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Cracked rock found in county turns out to be fossilized find

August 25, 2006|by JANET HEIM

HANCOCK - Harry Sloan knows the area around his home is filled with unique rock formations. Sloan lives two miles outside of Hancock, near the bottom of Sideling Hill.

It still surprised him, though, when his 14-year-old son Adam accidentally dropped a rock - a speckled one that he found within 10 feet of their house - and found what looked like a fossilized remain of a small animal. At first look, Adam thought it was a fossil of a worm.

The Sloans e-mailed a photo they took of the cracked rock to a professor at the University of Maryland in College Park

Thomas Holtz Jr., a senior lecturer in vertebrate paleontology at the university, identified the fossil as that of a Crinostem, a small creature similar to a Venus flytrap, Sloan said. He added that Holtz said it was unusual to find a fossil of a Crinostem intact in the Hancock area, that most usually are embedded in rock.

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Sloan said he learned through Holtz that the valley near their home on Stein Road runs to Virginia, and 250 million years ago was a sea.

Sloan said he would like to give the fossil to the Smithsonian Institution or to the Sideling Hill display so other people can enjoy it.

"It's pretty neat to find something that old and to see it," Sloan said.

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