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Ancient Life in Kansas Rocks, part 16 of 27

Common Fossils of Kansas--Cephalopods


Baculites, the straight form in the center and upper left, and Scaphites, the coiled forms, are fossils related to present day squids and Nautilus. As such, they belong to the group of mollusks called cephalopods, and were very highly specialized, possible even having an image-forming eye like us. They inhabit deep water and swam about freely by means of a form of jet propulsion, although Baculites probably was more adapted to life in the sea bottom. They were predatory, living on other animals such as crabs and shellfish. The specimen of Scaphites at the lower left is a smaller species than that in the upper right and has nearly reached maturity. When the scaphitids were fully developed, the living chamber, out of which protruded a squidlike head and tentacles, opened toward the coil at the other end.

four cephalopods

Baculites ranged up to several feet in size, whereas Scaphites generally grew only to six or eight inches. These specimens of Baculites are only fragments of the entire long,tapering, slightly flattened shell, and the specimen at the upper left displays the intricate feathery pattern (artifically darkened for visibility) marking the line where the inner chamber walls intersect the outer wall of the shell. This fluting is similarly shown at the upper end of the longer specimen, where it broke along a chamber wall or septum.

The golden crysatals clinging to the Scaphites in the lower left are pyrite, an iron and sulpher mineral sometimes called "fool's gold." Scaphites is commonly found associated with clusters of concretions of this mineral in west central Kansas. (Baculites, Pierre Shale, Cretaceous; Scaphites, Carlile Shale, Cretaceous)

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Placed online Feb. 1997
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