Fossil Crab Claw found on Assateague Beach

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A fossilized crab claw, bottom, found on Assateague, compared with a modern crab claw. Assateague Island National Seashore photo.

By Carol Vaughn —

A woman walking on Assateague beach in October found an unusual-looking object, which turned out to be a fossilized crab claw.

The fossil can be seen at Toms Cove Visitor Center on Assateague.

Sharon Conn, who found the item while picking up trash on the beach, contacted the Smithsonian Institution for help identifying the object, which looked to her as though it had teeth and an eye socket, according to information posted on the Assateague Island National Seashore Facebook page.

A paleontologist at the Smithsonian identified it as a fossilized crab claw.

“Given the nature of other fossils found in your area the fossil is likely Pleistocene in age (2 million to 12 thousand years ago). The extra rock around it is a very well consolidated matrix that was so hard it didn’t readily erode. The claw did erode a bit though –- which is why it isn’t immediately distinguishable as a claw. The tips are gone and parts of the infilled area where the original flesh would have been has shown through, making the whole specimen look a bit odd,” the scientist explained in his response to Conn.

He also told her fossils found on public land are protected by the 2009 Paleontological Resources Preservation Act and advised her to return it, which she did.

The fossil is now displayed along with others in a small collection at the visitor center.

As of Dec. 1, the Toms Cove Visitor Center is open Fridays through Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The visitor center is on the south side of Beach Road prior to the beach parking areas. The address is 8586 Beach Road, Chincoteague.

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