Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Food is often restrictive or unvaried and predators are often reduced or all together absent. We see the evolutionary impact in the Giant tortoises of the Aldabra Atoll and Fregate Island in the Seychelles and Galápagos Islands in Ecuador.
They belong to an ancient group of reptiles, appearing about 250 million years ago and evolving to their large size by the Late Cretaceous, 70 or 80 million years ago. And they are big, weighing as much as 417 kg (919 lb) and can grow to be 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) long. The Galapagos giant tortoise is a wee bit smaller, weighing 215 kg (475 lb) with the males generally outweighing the females. They snack on plants and some have a slight curve to the shell behind their heads to allow them to reach up a wee bit higher to reach more food. The females lay their eggs in a pit dug specifically for this purpose. Once the hatchlings have incubated, they dig themselves out. I'm sure you've seen the adorable photos or videos of them hatching then making their way to the sea.
Monday, 10 May 2021
|Collection of José Juárez Ruiz. The specimen is 202 mm.|
Balearites, with their planispiral shell (conch) and compressed whorls, is an extinct ancyloceratin genus ammonite in the family Crioceratitidae, suborder Ancyloceratina.
We find fossils of this genera in Romania, Slovakia, Austria, France, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Bulgaria and Morocco. This specimen is in the collection of José Juárez Ruiz and is roughly 202 mm. If you find this lovely interesting, you'll enjoy reading more on this genus and others in Arkell, W. J. et al., 1957. Mesozoic Ammonoidea, Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology Part L, Mollusca 4. 1957.
Sunday, 9 May 2021
Most of these large beasts had four tusks and likely a trunk similar to modern elephants. They were creatures of legend, inspiring myths and stories of fanciful creatures to the first humans to encounter them.
Beyond our Neanderthal friends, one such fellow was Quintus Sertorius, a Roman statesman come general, who grew up in Umbria. Born into a world at war just two years before the Romans sacked Corinth to bring Greece under Roman rule, Quintus lived much of his life as a military man far from his native Norcia. Around 81 BC, he travelled to Morocco, the land of opium, massive trilobites and the birthplace of Antaeus, the legendary North African ogre who was killed by the Greek hero Heracles.
The locals tell a tale that Quintus requested proof of Antaeus, hard evidence he could bring back to Rome to support their tales so they took him to a mound near Tingis, the ancient name for Tangier, Morocco. It was here they unearthed the bones of an extinct elephantoid, Tetralophodon.
Tetralophodon bones are large and skeletons singularly impressive. Impressive enough to be taken for something else entirely. By all accounts, these proboscidean remains were that of the mythical giant, Antaeus, son of the gods Poseidon and Gaea and were thus reported back to Rome as such. Antaeus went on to marry the goddess Tinge and it is from her, in part, that Tangier in northwestern Morocco gets its name. Together, Antaeus and Tinge had a son, Sophax. He is credited with having the North Africa city take her name. Rome was satisfied with the find. It would be hundreds of years later before the bones true ancestry was known and in that time, many more wonderful ancient proboscideans remains were unearthed..
Saturday, 8 May 2021
It was the colour of this amazing trilobite that captured the eye of David Appleton in whose collection it now resides. He is an avid collector and coming into his own as a macro photographer. I have shared three of his delightful photos for you here.
It initially thought that the gold we see here was added during prep, particularly considering the colouration of the matrix, but macro views of the surface show mineralization and the veins running right through the specimen into the matrix. There is certainly some repairs but that is common in the restoration of these specimens. Many of the trilobites I have seen from Morocco have bronze on black colouring but not usually this pronounced. Even so, there is a tremendous amount of fine anatomy to explore and enjoy in this wonderfully preserved specimen.
Paralejurus is a genus of trilobite in the phylum Arthropoda from the Late Silurian to the Middle Devonian of Africa and Europe. These lovelies grew to be up to nine centimetres, though the fellow you see here is a wee bit over half that size at 5.3 cm.
Their cephalon or head is a domed half circle with a smooth surface. The large facet eyes have very pleasing crescent-shaped lids. You can see this rather well in the first of the photos here. The detail is quite remarkable.
As you move down from his head towards the body, there is an almost inconspicuous occipital bone behind the glabella in the transition to his burnt bronze thorax.
The body or thorax has ten narrow segments with a clearly arched and broad axial lobe or rhachis. The pygidium is broad, smooth and strongly fused in contrast to the genus Scutellum in the family Styginidae, which has a pygidium with very attractive distinct furrows that I liken to the look of icing ridges on something sweet — though that may just be me and my sweet tooth talking. In Paralejurus, they look distinctly fused — or able to fuse — to add posterior protection against predators with both the look and function of Roman armour.
In Paralejurus, the axillary lobe is rounded off and arched upwards. It is here that twelve to fourteen fine furrows extend radially to complete the poetry of his body design.
As a whole, they were amongst some of the most successful of all early animals — thriving and diversifying in our ancient oceans for almost 300 million years. The last of their brethren disappeared at the end of the Permian — 252 million years ago. Now, we enjoy their beauty and the scientific mysteries they reveal about our Earth's ancient history.
Photos and collection of the deeply awesome David Appleton. Specimen: 5.3 cm.
Friday, 7 May 2021
Leanchoilia is a megacheiran arthropod who we first met from Cambrian deposits in the Burgess Shales of Canada where they make up about 0.1% of the fauna of the Greater Phyllopod beds. These distinctive predatory arthropods are about 5 centimetres (2.0 in) in length with whip-like feelers mounted on frontal arm-like appendages. You can see the amazing level of detail in the preservation here. If we are very lucky, we sometimes from their internal organs preserved in three dimensions which adds a whole host of data to explore.
Several species are tentatively accepted today: the type species L. superlata, L. obesa and the recently revalidated and poetically named, L. persephone. Naming is a tricky business when we are dealing with fossilized specimens as ontogeny and sexual dimorphism can confuse the issue. It is not always clear if we are seeing a new species, a juvenile or noting differences between mature males and females.
Specimen: 5.2 cm. Photo and collection of York Yuxi Wang.
"Burgess Shale: Leanchoilia superlata (an arthropod)". Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
Nicholas J. Butterfield (2002). "Leanchoilia guts and the interpretation of three-dimensional structures in Burgess Shale-type fossils". Paleobiology. 28 (1): 155–171. doi:10.1666/0094-8373(2002)028<0155:LGATIO>2.0.CO;2.
Brigitte Schoenemann & Euan N. K. Clarkson (2012). "The eyes of Leanchoilia". Lethaia. 45 (4): 524–531. doi:10.1111/j.1502-3931.2012.00313.x.
Diego C. García-Bellido & Desmond Collins (2007). "Reassessment of the genus Leanchoilia (Arthropoda, Arachnomorpha) from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale, British Columbia, Canada". Palaeontology. 50 (3): 693–709. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2007.00649.x.
Caron, Jean-Bernard; Jackson, Donald A. (October 2006). "Taphonomy of the Greater Phyllopod Bed community, Burgess Shale". PALAIOS. 21 (5): 451–65. doi:10.2110/palo.2003.P05-070R. JSTOR 20173022.
Thursday, 6 May 2021
Many of these once land-dwelling animals returned to the sea throughout evolutionary history. We have beautifully documented cases from amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals from over 30 different lineages over the past 250 million years.
Some dipped a toe or two into freshwater ponds, but make no mistake, they were terrestrial. Each of these animals had ancestors that tried out the sea and decided to stay. They evolved and employed a variety of adaptations to meet their new saltwater challenges. Some adapted legs as fins, others became more streamlined, and still, others developed specialized organs to extract dissolved oxygen from the water through their skin or gills. The permutations are endless.
Returning to the sea comes with a whole host of benefits but some serious challenges as well. Life at sea is very different from life on land. Water is denser than air, impacting how an animal moves, sees and hears. More importantly, it impacts an air-breathing animal's movement on a pretty frequent basis. If you need air and haven't evolved gills, you need to surface frequently. Keeping your body temperature at a homeostatic level is also a challenge as water conducts heat much better than air. Even with all of these challenges, the lure of additional food sources and freedom of movement kept those who tried the sea in the sea and they evolved accordingly.
Most major animal groups appear for the first time in the fossil record half a billion years ago. We call this flourishing of species the Cambrian Explosion. While this was a hugely intense period of species radiation, the evolutionary origins of animals are likely to be significantly older. About 700 million years ago the Earth was covered in ice and snow. This was an ice age so intense we refer to this time in our ancient history as Snowball Earth. Once that ice receded, it exposed rocks that contained a variety of weird and wonderful fossils that speak to ancient animals that are only now being studied.
Dr Frankie Dunn, a palaeontologist and an Early Career Research Fellow at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and Merton College is one of the folks who are examining this early history of some of our first animals. Her research focuses on the origin and early evolution of animals and particularly on the fossil record of the late Ediacaran Period (570 – 540 million years ago). Dr Dunn's research is exploring ancient species like the long-extinct Rangeomorpha to help understand how animal body plans evolved in deep time well before the divergence of the extant (living) animal lineages.
Wednesday, 5 May 2021
So, which lucky ducks evolved one? Well, ducks for one. Warm-blooded birds and mammals cheerfully claim those bragging rights. They're joined by our cold-blooded, ectothermic friends, the fish, amphibians and reptiles. All these diverse lovelies share this characteristic.
And whether they now live at sea or on land, all of these lineages evolved from a marine organism somewhere down the line, then went on to develop a notochord and spinal column. Notochords are flexible rods that run down the length of chordates and vertebrates. They are handy adaptations for muscle attachment, helping with signalling and coordinating the development of the embryonic stage. The cells from the notochord play a key role in the development of the central nervous system and the formation of motor neurons and sensory cells. Alas, we often take our evolution for granted.
Let's take a moment to appreciate just how marvellous this evolutionary gift is and what it allows us to do. Your backbone gives your body structure, holds up that heavy skull of yours and connects your tasty brain to your body and organs. Eating, walking, fishing, hunting, your morning yoga class, are all made possible because of this adaptation. Pick pretty near anything you love to do and it is only possible because of your blessed spine.
And it sets us apart from our invertebrate friends.
While seventy thousand may seem like a large number, it represents less than three to five per cent of all described animal species. The rest is made up of the whopping 97%'ers, our dear invertebrates who include the arthropods (insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and myriapods), molluscs (our dear chitons, snails, bivalves, squid, and octopus), annelids (the often misunderstood earthworms and leeches), and cnidarians (our beautiful hydras, jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals).
You will have noticed that many of our invertebrate friends occur as tasty snacks. Having a backbone provides a supreme advantage to your placement in the food chain. Not always, as you may include fish and game on your menu. But generally, having a backbone means you're more likely to be holding the menu versus being listed as an appetizer. So, enjoy your Sunday 'downward dog' and thank your backbone for the magical gift it is.
Tuesday, 4 May 2021
The Cape lobster, which was formerly in this genus as H. capensis, was moved in 1995 to the new genus Homarinus.
Lobsters have long bodies with muscular tails and live in crevices or burrows on the seafloor. Three of their five pairs of legs have claws, including the first pair, which are usually much larger than the others.
Highly prized as seafood, lobsters are economically important and are often one of the most profitable commodities in coastal areas they populate. Commercially important species include two species of Homarus — which looks more like the stereotypical lobster — from the northern Atlantic Ocean, and scampi — which looks more like a shrimp — the Northern Hemisphere genus Nephrops and the Southern Hemisphere genus Metanephrops. Although several other groups of crustaceans have the word "lobster" in their names, the unqualified term lobster generally refers to the clawed lobsters of the family Nephropidae.
Clawed lobsters are not closely related to spiny lobsters or slipper lobsters, which have no claws or chelae, or to squat lobsters. The closest living relatives of clawed lobsters are the reef lobsters and the three families of freshwater crayfish.
This cutie was found in Cretaceous outcrops at Hâdjoula. The sub‐lithographical limestones of Hâqel and Hâdjoula, in northwest Lebanon, produce beautifully preserved shrimp, fish, and octopus. The localities are about 15 km apart, 45 km away from Beirut and 15 km away from the coastal city of Jbail.
Monday, 3 May 2021
|Argonauticeras besairei, Collection of José Juárez Ruiz.|
Ammonites were predatory, squidlike creatures that lived inside coil-shaped shells.
Like other cephalopods, ammonites had sharp, beak-like jaws inside a ring of squid-like tentacles that extended from their shells. They used these tentacles to snare prey, — plankton, vegetation, fish and crustaceans — similar to the way a squid or octopus hunt today.
Catching a fish with your hands is no easy feat, as I'm sure you know. But the Ammonites were skilled and successful hunters. They caught their prey while swimming and floating in the water column. Within their shells, they had a number of chambers, called septa, filled with gas or fluid that were interconnected by a wee air tube. By pushing air in or out, they were able to control their buoyancy in the water column.
They lived in the last chamber of their shells, continuously building new shell material as they grew. As each new chamber was added, the squid-like body of the ammonite would move down to occupy the final outside chamber.
The Ammonoidea can be divided into six orders:
- Agoniatitida, Lower Devonian - Middle Devonian
- Clymeniida, Upper Devonian
- Goniatitida, Middle Devonian - Upper Permian
- Prolecanitida, Upper Devonian - Upper Triassic
- Ceratitida, Upper Permian - Upper Triassic
- Ammonitida, Lower Jurassic - Upper Cretaceous
If they are ceratitic with lobes that have subdivided tips; giving them a saw-toothed appearance and rounded undivided saddles, they are likely Triassic. For some lovely Triassic ammonites, take a look at the specimens that come out of Hallstatt, Austria and from the outcrops in the Humboldt Mountains of Nevada.
|Hoplites bennettiana (Sowby, 1826).|
One of my favourite Cretaceous ammonites is the ammonite, Hoplites bennettiana (Sowby, 1826). This beauty is from Albian deposits near Carrière de Courcelles, Villemoyenne, near la région de Troyes (Aube) Champagne in northeastern France.
At the time that this fellow was swimming in our oceans, ankylosaurs were strolling about Mongolia and stomping through the foliage in Utah, Kansas and Texas. Bony fish were swimming over what would become the strata making up Canada, the Czech Republic and Australia. Cartilaginous fish were prowling the western interior seaway of North America and a strange extinct herbivorous mammal, Eobaatar, was snuffling through Mongolia, Spain and England.
In some classifications, these are left as suborders, included in only three orders: Goniatitida, Ceratitida, and Ammonitida. Once you get to know them, ammonites in their various shapes and suturing patterns make it much easier to date an ammonite and the rock formation where is was found at a glance.
They were prolific breeders that evolved rapidly. If you could cast a fishing line into our ancient seas, it is likely that you would hook an ammonite, not a fish. They were prolific back in the day, living (and sometimes dying) in schools in oceans around the globe. We find ammonite fossils (and plenty of them) in sedimentary rock from all over the world.
In some cases, we find rock beds where we can see evidence of a new species that evolved, lived and died out in such a short time span that we can walk through time, following the course of evolution using ammonites as a window into the past.
For this reason, they make excellent index fossils. An index fossil is a species that allows us to link a particular rock formation, layered in time with a particular species or genus found there. Generally, deeper is older, so we use the sedimentary layers rock to match up to specific geologic time periods, rather the way we use tree-rings to date trees. A handy way to compare fossils and date strata across the globe.
Photo: Hoplites Bennettiana from near Troyes, France. Collection de Christophe Marot
Saturday, 1 May 2021
Geologically, the Caucasus Mountains belong to a system that extends from southeastern Europe into Asia and is considered a border between them. The Greater Caucasus Mountains are mainly composed of Cretaceous and Jurassic rocks with the Paleozoic and Precambrian rocks in the higher regions.
Some volcanic formations are found throughout the range. On the other hand, the Lesser Caucasus Mountains are formed predominantly of the Paleogene rocks with a much smaller portion of the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks.
The evolution of the Caucasus began from the Late Triassic to the Late Jurassic during the Cimmerian orogeny at the active margin of the Tethys Ocean while the uplift of the Greater Caucasus is dated to the Miocene during the Alpine orogeny.
The Caucasus Mountains formed largely as the result of a tectonic plate collision between the Arabian plate moving northwards with respect to the Eurasian plate. As the Tethys Sea was closed and the Arabian Plate collided with the Iranian Plate and was pushed against it and with the clockwise movement of the Eurasian Plate towards the Iranian Plate and their final collision, the Iranian Plate was pressed against the Eurasian Plate.
As this happened, the rocks that had been deposited in this basin from the Jurassic to the Miocene were folded to form the Greater Caucasus Mountains. This collision also caused the uplift and the Cenozoic volcanic activity in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains.
The preservation of this Russian specimen is outstanding. Acanthohoplites bigoureti are also found in Madagascar, Mozambique, in the Rhone-Alps of France and the Western High Atlas Mountains and near Marrakech in Morocco. This specimen measures 55mm and is in the collection of the deeply awesome Emil Black.
Friday, 30 April 2021
Anahoplites is now included in the subfamily Anahoplitinae and separated from the Hoplitinae where it was placed in the older in the 1957 edition of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Part L (Ammonoidea). Genera of the Hoplitinae tend to be more robust, with broader whorls and stronger ribs.
Anahoplites is found in Cretaceous (Middle to the Late Albian) deposits from England, through Europe, all the way to the Transcaspian Oblast region in Russia to the east of the Caspian Sea. The Aube department, named after the local river, is the type locality of the Albian stage (d'ORBIGNY, 1842).
|A. planus from the French Coast|
This involute (113 mm) specimen shows evidence of cohabitation by some of his marine peers. We see two different bryozoa, an oyster and some serpulids making a living and leaving trace fossils on her flat sides. The top specimen was prepared with potase by José Juárez Ruiz of Spain.
The lovely Anahoplites planus you see here to the lower right was found by Bertus op den Dries on the French coast in Albian deposits near Wissant, P5 and measures in at 8 cm. This on edge view gives you a very good sense of the keel.
Wednesday, 28 April 2021
This cutie is in the family Palaeoctopodidae, and one of the earliest representatives of the order Octopoda. These ancient marine beauties are in the class Cephalopoda making them relatives of our modern octopus, squid and cuttlefish.
There are two species of Keuppia, Keuppia hyperbolaris and Keuppia levante, both of which we find as fossils. We find their remains, along with those of the genus Styletoctopus, in Cretaceous-age Hâqel and Hjoula localities in Lebanon. For many years, Palaeoctopus newboldi (Woodward, 1896) from the Santonian limestones at Sâhel Aalma, Lebanon, was the only known pre‐Cenozoic coleoid cephalopod believed to have an unambiguous stem‐lineage representative of Octobrachia fioroni.
With the unearthing of some extraordinary specimens with exquisite soft‐part preservation in the Lebanon limestones, our understanding of ancient octopus morphology has blossomed. The specimens are from the sub‐lithographical limestones of Hâqel and Hâdjoula, in northwestern Lebanon. These localities are about 15 km apart, 45 km away from Beirut and 15 km away from the coastal city of Jbail. Fuchs et al. put a nice little map in their 2009 paper that I've included and referenced here.
Palaeoctopus newboldi had a spherical mantle sac, a head‐mantle fusion, eight equal arms armed with suckers, an ink sac, a medially isolated shell vestige, and a pair of (sub‐) terminal fins. The bipartite shell vestige suggests that Palaeoctopus belongs to the octopod stem‐lineage, as the sister taxon of the Octopoda, the Cirroctopoda, is characterized by an unpaired clasp‐like shell vestige (Engeser 1988; Haas 2002; Bizikov 2004).
Again from the Santonian–Campanian of Canada and Japan, Tanabe et al. (2008) reported on at least four different jaw morphotypes. Two of them — Paleocirroteuthis haggarti (Tanabe et al., 2008) and Paleocirroteuthis Pacifica (Tanabe et al ., 2008) — have been interpreted as being of cirroctopod type, one of octopod type, and one of uncertain octobrachiate type.
Interestingly Fuchs et al. have gone on to describe the second species of Palaeoctopus, the Turonian Palaeoctopus pelagicus from limestones at Vallecillo, Mexico. While more of this fauna will likely be recovered in time, their work is based solely on a medially isolated shell vestige.
Five new specimens have been found in the well-known Upper Cenomanian limestones at Hâqel and Hâdjoula in Lebanon that can be reliably placed within the Octopoda. Fuchs et al. described these exceptionally well‐preserved specimens and discuss their morphology in the context of phylogeny and evolution in their 2008 paper (2009 publishing) in the Palaeontology Association Journal, Volume 51, Issue 1.
The presence of a gladius vestige in this genus shows a transition from squid to octopus in which the inner shell has divided into two parts in early forms to eventually be reduced to lateralized stylets, as can be seen in Styletoctopus.
The adorable fellow you see here with his remarkable soft-bodied preservation and inks sack and beak clearly visible is Keuppia levante. He hails from Late Cretaceous (Upper Cenomanian) limestone deposits near Hâdjoula, northwestern Lebanon. The vampyropod coleoid, Glyphiteuthis abisaadiorum n. sp. is also found at this locality. This specimen is about 5 cm long.
Fuchs, D.; Bracchi, G.; Weis, R. (2009). "New octopods (Cephalopoda: Coleoidea) from the Late Cretaceous (Upper Cenomanian) of Hâkel and Hâdjoula, Lebanon". Palaeontology. 52: 65–81. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2008.00828.x.
Photo one: Fossil Huntress. Figure Two: Topographic map of north‐western Lebanon with the outcrop area in the upper right-hand corner. Fuchs et al, 2009.
Monday, 26 April 2021
This town and its adjacent community Montceau-les-Mines possess containing abundant Carboniferous fossils. These fossils are believed to have been from the Stephanian B stage of the Late Carboniferous, approximately 305 to 304 million years ago.
Sauravus cambrayi is known from Les Télots, a mine near Autun, Saône-et-Loire, France.
Télots is the type locality of the Autunian stage, a period of time which is believed to correspond to part of the early Permian period. The geological formation to which Télots fossils belong is known as the Millery Formation.
The specific part of the Permian to which this formation belongs to was unclear for many years. In 2014, Schneider et al. suggested that the Millery Formation dated to the middle Artinskian age, about 290 to 286 million years ago.
Sauravus spinosus is a rename of Scincosaurus spinosus, a Montceau-les-Mines scincosaurid described by C. Civet in 1982. Although that author considered the species to belong to Scincosaurus, in 1994 Jean-Michel Dutuit and D. Heyler believed considered it a species of Sauravus.
Sunday, 25 April 2021
|Chariocrinus andrae, Collection: David Appleton|
Saturday, 24 April 2021
His find resulted in the creation of a new family, Delgadocrinoinidae, a new genus and a new species.
Ausich et al. published on New and Revised Occurrences of Ordovician Crinoids from Southwestern Europe in the Journal of Paleontology, November 2007. In their work, they honour Delgado. His find was the first record of an Ordovician crinoid from Portugal, Delgadocrinus oportovinum, marking it as the oldest known crinoid from the Iberian Peninsula, Arenigian/Oretanian boundary, early Darriwilian.
The team took a comprehensive look at the Ordovician crinoids of southwestern Europe, including taxa based on articulated crowns and stems. This summary incorporates new material, new localities, and a revision of some southwestern Europe occurrences and is well worth a read. The Type Specimen you see here is now housed in the Natural History Museum of Lisbon. Luis Lima shared a photo of his recent visit to their beautiful collections and kindly granted permission to share the photo.
Reference: Ausich, William & Sá, Artur & Gutiérrez-Marco, Juan. (2007). New and revised occurrences of Ordovician crinoids from southwestern Europe. Journal of Paleontology - J PALEONTOL. 81. 1374-1383. 10.1666/05-038.1.
Friday, 23 April 2021
|Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park|
The area is also known worldwide as one of the most important ichthyosaur Fossil-Lagerstätte because of the sheer volume of remarkably well-preserved, fully articulated specimens of Shonisaurus popularis.
Rich ammonoid faunas outcrop in the Upper Triassic (Early Norian, Kerri zone), Luning Formation, West Union Canyon, Nevada. They were studied by N. J. Silberling (1959) and provide support for the definition of the Schucherti and Macrolobatus zones of the latest Carnian — which are here overlain by well-preserved faunas of the earliest Norian Kerri Zone.
The genus Gonionotites, very common in the Tethys and British Columbia, is for the moment, unknown in Nevada. The Upper Carnian faunas are dominated by Tropitidae, while Juvavitidae are conspicuously lacking.
|Middle Triassic Ammonoids|
October is an ideal time to do fieldwork in this area. There are a few good weeks between screaming hot and frigid cold. It is also tarantula breeding season so keep your eyes peeled. Those sweet little burrows you see are not from rodents but rather largish arachnids.The eastern side of the canyon provides the best record of the Macrolobatus Zone, which is represented by several beds yielding ammonoids of the Tropites group, together with Anatropites div. sp.
Conodont faunas from both these and higher beds are dominated by ornate metapolygnthids that would formerly have been collectively referred to Metapolygnathus primitius, a species long known to straddle the CNB. Within this lower part of the section, they resemble forms that have been separated as Metapolygnathus mersinensis. Slightly higher, forms close to Epigondolella' orchardi and a single Orchardella n. sp. occur. This association can be correlated with the latest Carnian in British Columbia.
Higher in the section, the ammonoid fauna shows a sudden change and is dominated by Tropithisbites. Few tens of metres above, but slightly below the first occurrence of Norian ammonoids Guembelites jandianus and Stikinoceras, two new species of conodonts (Gen et sp. nov. A and B) appear that also occur close to the favoured Carnian/Norian boundary at Black Bear Ridge, British Columbia. Stratigraphically higher collections continue to be dominated by forms close to M. mersinensis and E. orchardi after BC's own Mike Orchard.
The best exposure of the Kerri Zone is on the western side of the West Union Canyon. Ammonoids, dominated by Guembelites and Stikinoceras div. sp., have been collected from several fossil-bearing levels. Conodont faunas replicate those of the east section. The collected ammonoids fit perfectly well with the faunas described by Silberling in 1959, but they differ somewhat from coeval faunas of the Tethys and Canada.
The ammonoid fauna paints a compelling picture of Tethyan inﬂuence with a series of smoking guns. We see an abundance of Tropitidae in the Carnian, a lack of Pterosirenites in the Norian, copious Guembelites, the Tethyan species G. philostrati, the stratigraphic position of G. clavatus and the rare occurrence of Gonionotites. Their hallelujah moment was likely finding an undescribed species of the thin-shelled bivalve Halobia similar to Halobia beyrichi — the clincher that perhaps seals this deal on Tethyan inﬂuence.
I'll take a boo to see what Christopher McRoberts published on the find. A jolly good idea to have him on this expedition as it would have been easy to overlook if the focus remained solely on the conodonts and ammonoids. McRoberts has published on the much-studied Pardonet Formation up in the Willison Lake Area of Northeastern, British Columbia. He knows a thing or two about Upper Triassic Bivalvia and the correlation to coeval faunas elsewhere in the North American Cordillera, and to the Boreal, Panthalassan and Tethyan faunal realms.
If you fancy a read, they published a paper: "Towards the definition of the Carnian/Norian Boundary: New data on Ammonoids and Conodonts from central Nevada," which you can find in the proceedings of the 21st Canadian Paleontology Conference; by Haggart, J W (ed.); Smith, P L (ed.); Canadian Paleontology Conference Proceedings no. 9, 2011 p. 9-10.
|Fig. 1. Location map of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park|
Marco Balini, James Jenks, Riccardo Martin, Christopher McRoberts, along with Mike Orchard and Norman Siberling, did a bed by bed sampling in 2013 and published on The Carnian/Norian boundary succession at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park (Upper Triassic, central Nevada, USA) and published in January 2014 in Paläontologische Zeitschrift 89:399–433. That work is available for download from ResearchGate. The original is in German, but there is a translation available.
After years of reading about the correlation between British Columbia and Nevada, I had the very great pleasure of walking through these same sections in October 2019 with members of the Vancouver Paleontological Society and Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society. It was with that same crew that I'd originally explored fossil sites in the Canadian Rockies in the early 2000s. Those early trips led to paper after paper and the exciting revelations that inspired our Nevada adventure.
If you plan your own adventure, you'll want to keep an eye out for some of the other modern fauna — mountain lions, snakes, lizards, scorpions, wolves, coyotes, foxes, ground squirrels, rabbits, falcons, hawks, eagles, bobcats, sheep, deer and pronghorns.
Figure One: Location map of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. A detailed road log with access information for this locality is provided in Lucas et al. (2007).
|European Green Shore Crab / Carcinus maenas|
They make a living off the seafloor, dining on worms, molluscs, small crustaceans and any number of bits and pieces that fall their way.
Shore Crabs are euryhaline, meaning they can tolerate a wide range of salinities (4 to 52 %), and survive in temperatures of zero to 30 °C (32 to 86 °F).
This adaptability gives them a very wide range and competitive edge. This fellow is from the chilly waters of central Norway. The ability to eat pretty near anything and survive in extremely cold climates means he'll do quite well beneath the ice this winter.
Thursday, 22 April 2021
This area of the world boasts one of the richest deposits of Triassic ammonite units — more than five hundred magnificent ammonite species are found here along with a diversified selection of cephalopod fauna — orthoceratids, nautiloids, ammonoids — we also see gastropods, bivalves (including lovely halobiids), brachiopods, crinoids and a few corals. For microfauna, we see conodonts, foraminifera, sponge spicules, radiolaria, floating crinoids and holothurian sclerites — polyp-like, soft-bodied "wormy" invertebrate echinozoans. On the left, you can see two specimens of Jovites bosniensis MOJS. The ammonoid in the middle of the plate is Juvavites sp. The right side of the block shows two Hypocladiscites subtornatus MOJS.
The larger specimen (15cm) is a phragmocone. Within its badly crushed body chamber (removed during prep) there are two washed in specimens of Disotropites plinii (MOJS.) You can see them visible in the side view on the top right. The Disotropites plinii subzone is the lower ammonoid subzone of the Tuvalian III.
In the North American literature (after Tim Tozer) the Tuvalian is split into three Zones; starting with the Dilleri Zone, then the Welleri Zone and finally the Macrolobatus Zone on the very top.
The Dilleri zone is characterized by the rise of the genus Tropites sp. together with later members of the genus Neoprotrachyceras sp.
In the Welleri zone, Neoprotrachyceras sp. disappears and Tropites becomes a very common faunal element. The Macrolobatus zone is named after Klamathites macrolobatus, an endemic ammonite of the North American strata. Other genera of this zone are comparable to the time frame of the latest Tuvalian and the earliest Norian of the Alps. In the Hallstatt (Tethys) realm the following Division is made:
Dilleri Zone= Tuvalian I (literature gives little evidence for this zone). Subbullatus Zone = Tuvalian II — corresponding in most parts to the North American Welleri Zone. These are followed by the Anatropites Zone or Tuvalian III — corresponding in part to the North American Macrolobatus Zone.
In the Alps, the strata are divided between Tuvalian II and Tuvalian III. It is up for debate if all three North American zones can be included in these two alpine zones. It has been postulated by Spatzenegger that there is little evidence for a time gap in the lower Tuvalian of the Alpine strata.
Discotropites sandlingense is in the North America zone — a clear Dilleri faunal element. In the Alps, it is ranged into Tuvalian II (Welleri Zone). The same is true for the genus Traskites sp. — corresponding to alpine Sandlingites sp. Some ammonites of the upper part of the Macrolobatus zone are also placed within the alpine Norian stage. The correlation between the North American and Alpine zones is problematic and matching up the Tuvalian fauna is a tricky business.
|Sirenites sp., Upper Triassic, Lower Carnian Julian Zone|
In some strata, Trachysagenites sp. Sagenites inermis, Sandlingites sp. occur frequently together, with scarce Tropites sp. and Sirenites sp. and (very rarely) Neoprotrachyceras cf. thyrae.
The transition from Tuvalian to the Norian is confirmed only in one location in the Hallstatt limestone. Clustered onto blocks, the ammonoids show us the faunal mix and allow us to place them in time. The bedded profile of Tuvalian fauna (which is overlain by a Norian fauna) hails from the Feuerkogel near Hallstatt. Here we also find the lower transition of Julian to Tuvalian. Not far from this site are limestone outcrops that show the transition between the Carnian and Norian. Here the latest Tuvalian and lowermost Norian are confirmed only by the microfossil fauna.
The Hallstatt Limestone is the world's richest Triassic ammonite unit, yielding specimens of more than 500 ammonite species. Along with diversified cephalopod fauna — orthoceratids, nautiloids, ammonoids — we also see gastropods, bivalves (esp. halobiids), brachiopods, crinoids and a few corals.
Along with an amazing assortment of macrofossils, we see microfauna that are incredibly helpful in teasing out the geologic history of the area. Fossil conodonts, foraminifera, sponge spicules, radiolaria, floating crinoids and the bizarre holothurian sclerites — polyp-like, soft-bodied invertebrate echinozoans often referred to as sea cucumbers because of their similarities in size, elongate shape, and tough skin over a soft interior — can be found here.
|Eduard Suess, Gondwana / Tethys Sea|
That work was instrumental in Suess being the first person to recognize the supercontinent of Gondwana (proposed in 1861) and the existence of the Tethys Sea, which he named in 1893 after the sister of Oceanus, the Greek god of the ocean.
Suess Land in Greenland, as well as the lunar crater Suess and Suess crater on Mars, are named after him.
The Hallstatt-Meliata Ocean was one such back-arc basin. As it continued to expand and deepen during the Triassic, evaporation ceased and reefs flourished; thick limestone deposits accumulated atop the salt. When the Hallstatt-Meliata Ocean closed in the Late Jurassic, the compression squeezed the low-density salt into a diapir that rose buoyantly, injecting itself into the Triassic limestones above.
This area has a rich and interesting geological and human history. I'm sure more studies will be done on the fossil marine fauna to untangle and standardize the Carnian subdivisions. For now, we'll muddle along with regional stratigraphies employing a two-substage subdivision, the Julian and Tuvalian. Others will continue to employ a three-substage organization of the stage: Cordevolian, Julian and Tuvalian.
The genus Hypocladiscites ranges from the base Carnian to the lower Norian stage of the Upper Triassic. Photos and collection of the deeply awesome Andreas Spatzenegger of Salzburg, Austria.
Superfamilia: Arcestaceae MOJSISOVICS, 1875; Familia: Cladiscitidae ZITTEL, 1884; Subfamilia: Cladiscites GAMSJÄGER, 1982; Genus: Hypocladiscites MOJSISOVICS, 1896
Photo: A spectacular example of Sirenites sp., Upper Triassic, Lower Carnian, Julian Zone of Trachyceras aonoides. From Hallstatt Limestone of Austria. This specimen is about 5cm. Photo and collection of the deeply awesome Andreas Spatzenegger.
Photo: Eduard Suess (1831–1914), lithograph by Josef Kriehuber (1800–1876) c. 1869 by Josef Kriehuber - File:Eduard Sueß.jpg (cropped), Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31526345
Wednesday, 21 April 2021
|Epigymnites arthaberi (MOJS.) and Epigymnites moelleri (MOJS.) Photo: Andreas|
Tuesday, 20 April 2021
|Hallstatt Salt Mines, Austria / Permian Salt Diapir|
Along with diversified cephalopod fauna — orthoceratids, nautiloids, ammonoids — we also see gastropods, bivalves, especially the late Triassic pteriid bivalve Halobia (the halobiids), brachiopods, crinoids and a few corals. We also see a lovely selection of microfauna represented.
Parts of the massif also lie in the state of Salzburg, leading to the mountain being referred to as the Drei-Länder-Berg or three-state mountain. Seen from the north, the Dachstein massif is dominated by the glaciers with the rocky summits rising beyond them. By contrast, to the south, the mountain drops almost vertically to the valley floor. The karst limestones and dolomites were deposited in our Mesozoic seas. The geology of the Dachstein massif is dominated by the Dachstein-Kalk Formation — the Dachstein limestone — which dates back to the Triassic.
|Hallstatt and the Hallstatt Sea, Austria|
The Hallstatt mine exploits a Permian salt diapir that makes up some of this area’s oldest rock.
The Hallstatt-Meliata Ocean was one such back-arc basin. As it continued to expand and deepen during the Triassic, evaporation ceased and reefs flourished; thick limestone deposits accumulated atop the salt. When the Hallstatt-Meliata Ocean closed in the Late Jurassic, the compression squeezed the low-density salt into a diapir that rose buoyantly, injecting itself into the Triassic limestones above.
The Hallstatt salt diapir and its overlying limestone cap came to rest in their present position in the northern Austrian Alps when they were shoved northward as nappes (thrust sheets) during two separate collision events, one in the Cretaceous and one in the Eocene, that created the modern Alps. It is from the Hallstatt salt diapir that Hallstatt, like so many cities and towns, gets its name.
Deposits of rock salt or halite, the mineral name of sodium chloride with the chemical formula of NaCl, are found and mined around the globe. These deposits mark the dried remains of ancient oceans and seas. Names of rivers, towns and cities in Europe — Salzburg, Halle, Hallstatt, Hallein, La Salle, Moselle — all pay homage to their connection to halite and salt production. The Greek word for salt is hals and the Latin is sal. The Turkish name for salt is Tuz, which we see in the naming of Tuzla, a salt-producing region of northeastern Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the names of towns that dot the coast of Turkey where it meets the Black Sea. Hallstatt with its salt diapir is no exception.
Space is at a minimum in the town. For centuries, every ten years the local cemetery exhumes the bones of those buried there and moves them to an ossuary to make room for new burials. The Hallstatt Ossuary is called Karner, Charnel House, or simply Beinhaus (Bone House). Karners are places of secondary burials. They were once common in the Eastern Alps, but that custom has largely disappeared.
|Hallstatt Beinhaus Ossuary, Hallstatt, Austria|
Each is inscribed and attached to a record with the deceased's name, profession and date of death. The Bone House is located in a chapel in the basement of the Church of Saint Michael. The church dates from the 12th century CE.
The region is habitat to a variety of diverse flora and fauna, including many rare species such as native orchids, in the wetlands and moors in the south and north.
Linked by road to the cities of Salzburg and Graz, Hallstatt and its lake were declared one of the World Heritage sites in Austria in 1997 and included in the Hallstatt-Dachstein Salzkammergut Alpine UNESCO World Heritage Site. The little market village of Hallstatt takes its name from the local salt mine.
|Hallstatt, Salzkammergut region, Austria|
Above the town are the Hallstatt Salt mines located within the 1,030-meter-tall Salzburg Salt Mountain. They are accessible by cable car or a three-minute journey aboard the funicular railway. There is also a wonderful Subterranean Salt Lake.
In 1734, there was a corpse found here preserved in salt. The fellow became known as the Man in Salt. Though no archaeological analysis was performed at the time — the mummy was respectfully reburied in the Hallstatt cemetery — based on descriptions in the mine records, archaeologists suspect the miner lived during the Iron Age. This Old Father, Senos ph₂tḗr, 'ɸatīr 'father' may have been a local farmer, metal-worker, or both and chatted with his friends and family in Celtic or Proto-Celtic.
Salt mining in the area dates back to the Neolithic period, from the 8th to 5th Centuries BC. This is around the time that Roman legions were withdrawing from Britain and the Goths sacked Rome. In Austria, agricultural settlements were dotting the landscape and the alpine regions were being explored and settled for their easy access to valuable salt, chert and other raw materials.
The salt-rich mountains of Salzkammergut and the upland valley above Hallstatt were attractive for this reason. The area was once home to the Hallstatt culture, an archaeological group linked to Proto-Celtic and early Celtic people of the Early Iron Age in Europe, c.800–450 BC.
|Bronze Age vessel with cow and calf|
In the 19th century, a burial site was discovered with 2,000 individuals, many of them buried with Bronze Age artefacts of amber and ivory.
It was this find that helped lend the name Hallstatt to this epoch of human history. The Late Iron Age, between around 800 and 400 BC, became known as the Hallstatt Period.
For its rich history, natural beauty and breathtaking mountainous geology, Hallstatt is a truly irresistible corner of the world.
Salzbergstraße 1, 4830 Hallstatt. https://www.salzwelten.at/en/home/
Photo: Bronze vessel with cow and calf, Hallstatt by Alice Schumacher - Naturhistorisches Museum Wien - A. Kern – K. Kowarik – A. W. Rausch – H. Reschreiter, Salz-Reich. 7000 Jahre Hallstatt, VPA 2 (Wien, 2008) Seite 133 Abbildung 6. Hallstatt Village & Ossuary Photos: P. McClure Photography ca. 2015.
Bernoulli D, Jenkyns HC (1974) Alpine, Mediterranean, and Central Atlantic Mesozoic facies in relation to the early evolution of the Tethys. Soc Econ Paleont Mineral Spec Publ 19:129–160
Bernoulli D, Jenkyns H (2009) Ancient oceans and continental margins of the Alpine-Mediterranean Tethys: deciphering clues from Mesozoic pelagic sediments and ophiolites. Sedimentology 56:149–190
Sunday, 18 April 2021
This specimen is 70 mm at the widest part of the ammonite and is the smaller male form of this species.
Ryazan Oblast borders Vladimir Oblast (N), Nizhny Novgorod Oblast (NE), the Republic of Mordovia (E), Penza Oblast (SE), Tambov Oblast (S), Lipetsk Oblast (SW), Tula Oblast (W), and Moscow Oblast (NW).
Ryazan Oblast lies in the central part of the Russian Plain between the Central Russian and Volga uplands. The terrain is flat — with the highest point being no more than 300 m above sea level. The soils here are podzolic and boggy on the banks of the Oka. further to the south, they become more fertile with podzolic and leached black earth. This specimen is in the collection of the deeply awesome Emil Black.
Saturday, 17 April 2021
Eight biohorizons, four of which were previously distinguished in Central Poland and four new ones have been identified as — contradictionis, pommerania, kuteki, and pilicensis, — were identified in the Dorsoplanites panderi zone of the Upper Jurassic Middle Volgian Substage of the European part of Russia on the basis of the succession of ammonites of the Zaraiskites genus. If that sounds like Greek to you, no worries. Just know that they are actively being studied and those geeking out on the finds are happy as clams.
The peculiarities of variations of the ammonite complexes in space and time testify to the stepwise warming during the Panderi Chron and the occurrence of the significant latitudinal temperature gradient in the Middle Russian Sea. Collection & photo of the awesome Emil Black.
Thursday, 15 April 2021
Crabs build their shells from highly mineralized chitin — and chitin gets around. It is the main structural component of the exoskeletons of many of our crustacean and insect friends. Shrimp, crab, and lobster all use it to build their exoskeletons.
Chitin is a polysaccharide — a large molecule made of many smaller monosaccharides or simple sugars, like glucose. It's handy stuff, forming crystalline nanofibrils or whiskers. Chitin is actually the second most abundant polysaccharide after cellulose. It is interesting as we usually think of these molecules in the context of their sugary context but they build many other very useful things in nature — not the least of these are the hard shells or exoskeletons of our crustacean friends.
Wednesday, 14 April 2021
The evolution of their exoskeleton is well-documented by fossils, but appendage and soft-tissue preservation are extremely rare. A new study analyzes details of the appendage and soft-tissue preservation in Yunnanolimulus luoingensis, a Middle Triassic (ca. 244 million years old) horseshoe crab from Yunnan Province, SW China. The remarkable anatomical preservation includes the chelicerae, five pairs of walking appendages, opisthosomal appendages with book gills, muscles, and fine setae permits comparison with extant horseshoe crabs.
The close anatomical similarity between the Middle Triassic horseshoe crabs and their recent analogues documents anatomical conservatism for over 240 million years, suggesting persistence of lifestyle.
The occurrence of Carcinoscorpius-type claspers on the first and second walking legs in male individuals of Y. luoingensis indicates that simple chelate claspers in males are plesiomorphic for horseshoe crabs, and the bulbous claspers in Tachypleus and Limulus are derived.
As an aside, if you hadn't seen an elephant shark before and were shown a photo, you'd likely say, "that's no freaking shark." You would be wrong, of course, but it would be a very clever observation. Callorhinchus milii look nothing like our Great White friends and they are not true sharks at all. Rather, they are ghost sharks that belong to the subclass Holocephali (chimaera), a group lovingly known as ratfish. They diverged from the shark lineage about 400 million years ago.
If you have a moment, do a search for Callorhinchus milii. The odd-looking fellow with the ironic name, kallos, which means beautiful in Greek, sports black blotches on a pale silver elongate body. And their special feature? It is the fishy equivalent of business in the front, party in the back, with a dangling trunk-like projection at the tip of their snout and well-developed rectal glands near the tail.
Ref: Hu, Shixue & Zhang, Qiyue & Feldmann, Rodney & Benton, Michael & Schweitzer, Carrie & Huang, Jinyuan & Wen, Wen & Zhou, Changyong & Xie, Tao & Lü, Tao & Hong, Shuigen. (2017). Exceptional appendage and soft-tissue preservation in a Middle Triassic horseshoe crab from SW China. Scientific Reports. 7. 10.1038/s41598-017-13319-x.