Our Commonwealth is known for its official symbols. The cardinal, dogwood, and even the foxhound are official symbols of the “Old Dominion.” What manypeople may not know (I didn’t know either until last year) is that we have a state fossil. It’sa shellthat is millions of years old!
No, this is not the shell of a recently eaten scallop. This is Chesapecten jeffersonius. This ancient mollusk lived during the Early Pliocene period (4.5 to 4.3 million years ago). Unlike other scallops at that time, C. jeffersonius has only 9 to 12 ribs. In 1673, Martin Lister published a drawing of it making this the first fossil to be described in North America. Geologist John Finch collected a large quantity of these shells in 1824 near Yorktown. Thomas Say of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia named the fossil in honor of the nation’s third president.
As you hunt fossils in eastern Virginia, be careful as you step, or you might accidentally break one. And be sure to count the number of ribs to properly identify it from similar shells.Chesapecten jeffersonius;A state symbol, named for a statesman, and ancestor of great tasting seafood!