By Steven L. Stephenson
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Additional info for A Natural History of the Central Appalachians
This shell was at least a foot across, but ammonoids could be much larger, sometimes exceeding several feet. 6 million years of the earth’s history, is the most recent. The beginning of the Quaternary coincides with the onset of the last major interval of continental glaciation (the ice ages, as described in chapter 1). Geologists have subdivided the Quaternary into two units of time called epochs: the Pleistocene, which lasted until about twelve thousand years ago, and the succeeding epoch, the Holocene (Ogg, Ogg, and Gradstein, Concise Geological Time Scale).
35 FIGURE 13 Fossil of a seed fern of Carboniferous age collected in West Virginia up to twenty feet. Although a leaf this large might seem to defy belief, those produced by some modern tree ferns are comparable in size. I have seen numerous examples in the forests on the North Island of New Zealand. Numerous species of seed ferns have been described, largely on the basis of differences in leaf shape, size, and structure along with features of the seed-bearing structures. 36 A PARTICULARLY NOTEWORTHY FOSSIL One fossil seed fern found in the Central Appalachians has a special significance.
Members of both groups were common and sometimes spectacular inhabitants of coal swamp forests. One particularly extraordinary insect was Meganeura, a giant dragonfly with a wingspan of two feet. 38 EARLIER FOSSILS During much of the Paleozoic era the region of North America that was to become the Central Appalachians was periodically submerged beneath a shallow tropical sea. The rocks that date from this period (mostly limestone and dolomite, a magnesiumrich sedimentary rock that resembles limestone) are largely derived from marine sediments, less commonly from sediments from terrestrial sources that produced layers of sandstone and shale.