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A Century of Fossil Discovery and Research at Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon has a remarkable 160-year history of fossil research. The Utah Geological Association in cooperation with the National Park Service sheds considerable light on that research in a new 343-page document (463 pages including appendices) comprising 13 articles – listed below (Figure 1). The manuscript was edited by Vincent L. Santucci and Justin S. Tweet, both of the U.S. National Park Service.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Ranger-Naturalist Edwin D. McKee at work in Yavapai Observation Station, ca. 1930 (NPS)

In her foreword Jeanne A. Calhoun’s (Division Chief, Science & Resource Management, Grand Canyon National Park) summarizes the text brilliantly, “A series of experts presents the inventory of life in the canyon’s fossil record, from the very earliest life forms starting around 1.25 billion years ago in the Precambrian era (stromatolites and microfossils), through explosions of ancient life, punctuated by extinction events, in the Paleozoic era from the Cambrian (~541–485 million years ago) up into the Permian (~270 million years ago), as seen by the diversity of fossils (trilobites, brachiopods, mollusks, corals, fish, sharks, horsetails, seed ferns, clubmosses, conifers) preserved in these rocks.”

For those interested in fossil lifeforms this is an excellent book loaded with details and insights into the paleontology of Grand Canyon National Park and the broader Colorado Plateau. The manuscript is available online for viewing or download at the Utah Geological Association.  Printed copies are not yet available.

Vince Santucci lays the groundwork in the first article, ‘The Paleontological Heritage of Grand Canyon National Park’. Earle E. Spamer synopsizes paleontological research at Grand Canyon from the Ives Expedition of 1857 to 2019. Tim Connors and others document the stratigraphy of the Park (Figure 2). The Precambrian paleontology is aptly described by Justin Tweet. Paleozoic-age fossils are treated in 5 articles, congruent with the abundance of fossiliferous Paleozoic strata. There is a chapter on Mesozoic paleontology by Adam Marsh and others, and a chapter by Jim Mead and others on Pleistocene/Holocene cave fossils.

Figure 2 stratigraphy of Grand Canyon
Figure 2. Grand Canyon stratigraphy and structural relations (see p. 34 for sources).

Appendices A, B, C, and D - comprising 62 pages sandwiched between p. 104 and 105 - detail fossil finds from Paleozoic units documented by select museums (e.g., Grand Canyon National Park Museum) and from the paleontological literature. The final 76 pages includes a compilation of Grand Canyon National Park paleontological supplemental information.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Fossils from the Kaibab Limestone. See p. 115 for a full description.

Contents: Titles, Author(s) and Page Numbers
 (Note: appendices total nearly 100 pages but are not included in the Table of Contents.)

  • The Paleontological Heritage of Grand Canyon National Park,  Vincent L. Santucci      1-10
  • History of Paleontological Work At Grand Canyon National Park—Up and Down the Long Federal and Ngo Trails of Paleontology in Grand Canyon National Park, 1858–2019, Earle E. Spamer      11-32
  • Stratigraphy of Grand Canyon National Park, Timothy B. Connors, Justin S. Tweet, and Vincent L. Santucci    33-54
  • Precambrian Paleontology of Grand Canyon National Park, Justin S. Tweet   55-72
  • Paleozoic Invertebrate Paleontology of Grand Canyon National Park, Linda Sue Lassiter, Justin S. Tweet, Frederick A. Sundberg, John R. Foster, and P. J. Bergman   73-104
  • Paleozoic Vertebrate Paleontology of Grand Canyon National Park—Research History, Resources, and Potential, John-Paul Michael Hodnett and David Kenneth Elliott  105-118
  • Paleozoic Paleobotany of Grand Canyon National Park,  Cassi Knight   119-130
  • Paleozoic Invertebrate Ichnology of Grand Canyon National Park, Anne E. Miller, Lorenzo Marchetti, Heitor Francischini, and Spencer G. Lucas   131-170
  • Paleozoic Vertebrate Ichnology of Grand Canyon National Park, Lorenzo Marchetti, Heitor Francischini, Spencer G. Lucas, Sebastian Voigt, Adrian P. Hunt, and Vincent L. Santucci  171-204
  • Mesozoic Paleontology of Grand Canyon National Park—Trace Fossils, Stratigraphy, and Regional Correlations,  Adam D. Marsh, William G. Parker, And Anne E. Miller      205-220
  • Pleistocene/Holocene Cave Fossils from Grand Canyon National Park—Ice Age (Pleistocene) Flora, Fauna, Environments, and Climate of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, Jim I. Mead, Justin S. Tweet, Vincent L. Santucci, Benjamin Tobin, Carol L. Chambers,  Shawn C. Thomas, and Mary C. Carpenter     221-240
  • Grand Canyon National Park Paleontological Resources Management and Protection, Diana Boudreau, Vincent Santucci, Klara Widrig, Mark Nebel, Anne Miller, Ronnie Colvin, Kim Besom and Colleen Hyde    241-266
  • Grand Canyon National Park Paleontological Supplemental Information, Complied by  Vincent L. Santucci and Justin Tweet  267-343

Citation: Santucci, V.L., and Tweet, J.S., editors, 2021. Grand Canyon National Park Centennial Paleontological Resources Inventory — A Century of Fossil Discovery and Research: Utah Geological Association Special Publication 1, 343 p.

Tetrapod trackway
Tetrapod footprints from from the Manakacha Formation (STEPHEN ROWLAND) (p. 176)