Tropical Oceanfront Paradise Utah (Circa 550 Million Years Ago)
September 13, 2017
Stand outside in the southwestern portion of Utah’s rugged, windswept and dry Millard County. Now time-travel backward 550 million years to visit this place when it straddled the equator with a long north-south shallow seacoast. Complex life forms that had developed the ability to extract calcium from seawater and organisms to manufacture exoskeletons had an enormous competitive advantage. The consequent Cambrian Explosion was most apparent in such shallow warm seas. Prototypical of this period were the many species of burrowing, prowling and even swimming trilobites. In what would become the House Range in Millard County, Elrathia kingii and its relatives were a prolific genus for tens of millions of years during the Cambrian Period. Back to today, the Wheeler Shale that formed from Utah’s tropical coastal marine sediments entombs thousands of these mobile scavenger-predators. All it takes to find a fine specimen or two is a hammer and some patience. Photos taken on April 4, 2017, shows a U.S. coin for reference.