Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Permian Capitan Reef

For the first weekend in April, my Reef Ecosystems class joined the Sedimentology and Stratigraphy class on a trek to the Guadalupe Mountains in West Texas. This was a very exciting trip for me because the Guads expose one of the most beautiful and well known fossils reefs in North America; the Permian Capitan Reef. Although I ave been studying reef systems for 7 years, I had never made it to the Capitan reef until now! 

This post features shots of the beautiful exposures, vistas, and fossils in the Guadalupe Mountains. To Start, here's El Capitan! 

Our first stop was at Dark Canyon, one of the back reef localities. There is a lot of weird stuff going on here and since I had never been here before, I felt as "deer-in-the-headlights" as the students did.
The eye of the Capitan?
So much encrusting Archaeolithoporella!

Close up of Archaeolithoporella
There were some really beautiful articulated crinoids!

As well as some branching bryozoans

Look at those aragonite botryoids!!!

This cavity is all cemented up!

Many encrusters!

Our next stop was the gem of the day, Walnut Canyon. At this site the outcrop has been acid washed making for some absolutely gorgeous surfaces!

More stunning cements, now with some sponges

I got really excited about the cements!

So many amazing sponges, they are just gorgeous!

This site was one of the neatest spots! Look at the long linear feature that cuts across the image (just above my scale bar). That is one long thin platy sponge (the outcrop cuts through a thin sheet so it looks like a stick). Below and above that, all the "spongy" looking brown stuff is an encrusted mass of sponges and Archaeolitoporella.... then the grey bits are all aragonite botryoids that filled in the cavities created by the reef builders. How awesome is that?!?

Here is a close up of the platy sponge and the branching sponges hanging down from it!

Huge cements in the cavities!

More sponges (although these sponges (the lighter bits) seem to be totally coated in the darker Archeolithoporella; there are almost no cavities in this part of the outcrop!)

The top surface of a platy sponge

Another beautiful sponge!
Guadalupia explanata
And another!
Lemonia cylindrica (I believe)

My student Chiara standing on a huge crack that is encrusted by marine organisms.

Our third stop was Carlsbad Caverns. In the parking lot there are some gorgeous teepee structures.... they are HUGE and the cements are ridiculously beautiful as well as some amazingly large pisoids!

Down into the caves!!!

An old ladder

Broken stalactites in a pool

Popcorn ceilings ;)

Drip drip drip...

Our last day was totally devoted to hiking up McKittrick Canyon to see the Capitan reef outcrop there. It is a long but awesome hike to the top...

There's the reef outcrop (this is from about 1/3 of the way up)

Amazing Fusulinids Polydiexodina!

Hello down there!

Bioturbated and non bioturbated beds on the slope!

Beautiful bryozoans

Enter the reef!

About halfway through the reef :)

Hello sponge friends!

An awesome cavity in the shape of a boot

More aragonite botryoids

Some more lovely sponges

Thick Archaeolithoporella

Quite the view!