Located near the Leapwood community in northeast McNairy County, Coon Creek is known internationally to geologists and paleontologists for its exceptionally rich Cretaceous fossil beds. Located at the eastern edge of the Coastal Plain of West Tennessee, the area was covered by the sea's Mississippi Embayment in the Late Cretaceous Period (140 million to 68 million years ago) and much of the Tertiary Period (68 million to 2.5 million years ago), leaving sand, clay, silt, and gravel.
The Coon Creek formation is a greenish-gray, glauconic, sandy marl. First described by Bruce Wade in the 1926 U.S. Geological Survey paper The Fauna of the Ripley Formation on Coon Creek, Tennessee, Coon Creek fauna represent over 350 species of animals and one-celled foraminifera. The formation includes the nearly perfectly preserved, delicate shells of invertebrate animals that lived on the sandy sea floor--pelecypods (clams), gastropods (sea snails), cephalopods (similar to the chambered nautilus), and arthropods (crabs). Vertebrate remains of marine fish and reptiles are also found, including sea turtles and lizard-like, flesh-eating monasaurs up to forty feet long.
The Coon Creek locality is owned by the Pink Palace Family of Museums. Access by the public is allowed through special tours, environmental camps, and fossil digs conducted through Memphis's Pink Palace Museum, which employs a manager at the site.
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