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LEISEY SHELL PIT
RUSKIN, FLORIDA


HISTORY OF THE LEISEY
SHELL PIT DISCOVERY

see fossils from Leisey Shell Pit, further down on the page


In the winter of 1980-81, Frank Garcia and friends, Cecil Philmon, John Clark and Don Ward talked with Eric Hunter (who was the manager of the Leisey Shell Pit), about looking for some tricheacus sea cow fossil material. Frank was amazed at the way the shell layers were laid down in the Leisey Shell Pit. Click here to go to FRANK GARCIA's Biography page.

During this first visit Frank found some garfish scales and horse and llama teeth in a yellow limerock layer. He was to return often to this lower Pleistocene (1.5MYA) layer. After a trip to Nebraska to collect fossils, Frank yearned to get back to the Leisey Shell Pit and see what else he could find. Frank returned from Nebraska to Ruskin, Florida, where he lives, late on a Sunday night and spent a restless night thinking about what he was seeing at the Leisey Shell Pit. On Monday morning, and without unloading his Nebraska fossils, Frank drove to Leisey Shell Pit and went in to and talked with Eric Hunter. Eric told him that just one hour before the Drag Line Operator left to go on a 2 week vacation, he had uncovered a pocket of bones. At that Frank jumped in his truck and drove to that pocket of bones. When he arrived, the sky opened up and rain poured down, washing away residue from the bones and other Pleistocene fossil material. Although the lightening struck the pit several times, Frank was in awe as hundreds of Pleistocene bones, teeth and other material became more and more evident as the rain washed away the sand and shell from the bones and other fossil material.

Frank jumped down about 12 feet into the pit excavated by the drag line, as the rain poured down and the lightening crackled around. Frank looked up and about 2/3rds of the way up the excavated wall was a layer of Pleistocene fossil anatomy unlike anything one could imagine. Frank said he thought about pinching himself to make sure he wasn't dreaming, but the lightening reminded him this was for real.

Frank had longed for years, for his place in history, and he now realized he had finally done it. He had discovered a wealth of Pleistocene fossil remains, unlike any other in the World. He wasted no time putting out the word to friends and telling them of his discovery. Shortly thereafter there was an organized dig sponsored by the Tampa Bay Mineral and Science Club with the help of the University of Florida

Therefore, in 1983 this most unusual discovery was made, as a result of Page Youngblood, drag line operator at the Leisey Shell Pit (a/k/a the Caloosa Shell Pit) uncovering this Pleistocene site and Frank Garcia knowing what to look for, finding the layer while it was intact and realizing the great scientific value of this discovery.

On January 4, 1984, there was a press conference held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida. At that time Frank Garcia told of his discovery to Newsweek, CNN, The Atlanta Constitution, The Tamp Tribune, The St. Petersburg Times, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Today Show and many others around the world. An important scientific discovery had been made.

Over 175 volunteers had helped in the excavation, with Rudi Johnson and many other helping to coordinate the flow of volunteers as Frank supervised the actual digging. The Leisey Corporation donated money, labor, equipment and even changed their mining course to allow Frank and the others to collect the fossils. What a wonderful story of cooperation between land owner and rock hounds.

In 1986 Frank and his friend, Page Youngblood, the dragline operator, added another discovery. Page had uncovered a large section of Llama bones on the north side of the Leisey Shell Pit. Again, the Leisey Corporation allowed Frank and the Museum of Natural Science of Gainesville to come and work this new site. When this portion of the dig was completed, Frank and his crew had uncovered the largest collection of llama bones ever discovered anywhere in the World.

Just eight feet below what had been crops of tomatoes and cauliflower in prior years, lay one of the worlds great Paleontology finds. Over one hundred and forty (140) different species of animals had been found with twenty (20) of them, being new to science.

Frank worked for the Smithsonian Institute at one time and is a self-made Paleontologist, without the usual degree, but with more than the usual interest, tenacity, ability, and interest in Paleontology, he has earned a place in history as a Paleontologist.

NOTE: Here are some of the Lower Pleistocene (1.5MYA) fossil material from the Leisey Shell Pit in Ruskin, Hillsborough County, Florida. Those with an ** in front of the item were found by and are owned by Curator, T. W. "Terry" Proctor, J.D.; those with an * in front of the item are owned by the Curator, but were not found by him. Other items are from other collections and shown by permission of the owner. The following fossils are lower Pleistocene (1.5MYA) unless stated otherwise.



**Horse Leg bone
Perissodactyla
Equus fraternus
**Llama Leg bone
Artiodactyla
Hemiauchenia
macrocephala
**Fetal Mammoth Tusk
"a really rare find"
Proboscidea
Mammuthus
**Stallion Tooth
Perissodactyla
Equus fraternus
**Bivalvia Aductor Muscle
"an unusual thing
to fossilize"
**Giant Land Tortoise claw
Testudines
Geochelone crassiscutata
**Conch Shell with a
Turritellidae attached
on large view, the interior
interior is also shown
**Turritellidae
Vermicularia recta
which is attached to
the Conch Shell at left
Leisey Shell Pit
Fossil Shell
Collection #1
Leisey Shell Pit
Fossil Shell
Collection #2
**Southern Quahog (w/quarter)
Veneridae
Mercenaria campechiensis
Lightning Whelk
Melongenidae
Busycon contrarium
Under construction Many more pictures to come Keep checking this page
from time to time
Thank you.