Eurypterid Research
The Tastings Site
Pittsford, New York
Samuel J. Ciurca, Jr.
Rochester, New York
During the Summer of 2006, excavation began for a new addition to the
parking lot at the Wegmans Tastings (restaurant) in Pittsford, New York. The
excavation was into the old retaining wall of the old Erie Canal and downward
into part of the lower Vernon Formation of the Salina Group. In this area is
the famous 'Pittsford Black Shale'  which contains a wonderful arthropod
fauna of extinct eurypterids (see Sarle 1903).
During the period of construction, and afterwards, I monitored the site and
the material excavated and determined the nature of the units removed in-
cluding the Pittsford Member consisting of black shale and mudstone and
intercalated waterlimes. Many specimens of the lithology and fossil content
were recovered and are the subject of ongoing studies both here and at a
major university. Below is an example of one of the specimens retrieved from
the Pittsford Member at the site:
Hughmilleria socialis Sarle.  
ABOVE: The anterior portion of the eurypterid,
Mixopterus multispinosus. Specimens of this
species are only rarely encountered. This
eurypterid is best known from a specimen of
large size in Norway. Below is a specimen
that shows part of a very spiny appendage
belonging to the Pittsford
The specimen has been compressed laterally and appears narrower than in
life. It is likely that the preserved fauna represents a tempestite, i.e. a storm
deposit in which animals (mostly molts) were dumped into the muds of very
shallow waters and in various positions before becoming buried and pre-
Hughmilleria socialis is the most common element preserved within the
Pittsford Member of the lower Vernon Formation.
Two eurypterids on a slab of the Pittsford Member. On the left in the anterior portion of
Eurypterus pittsfordensis and to its right, a curved specimen of the common Hughmilleria
. The remains are carbonized and often occur in windrows of accumulated debris.
In one sense, this is a shoreline deposit, i.e. material that has been thrown onto mudflats
that often became desiccated before the next sedimentary event that buried even more
eurypterid material and associated fauna. Mudcracks are a characteristic sedimentary
structure preserved throughout the sequence of lower Vernon Formation
Samuel J. Ciurca, Jr., Rochester, New York
Abstracts for Rochester Academy of Science, Fall 2006 Scientific Papers Day, hosted by St. John Fisher College,
Rochester, New York
Click here to read abstract.
BELOW: Part of a ramus of a  pterygotid
with well-preserved teeth. The pterygotids
are an important element  of the eurypterid
fauna of most of the Vernon Formation in-
cluding the Pittsford Member at the
Tastings Site.
BELOW: Other examples of specimens recovered
from the Tastings Site. The first photo shows part
and counterpart of a carapace (note lateral eye) of
Hughmilleria socialis and a string of separated body
segments (tergites). Note the concentric rings on
the carapace, the result of compaction of a more
(originally) highly arched prosoma. Small ostracods
are superimposed on a portion of the carapace and
are often clustered on eurypterid integument found
within the Pittsford Member. Countless specimens of
Hughmilleria and other eurypterids are preserved in
the Pittsford Member - however getting to this unit
to retrieve them is difficult.
CIURCA 110806-2
The Tastings Site - Pittsford, New York
The Tastings Site, June 7, 2006. Excavation of the bedrock produced the varicolored pile of rock in this photo. The Pittsford Member of
the lower Vernon Formation, the entire thickness of which was removed, is below the level of the Grove machine. Behind the newly
constructed wall in the background is the retaining wall of the old Erie Canal. The bed of the canal is still preserved and a hiking trail
runs along its length from French Road to Clover Road (NY 65).
Later in the year, this area was converted into another parking lot for the nearby Wegmans -Tastings businesses. The region is popular
with the locals and has attracted tourists to Pittsford. Without construction and excavation at sites like this, we would not see much of the
lower Vernon Formation and the wonderful fossils described by Clifton Sarle in 1903 - there are no natural outcroppings.
LEFT: Eurypterus pittsfordensis
Many carapaces were retrieved and also a
few telsons, but complete or nearly complete
specimens were only rarely encountered.
This eurypterid is similar to the well-known
Eurypterus of the Bertie Group, but one major
difference is the extraordinary length of the
telson in
E. pittsfordensis.
 While this eurypterid occurs throughout the
Pittsford Member, it seems to be found most-
ly in the upper half of the unit.
seems to occur more often in lower layers.

ABOVE: Small horseshoe crab, Pseudoniscus,    
found during this study. While carapaces were     
found, nearly complete individuals were only        
rarely encountered.