnite
  Finished Faceted Delaware Belemnite
(Faceting and Photos courtesy of Tom Pankratz

     Who knew that our local Delaware Cretaceous Belemnites could be faceted into a fine gemstone? 
Why, DMS's own Tom Pankratz did!  Tom is a long-time hobbyist faceter who enjoys a unique challenge. 
When picking up a rock, gem, or fossil, Tom thinks, 'Would this material facet into a gemstone?'

     During almost every show 'n tell, he poses the question to we who are involved in the conversation,
thus piquing our interest.  As a result of this particular exchange one club meeting, Tom surprised us
with some photos of his work: a truly well-faceted Delaware fossil gemstone wonder.  Thanks, Tom!

Slideshow of Tom's faceting project: Delaware Belemnites

Until Next Time

     We hope you have enjoyed our Belemnites article.  Please join us in the future
for more fossils in our new forum!
     Until then, stay safe, and happy collecting.
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Article Contributors

Sophie Homsey, DMS Hospitality Chairperson (Fossils, Models & Knowledge)
Various DMS Members & Fossil Enthusiasts (in Photos))
The Delaware Geological Survey (facts)

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the generous contributions of our fellow fossil
collectors, authors, curators, educators, professionals, and club members who
made this work possible. 

Photo & Graphics Credits and Permissions

R. Weller, Cochise College
American Broadcasting Company (ABC), British Broadcasting Company (BBC)
Sarah Vandervlugt
j & h paleoscience and OZ Fossils
Earth History Resources
Piper Films SA
Renaissance Photography/ The Somerville Collection, The Australian Museum
Ken Casey, DMS Webmaster (Photos)

© 2006  All contributions to this article are covered under the copyright protection of this article
and by separate and several copyright protection(s), and are to be used for the sole purposes of
enjoying this scholarly article.  They are used gratefully with express written permission of the
authors, save for generally-accepted scholarly quotes, short in nature, deemed legal to reference
with the appropriate citation and credit.  Reproduction of this article must be obtained by express
written permission of the author, Kenneth B. Casey, for his contributions, authoring, photos, and
graphics.  Use of all other credited materials requires permission of each contributor separately.
Links and general contact information are included in the credits above, and throughout this article.
The advice offered herein are only suggestions; it is the reader's charge to use the information
contained herein responsibly.  DMS is not responsible for misuse or accidents caused from this
article. All opinions, theories, proofs, and views expressed within this article, and in others on this
website, do not necessarily reflect the views of the Delaware Mineralogical Society. 

Suggested Reading



KEN.JPG (31503 bytes)

About the Author:  Ken is current webmaster of the Delaware Mineralogical Society.  He has a diploma in Jewelry Repair, Fabrication & Stonesetting from the Bowman Technical School, Lancaster, PA, and worked as jeweler.  He has also studied geology at the University of Delaware.  And, he is currently a member of the Delaware Mineralogical Society and the Franklin-Ogdensburg Mineralogical Society.  E-mail:

Invitation to Members


Want to see your name in print?  Want to co-author, contribute, or author a whole Fossil Forum article?  Well, this the forum for you!

And Members, if you have pictures, or a story you would like to share, please feel free to offer.  We'd like to post them for our mutual enjoyment.   Of course, you get full photo and author credit, and a chance to reach other collectors, hobbyists, and scientists.  We only ask that you check your facts, give credit where it is due, keep it wholesome for our Junior Members watching, and keep on topic regarding rockhounding.

You don't even have to be experienced in making a webpage.  We can work together to publish your story.  A handwritten short story with a Polaroid will do.  If you do fancier, a text document with a digital photo will suit, as well.   Sharing is the groundwork from which we can get your story out there.

Our club's webpages can reach any person surfing the net in the world, and even on the International Space Station, if they have a mind to view our website!

We are hoping for a possible tie-in to other informative programs upon which our fellow members might want to collaborate.  Contact any officer or board member with your suggestions.

Our next FF will be a surprise. For 2007, we are waiting for your suggestions.  What fossil do you want to know more about?

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Our first Fossil Forum selection had come from one of our new student members, Jennifer Anné.  If you would like to author a future article, or if you have a suggestion for a future Fossil Forum article, please e-mail me at:, or tell me at our next meeting.

Future Fossil Forums

     dino_print1.jpg (337587 bytes)

     As this is our first Fossil Forum, there are so many more fossil lifeforms to learn about.  Can you guess what "dinosaur" this footprint might have come from?  Stay tuned later this Fall!

This page last updated:  February 26, 2017 07:58:35 PM