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Abstract

The Carmel Church Quarry fossil site in central Virginia has yielded thousands of vertebrate fossils over more than two decades of excavations conducted by the Virginia Museum of Natural History. The exposure of marine sediment here includes a highly fossiliferous bone bed within the Calvert Formation. Unlike most fossil finds from this formation along the Potomac River, the majority of fossils collected are from in situ deposits. The exposed section at Carmel Church includes Paleocene to Pliocene sediment, with vertebrate fossils also having been recovered from the Eocene Nanjemoy Formation. Common fossil finds within the Calvert Formation are typically isolated shark teeth, especially of Isurus (mako sharks) and Carcharhinus (requiem sharks). However, many large teeth of Carcharocles megalodon have been found as well. The ancient shallow sea ecosystem also supported a diversity of bony fish, reptiles, birds, and marine mammals. Carmel Church is the type locality for the mysticete (baleen) whale, Eobalaenoptera harrisoni, and has produced numerous other cetacean taxa. In addition, 28 species of diatoms have been identified from the site, further correlating the fossiliferous zone of the Calvert Formation to Bed 15 of other localities. The Carmel Church site also has one of the richest land mammal faunas of the Calvert Formation, particularly for the upper section, including fossil horses, tapirs, and peccaries. Despite intense excavations over many years, the site is still producing a large volume of fossil material, allowing participants the opportunity to help contribute to new discoveries from this fascinating locality.

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