In 1984, Dr. Donald Fisher New York State Paleontologist, proposed the “EURYPTERID” be designated as the state fossil. The New York State Legislature officially approved this designation by enacting State Law, Article 6, Section 83 of the New York Consolidated Laws, subsequently signed by governor Mario Cuomo that same year.
Eurypterids, or “Sea Scorpions” are an order of ancient arthropods that lived in the lagoonal waters of Western New York during the Silurian period over 420 million years ago. They fall in the same class as horseshoe crabs, scorpions and arachnids. According to the State Museum’s web site, the species chosen by the legislature was Eurypterus remipes and although some species exceeded four feet in length, “remipes” seldom surpassed 14 inches.
One of the world’s largest collections resides in the Buffalo Museum of Science, many of which came from the Bennett Quarry that was once located on Amherst Street near Main. The Quarry owner at the time generously allowed his crews to collect specimens and was even purported to offer “bounties” for extraordinary examples. These specimens were eventually donated to museums around the world where many are on display to this day.
Club Member Sam Ciurca, who began collecting fossils in the 1960’s, is one of the leading experts on the eurypterid fauna of New York and Southern Ontario. Over the years, Sam amassed a huge collection of over 12,000 eurypterids and his specimens now reside in many museums including the Buffalo Museum of Science, Paleontological Research Institute, Smithsonian Institution, and the Yale Peabody Museum.
Currently holding the position of Yale Peabody Curatorial Affiliate, Sam received the 2016 Harrell L. Strimple Award from the Paleontological Society, publishers of the prestigious “Journal of Paleontology.” The award recognizes outstanding achievement in paleontology by an amateur. Below is a link to a comprehensive web site he maintains dedicated to eurypterids and the environment in which they flourished. A simple web search for “eurypterid” will returns hundreds of links, but Sam’s site is a useful starting point for learning more about these interesting creatures.