Rio History: Nice Catch

Fossil Fish Found On South Padre Island

Special to the PRESS

“I’ll bet you never caught one of these,” Marion Desoto said as he handed me a small rock with the outline of an ancient fish clearly visible on its surface.

He’s right on that count, I thought to myself as I reached for my magnifying glass.

“Where did you find it? I asked as I studied the fossil. This was a fairly small fish during its lifetime. Measuring just shy of three inches long, it was embedded in a coarse, cream-colored chunk of fine clay. It had to be over 20 million years old, I thought to myself as I turned it over in my hand.

“I was beachcombing about 20 miles north of the city limits, Desoto said. We were near the ‘narrows’ I happened to turn this rock over and saw the fish in it,” he said of a high dune area right on the Cameron/Willacy county line

I know the area well and have written many times of the fossils found in this area. There is a reason why this area consistently produces museum quality fossils and ancient stone artifacts left by the men who hunted camels and mammoth elephants along the great coastal plains that extended 50 miles east to the shores of a Gulf of Mexico whose waters were 350 feet shallower than that of the gulf today.

Extremely low tides reveal the presence of clay banks that jut far out into the surf. This is a very productive site for artifacts, especially after a good storm.

Texas was covered by a larger Gulf of Mexico during the Cretaceous period which was 80 to 100 million years ago. As the water receded, the seafloor dried and solidified, forming rock strata.

The area we live in along the coast is covered with mostly sedimentary rocks, such as lime, sandstone and shale. If my deduction is correct, this fossil is encased in sedimentary rock.

The anatomy of this fossil looks very much like an ancient sardine. You can see the skeletal structure quite clearly, along with the remnants of a fin. Desoto graciously donated his find, which will one day be housed in our Historical Museum of South Padre Island.

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