Natural History

The Fossil Record

The presence of marine fossils in the Petersburg Legends Historical Park and Nature Conservancy area is a clue that the land was once under the sea. If you explore the banks of Lieutenant Run, a small stream running along the northern edge of Lee Memorial Park, you can find evidence of the two best-exposed marine formations in the Petersburg area, the Eastover Formation (approximately 7.0 million years old) and the Yorktown Formation (approximately 3.5 million years old). Lieutenant Run has cut through rock and soil strata, exposing fossils from both formations. The Eastover Formation contains fossil evidence of microscopic diatoms (algae), about twenty different species of mollusks, large whales, and the huge shark Carcharocles megalodon. The Yorktown Formation contains at least one hundred fifty species of well-preserved mollusks and rare whales. By this time, the large shark was extinct.

Prehistoric Life

In 1846 paleontologist Henry C. Lea published fossil engravings of prehistoric marine life in what is now Petersburg Legends Historical Park and Nature Conservancy.

Fossil Beds

Both the Eastover and Yorktown Formations contain many marine genera and species that do not exist today. The fossils found throughout this area suggest that the area was covered by a shallow open bay and had a temperate climate. Throughout the fossil beds you can also find sparse evidence of subtropical species.

This fossil, found in Petersburg Legends Historical Park and Nature Conservancy, is a vertebra from an ancient whale of the genus Balaenoptera, like the finback whale in this drawing.

Lieutenant Run

Petersburg’s fossil deposits are well known as a place to find beautifully preserved specimens, especially along Lieutenant Run. Here, tens of thousands of fossils are exposed, some with their original color patterns and some still in the original life position. Several prehistoric creatures were first named from the fossils found along Lieutenant Run.

A Chesapecten madisonius fossil found in Petersburg Legends Historical Park and Nature Conservancy.