Chesapeake and Delaware Canal

Segmented Worms: Phylum Annelida

Annelids are segmented worms. The remains of the soft-bodied segmented worms are not usually preserved as fossils. Some marine (salt-water) types, however, secrete tubes of calcium carbonate to use both as a home and to provide protection from their enemies. These tubes can be found as isolated specimens or attached to larger shells. Two genera, Serpula and Hamulus, are fairly common in formations near the C&D canal.

Clams, Snails, and Squid: Phylum Mollusca, Class Cephalopoda

Cephalopoda is the scientific name for the mollusc group that includes the chambered Nautilus, squid, and octopus. Two extinct types are found at the C & D canal: the Nautilus-like ammonites and the superficially squid-like belemnites. Ammonites are uncommon, especially complete specimens, but can be very useful for age determination. The belemnite species Belemnitella americana has been so abundant at some canal localities that it was named the state fossil of Delaware.

Moss Animals: Phylum Bryozoa

Bryozoans, sometimes referred to as "moss animals," are a type of simple colonial animal that mostly lives in marine environments (a few inhabit freshwater). Bryozoans feed by means of a lophophore, a small ring of tentacles covered with tiny cilia that are used to filter food from the water. Bryozoan colonies are protected with a covering of organic materials or calcium carbonate. Some calcium carbonate forms may be found as fossils in the Cretaceous strata near the C & D Canal.

Corals and Jellyfish: Phylum Cnidaria

Cnidarians are soft-bodied animals that include corals, jellyfish, and sea anemones. These soft-bodied animals have saclike digestive cavities and tentacles containing rows or stinging cells used for defense and capture of food. Many secrete calcium carbonate to support and partly enclose the soft parts; the most familiar of these are corals. The only members of the phylum found at the Canal are solitary corals. One of these corals, Micrabacia, may be the most common fossil found. Another common fossil found there, a solitary horn-shaped coral, has been given different names by different authors.

Sponges: Phylum Porifera

Phylum Porifera is a group of simple animals that includes the sponges. Porifera have no internal organs, nervous tissue, circulatory system, or digestive systems, making them the most primitive of the multi-cellular animals. To support and protect their soft bodies, sponges produce skeletons of calcium carbonate, silica, or a soft organic material called spongin. The most common fossil sponge in the Cretaceous sediments of Delaware is the genus Cliona. Cliona sponges lived on rocks and shells of the seafloor and commonly bored holes in these objects, in which it lived. To obtain food, the sponges filtered the water around them as it passed through tiny pores located on their outer walls. The sponge is common in the Mount Laurel Formation along the Canal.

One-celled Organisms: Phylum Protozoa

Protozoans are one-celled organisms that include the amoeba. One group of protozoans, the Foraminifera ("forams"), are among the most common fossils found in the Cretaceous of Delaware -- but are hard to study without a microscope. Forams build a hard outer covering -- some by secreting calcium carbonate or opaline silica, some by cementing sand grains -- in order to provide support and protection. The resulting many-chambered shells, which are commonly called "tests," are the parts preserved as fossils. Some are very simple, and others are very ornate.