University of Vermont

Virtual Field Study


Geologic Setting (The Cliffs of Calvert County)

arch    The sediments found in and around Calvert County were deposited during the Miocene Epoch in geologic time, in a shallow bay named the Salisbury Embayment.  This feature existed on the Atlantic Coastal plain, an area that today would encompass all of Maryland, northern Virginia, and most of New Jersey.  This plain was created more then 170 million years ago as sea level rose following the breakup of the supercontinent of Pangea, and it collected sediment over the next 160 million years.  The Miocene sea was home to a wide variety of marine life, including ostracods, clams, oysters, corals, echinoids, foraminifera, brachiopods, gastropods, fish, turtles, crocodiles, whales, and long-snouted dolphins.  However, this sediment also records a wide array of terrestrial animals such as tapirs, mastodons, rhinoceros, peccaries, camels, elephants, horses, dogs, and birds.  As sea level fell, following the onset of the current glacial period, these sediment packages, and the remains of the organisms they contained, were slowly exposed  at  Earth's surface, where weathering and erosion have been excavating them for the past 12,000 years.  (Click photographs to enlarge)                                                          
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  Above:   Map of the Salisbury embayment  
      Left:   A Miocene sunrise


Last modified October 06 2008 02:30 PM

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