Monday, 31 December 2018

JELLYFISH: GAGISAMA

These festive lovelies are jellyfish. Jellyfish are found all over the world, from surface waters to our deepest seas — and they are old. They are some of the oldest animals in the fossil record.

Sea jellies and jellyfish are the common names for the medusa-phase or adult phase of certain gelatinous members of the subphylum Medusozoa, a major part of the phylum Cnidaria — more closely related to anemones and corals.

Jellyfish are not fish at all. Jellyfish evolved millions of years before true fish. 

The oldest conulariid scyphozoans — picture an ice-cream cone with fourfold symmetry — appeared between 635 and 577 million years ago in the Neoproterozoic of the Lantian Formation a 150-meter-thick sequence of rocks deposited in southern China. 

Others are found in the youngest Ediacaran rocks of the Tamengo Formation of Brazil, c. 505 mya, through to the Triassic. Cubozoans and hydrozoans appeared in the Cambrian of the Marjum Formation in Utah, USA, c. 540 mya. Like other soft-bodied organisms, ctenophores (comb jellies), sea jellies and jellyfish only produce fossils only under exceptional taphonomic conditions — think rare.

I have seen all sorts of their brethren growing up on the west coast of Canada. I have seen them in tide pools, washed up on the beach and swam amongst thousands of Moon Jellyfish while scuba diving in the Salish Sea. Their movement in the water is marvellous.  

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, jellyfish are known as ǥaǥisama.

The watercolour ǥaǥisama you see here is a bit of fancy. While I chose blue, purple and pink for these lovelies, they also come in bright yellow, orange and relatively clear — and are often luminescent.

Jellyfish such as comb jellies produce bright flashes to startle a predator, others such as siphonophores can produce a chain of light or release thousands of glowing particles into the water as a mimic of small plankton to confuse the predator.

For most jellyfish bioluminescence is used for defence against predators — and about half of all jellyfish are bioluminescent. Some produce a glowing sticky slime that clings to predators making them vulnerable to other predators. Some jellyfish can release their tentacles as glowing decoys. So you see that there are many strategies for using bioluminescence by jellyfish.

All bioluminescence comes from energy released from a chemical reaction. This is very different from other sources of light, such as from the sun or a light bulb, where the energy comes from heat. In a luminescent reaction, two types of chemicals, called luciferin and luciferase, combine together. The luciferase acts as an enzyme, allowing the luciferin to release energy as it is oxidized. The colour of the light depends on the chemical structures of the chemicals. 

There are more than a dozen known chemical luminescent systems, indicating that bioluminescence evolved independently in different groups of organisms. One type of luciferin is called coelenterazine, found in jellyfish, shrimp, and fish. Dinoflagellates and krill share another class of unique luciferins, while ostracods (firefleas) and some fish have a completely different luciferin. The occurrence of identical luciferins for different types of organisms suggests a dietary source for some groups. Organisms such as bacteria and fireflies have unique luminescent chemistries. In many other groups, the chemistry is still unknown

Some of the most amazing deep-sea jellyfish are the comb jellies, which can get as large as a basketball, and are in some cases so fragile that they are almost impossible to collect intact.

Also spectacular are the siphonophores, some of which can reach several meters in length. Siphonophores deploy many tentacles like a gill net casting for small fish.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

CALYCOCERAS TARRANTENSE

Previously Calycoceras Tarrantense, this ammonite is now called Conlinoceras tarrantense after J.P. Conlin, a famous early 20th century Texas fossil collector.

Ammonite expert Bill Cobban used this collection to describe many Texas Cretaceous ammonites species including this species from Tarrant County, Arlington, Texas.

He was a surveyor by training and kept incredibly detailed notes on the context of his fossils.

Conlin donated his collection to the USGS and we’ve learned much by studying it along with other specimens from the Lone Star State. Almost a quarter of Texas is covered by Cretaceous strata, much of it fossiliferous. If we stepped back 95 million years, the world and what we now call Texas, was a very different place.

95 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous, a shallow seaway separated North America into separate eastern and western landmasses. We have a pretty complete picture in the fossil record of the western groups of species but relatively little in comparison for their cohorts in the east.

At the time this fellow was swimming our ancient seas, he was sharing the Earth with carnivorous dinosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, mammals, crocodilians, turtles, a variety of amphibians, prehistoric bony fish, oddly prolific sea cucumbers, various invertebrates and plants. Many of these sites are just being written up now and contain new species just being discovered.

During the Late Cretaceous Period a shallow seaway separated North America into separate eastern and western landmasses. The Woodbine Formation in Texas preserves a rare fossil record of this time for the east, but many of these fossils are isolated and incomplete, making interpretations more difficult. Preliminary excavations at the AAS are providing hints at a more complete ecosystem, preserving similar patterns of change to what we see in the west.

The AAS contains an extraordinary diversity, abundance, and quality of fossil material, preserving one of the most complete terrestrial ecosystems known for this time period and area.

The AAS has a lot to tell us about Late Cretaceous life in the east. Over 2200 individual specimens have been found belonging to numerous groups including carnivorous dinosaurs, duck-billed dinosaurs, crocodilians, turtles, mammals, amphibians, sharks, bony fish, invertebrates, and plants.

Many of the fossils found here represent brand new species and studying these fossils will help to establish the geographic and environmental forces that shaped Cretaceous ecosystems in North America by providing a necessary comparison to the fossil record of the west.

Saturday, 29 December 2018

ORYGMASPIS OF THE TANGLEFOOT

This calcified beauty is Orygmaspis (Parabolinoides) spinula (Westrop, 1986) an Upper Cambrian trilobite from the McKay Group near Tanglefoot Mountain in the Kootenay Rockies. 

Orygmaspis is a genus of asaphid trilobite with an inverted egg-shaped outline, a wide headshield, small eyes, long genal spines, 12 spined thorax segments and a small, short tail shield, with four pairs of spines. 

Asaphida is comprised of six superfamilies found as marine fossils that date from the Middle Cambrian through to the Ordovician — Anomocaroidea, Asaphoidea, Cyclopygoidea, Dikelocephaloidea, Remopleuridoidea and Trinucleioidea. It was here, in the Ordovician, that five of the six lineages met their end along with 60% of all marine life at the time. They did leave us with some wonderful examples of their form and adaptations. The stubby eyed Asaphids evolved to give us Asaphus kowalewskii with delightfully long eyestalks. These specialized protrusions would have given that lovely species a much better field of view in which to hunt Ordovician seas — and avoid becoming the hunted.

Only the hardy Superfamily Trinucleiodea pushed through. They were to meet their end in the final days of the Silurian where yet another cataclysmic event wiped out much of the life on Earth, including the last remains of Asaphida (Fortey & Chatterton, 1988).

The outline of the exoskeleton Orygmaspis is inverted egg-shaped, with a parabolic headshield — or cephalon less than twice as wide as long. Picture a 2-D egg where the head is wider than the tail.

The glabella, the well-defined central raised area excluding the backward occipital ring, is ¾× as wide as long, moderately convex, truncate-tapering, with 3 pairs of shallow to obsolete lateral furrows. 

The occipital ring is well defined. The distance between the glabella and the border (or preglabellar field) is ±¼× as long as the glabella. This fellow had small to medium-sized eyes, 12-20% of the length of the cephalon. These were positioned between the front and the middle of the glabella and about ⅓ as far out as the glabella is wide. 

The remaining parts of the cephalon, the fixed and free cheeks — or fixigenae and librigenae — are relatively flat. The fracture lines or sutures — that separate the librigenae from the fixigenae in moulting — are divergent just in front of the eyes. These become parallel near the border furrow and strongly convergent at the margin. 

From the back of the eyes, the sutures bend out, then in, diverging outward and backward at approximately 45°, cutting the posterior margin well within the inner bend of the spine — or opisthoparian sutures. 

The thorax or articulating middle part of the body has 12 segments. The anteriormost segment gradually narrows into a sideward directed point, while further to the back the spines are directed outward and the spine is of increasing length up until the ninth spine, while the spine on the tenth segment is abruptly smaller, and 11 and 12 even more so. 

This fellow has a wee pygidium or tail shield that is only about ⅓× as wide as the cephalon. It is narrowly transverse about 2× wider than long. Its axis is slightly wider than the pleural fields to each side, and has up to 4 axial rings and a terminal and almost reaches the margin. Up to 4 pleural segments with obsolete interpleural grooves and shallow pleural furrows. The posterior margin has 3 or 4 pairs of spines, getting smaller further to the back. 

References:

Chatterton, Brian D. E.; Gibb, Stacey (2016). Furongian (Upper Cambrian) Trilobites from the McKay Group, Bull River Valley, Near Cranbrook, Southeastern British Columbia, Canada; Issue 35 of Palaeontographica Canadiana; ISBN: 978-1-897095-79-9

Moore, R.C. (1959). Arthropoda I - Arthropoda General Features, Proarthropoda, Euarthropoda General Features, Trilobitomorpha. Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology. Part O. Boulder, Colorado/Lawrence, Kansas: Geological Society of America/University of Kansas Press. pp. O272–O273. ISBN 0-8137-3015-5.

Friday, 28 December 2018

KOURISODON PUNTLEDGENSIS

Kourisodon puntledgensis
Mosasaurs were large, globally distributed marine predators who dominated our Late Cretaceous oceans. Since the unearthing of the first mosasaur in 1766 (Mulder, 2003) we've discovered their fossil remains most everywhere around the globe — New Zealand, Antarctica, Africa, North and South America, Europe and Japan.

We've now found the fossil remains of an elasmosaur and two mosasaurs along the banks of the Puntledge River, says Dan Bowen, Chair of the Vancouver Island Palaeontological Society.

The first set of about 10 mosasaurs vertebrae (Platecarpus) was found by Tim O’Bear and unearthed by a team of VIPS and Museum enthusiasts led by Dr. Rolf Ludvigsen. Dan Bowen and Joe Morin of the VIPS prepped these specimens for the Museum.

In 1993, a new species of mosasaur, Kourisodon puntledgensis, a razor-toothed mosasaur, was found upstream from the elasmosaur site by Joe Zembiliwich on a fossil field trip led by Mike Trask. A replica of this specimen now calls The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre in Morden home. What is significant about this specimen is that it is a new genus and species. At 4.5 meters, it is a bit smaller than most mosasaurs and similar to Clidastes, but just as mighty. It shared its environment with a variety of Elasmosaurids, turtles, and other mosasaurs, although it seems that no polycotylids were present in its Pacific environment.

Interestingly, this species has been found in this one locality in Canada and across the Pacific in the basal part of the Upper Cretaceous — middle Campanian to Maastrichtian — of the Izumi Group, Izumi Mountains and Awaji Island of southwestern Japan. We see an interesting correlation with the ammonite fauna from these two regions as well. What we do not see is a correlation between our Pacific fauna and those from our neighbouring province to the east. Betsy Nicholls and Dirk Meckert published on the marine reptiles from the Nanaimo Group (Upper Cretaceous) of Vancouver Island in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences in 2002. What we see in our faunal mix reinforces the provinciality of the Pacific faunas and their isolation from contemporaneous faunas in the Western Interior Seaway.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

PHOTONS: ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation, like radio or microwaves. Some aspects of light, such as its frequency (colour), are based on its wave properties. 

Light can also be considered a stream of particles called photons, each of which contains energy. This concept is called the quantum theory. 

So there are two ways to express how much light there is. One is based on energy (in units of watts, joules, or calories, and the other is based on the number of photons. 

For example, the wavelength of green light is less than 1 millionth of an inch, and the energy of one photon of green light is equivalent to 1 million billionths of a calorie! Even though photons are particles, they are particles of energy and are different from particles in a cell such as molecules.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

DANCERS OF THE DEEP: JELLYFISH

This lovely ocean dancer with her long delicate tentacles or lappets and thicker rouched oral arms is a jellyfish. 

Her brethren are playing in the waters of the deep all over the world, from surface waters to our deepest seas — and they are old. They are some of the oldest animals in the fossil record.

Jellyfish and sea jellies are the informal common names given to the medusa-phase or adult phase of certain gelatinous members of the subphylum Medusozoa, a major part of the phylum Cnidaria — more closely related to anemones and corals.

Jellyfish are not fish at all. They evolved millions of years before true fish. The oldest conulariid scyphozoans appeared between 635 and 577 million years ago in the Neoproterozoic of the Lantian Formation, a 150-meter-thick sequence of rocks deposited in southern China. 

Others are found in the youngest Ediacaran rocks of the Tamengo Formation of Brazil, c. 505 mya, through to the Triassic. Cubozoans and hydrozoans appeared in the Cambrian of the Marjum Formation in Utah, USA, c. 540 million years ago.

I have seen all sorts of their brethren growing up on the west coast of Canada. I have seen them in tide pools, washed up on the beach and swam amongst thousands of Moon Jellyfish while scuba diving in the Salish Sea. Their movement in the water is marvellous.  

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, jellyfish are known as ǥaǥisama.

The watercolour ǥaǥisama you see here in dreamy pink and white is but one colour variation. They come in blue, purple, orange, yellow and clear — and are often luminescent. They produce light by the oxidation of a substrate molecule, luciferin, in a reaction catalyzed by a protein, luciferase.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

LINKING TIME: AMMONITE INDEX FOSSIL

Ammonites 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 filled our world's oceans back in the day.  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 of rock to match up to specific geologic time periods, rather the way we use tree rings to date trees.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

PHASIANUS CHOLCHICUS

Common Pheasant, Phasianus Cholchicus
These playful lovelies with the gorgeous gold and green plumage are beautiful examples of the Common Pheasant, Phasianus Cholchicus

We associate them with tweet shorn English aristocrats jauntily going about the hunt on horseback. 

Pheasants build their nests on the ground and can fly for short distances. They spend their days searching through fields and around streams looking for tasty insects, seeds and grain.

Friday, 21 December 2018

COUGARS CONCOLOR: BADI

Cougars are meat-eating mammals, preferring to dine on deer. 

They are impressive athletes, able to leap 18 feet or more straight upward from a sitting position.

They are the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western hemisphere and yet we never seem to see them. They lead solitary lives and are excellent at avoiding humans. They see us far more often than we see them — boasting a field of vision spanning 130 degrees.

Cougars have a massive range that runs from the mountainous Canadian Rockies in northwestern Canada all the way down to Patagonia in South America. These cats make their dens in mountain crags, along rocky ledges, in dense woodland areas and under uprooted trees and debris. 

In the Kwak'wala language of the Kwakiutl First Nations of the Pacific Northwest — or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala — a cougar or mountain lion is known as ba̱di — with an emphasis on the b.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

TRIASSIC OF NORTH AMERICA

In the early 1980s, Tim Tozer, Geological Survey of Canada, looked at the distribution of marine invertebrate fauna in the Triassic of North America.

Tozer's interest in our marine invert friends was their distribution and what those occurrences could tell us. How and when did certain species migrate, cluster, evolve — and for those that were prolific, how could their occurrence — and therefore significance — aide in an assessment of plate and terrane movements that would help us to determine paleolatitudinal significance.

In the western terranes of the Cordillera, marine faunas from southern Alaska and Yukon to Mexico are known from the parts that are obviously allochthonous with regard to the North American plates. Lower and upper Triadic faunas of these areas, as well as some that are today up to 63 ° North, have the characteristics of the lower paleo latitudes. As far as is known, Middle Triadic faunas in these zones do not provide any significant data. In the western Cordillera, the faunas of the lower paleo latitudes can be found up to 3000 km north of their counterparts on the American plate. This indicates a tectonic shift of this magnitude.

There are marine triads on the North American plate over 46 latitudes from California to Ellesmere Island. For some periods, two to three different fauna provinces can be distinguished from one another. The differences in fauna are obviously linked to the paleolatitude. They are called LPL, MPL, HPL (lower, middle, higher paleolatitude). Nevada provides the diagnostic features of the lower; northeastern British Columbia that of the middle and Sverdrup Basin that of the higher paleolatitude. A distinction between the provinces of the middle and the higher paleo-situations can not be made for the lower Triassic and lower Middle Triassic (anise). However, all three provinces can be seen in the deposits of Ladin, Kam and Nor.

Diatoms / Microalgae dominant components of phytoplankton
If one looks at the fauna and the type of sediment, the paleogeography of the Triassic can be interpreted as follows: a tectonically calm west coast of the North American plate that bordered on an open sea; in the area far from the coast, a series of volcanic archipelagos delivered sediment to the adjacent basins. Some were lined or temporarily covered with coral wadding and carbonate banks.

Deeper pools were in between. The islands were probably within 30 degrees of the triadic equator. They moved away from the coast up to about 5000 km from the forerunner of the East Pacific Ridge. The geographical situation west of the back was probably similar.

Jurassic and later generations of the crust from near the back have brought some of the islands to the North American plate; some likely to South America; others have drifted west, to Asia. There are indications that New Guinea, New Caledonia and New Zealand were at a northern latitude of 30 ° or more during the Triassic period. The terranes that now form the western Cordillera were probably welded together and reached the North American plate before the end of the Jurassic period.

Tozer, ET (Tim): Marine Triassic faunas of North America: Their significance for assessing plate and terrane movements. Geol Rundsch 71, 1077-1104 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01821119

Danner, W. (Ted): Limestone resources of southwestern British Columbia. Montana Bur. Mines & Geol., Special publ. 74: 171-185, 1976.

Davis, G., Monger, JWH & Burchfiel, BC: Mesozoic construction of the Cordilleran “collage”, central British Columbia to central California. Pacific Coast Paleography symposium 2, Soc. Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists, Los Angeles: 1-32, 1978.

Gibson, DW: Triassic rocks of the Rocky Mountain foothills and front ranges of northeastern British Columbia and west-central Alberta. Geol. Surv. Canada Bull. 247, 1975.

Friday, 14 December 2018

OYSTER: TLOXTLOX

One of the now rare species of oysters in the Pacific Northwest is the Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, (Carpenter, 1864).  

While rare today, these are British Columbia’s only native oyster. Had you been dining on their brethren in the 1800s or earlier, it would have been this species you were consuming. Middens from Port Hardy to California are built from Ostrea lurida.

These wonderful invertebrates bare their souls with every bite. Have they lived in cold water, deep beneath the sea away from the suns rays and heat? Are they the rough and tumbled beach denizens whose thick shells have formed to withstand the pounding of the sea? 

Is the oyster in your mouth thin and slimy having just done the nasty spurred by the warming waters of Spring? Is this oyster a local or was it shipped to your current local and if asked would greet you with "Kon'nichiwa?" Not if the beauty on your plate is indeed Ostrea lurida

We have been cultivating, indeed maximizing the influx of invasive species to the cold waters of the Salish Sea. But in the wild waters off the coast of British Columbia is the last natural abundant habitat of the tasty Ostrea lurida in the pristine waters of  Nootka Sound. The area is home to the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations who have consumed this species boiled or steamed for thousands of years. Here these ancient oysters not only survive but thrive — building reefs and providing habitat for crab, anemones and small marine animals. 

Oysters are in the family Ostreidae — the true oysters. Their lineage evolved in the Early Triassic — 251 - 247 million years ago. 

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, an oyster is known as t̕łox̱t̕łox̱. I am curious to learn if any of the Nuu-chah-nulth have a different word for an oyster. If you happen to know, I would be grateful to learn.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

HOLCOPHYLLOCERAS

Amazing suturing on this lovely ammonite, Holcophylloceras mediterraneum, (Neumayr 1871) from Late Jurassic (Oxfordian) deposits near Sokoja, Madagasgar.

The shells had many chambers divided by walls called septa. The chambers were connected by a tube called a siphuncle which allowed for the control of buoyancy with the hollow inner chambers of the shell acting as air tanks to help them float.

They were a group of extinct marine mollusc animals in the subclass Ammonoidea of the class Cephalopoda. These molluscs, commonly referred to as ammonites, are more closely related to living coleoids — octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) then they are to shelled nautiloids such as the living Nautilus species.

We can see the edges of this specimen's shell where it would have continued out to the last chamber, the body-chamber, where the ammonite lived. Picture a squid or octopus, now add a shell and a ton of water. That's him!


Saturday, 1 December 2018

AMMONITES OF THE CAUCAUS MOUNTAINS

A very pleasing example of the Ammonite Acanthohoplites bigoureti (Seunes, 1887). Lower Cretaceous, Upper Aptian, from a riverbed concretion, Kurdzhips River, North Caucasus Mountains, Republic of Adygea, Russia. 

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 entire 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.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

BEARS: URSIDAE

Bears are one of my favourite mammals. Had they evolved in a slightly different way, we might well have chosen them as pets instead of the dogs so many of us have in our lives today. 

Bears are carnivoran mammals of the family Ursidae. They are classified as caniforms or doglike carnivorans. 

Although only eight species of bears are extant, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere and partially in the Southern Hemisphere —  making a home in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

In the Kwak'wala language of the Kwakiutl First Nations of the Pacific Northwest — or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala — a grizzly bear is known as na̱n and the ornamental grizzly bear headdress worn by the comic Dluwalakha grizzly bear dancers in the Grizzly Bear Dance, Gaga̱lalał, is known as na̱ng̱a̱mł. A black bear is known as t̕ła'yi — I do not know the word for Polar Bear in Kwak'wala.

The relatives of our black and brown bears, a dog-bear, entered the fossil record about 20 million years ago. We have found polar bear bones that tell us more about when they split off in the lineage.

DNA from a 110,000–130,000-year-old polar bear fossil has been successfully sequenced. The genome, from a jawbone found in Svalbard, Norway, in 2004, indicates when polar bears, Ursus maritimus, diverged from their nearest common relative, the brown bear — Ursus arctos.

Because polar bears live on ice and their remains are unlikely to be buried in sediment and preserved, polar bear fossils are very rare. So the discovery of a jawbone and canine tooth — the entirety of the Svalbard find — is impressive. 

But far more important, is that when molecular biologist Charlotte Lindqvist, then at the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum and now at the University at Buffalo in New York, drilled into the jaw, she was able to collect intact mitochondrial DNA. Yes, a bit Jurassic Park-esque.

Mitochondria — organelles found in animal cells — have their own DNA and can replicate. And because there are many mitochondria per cell, mitochondrial DNA is easier to find in fossils than nuclear DNA. 

Lindqvist wondered whether this mitochondrial DNA could illuminate the evolutionary history of how and when polar bears diverged from brown bears. To find out, she worked with Stephan Schuster, a molecular biologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, and a team of colleagues to sequence the genetic material she had collected and was successful.

It is the oldest mammalian mitochondrial genome yet sequenced — about twice the age of the oldest mammoth genome, which dates to around 65,000 years old. From Lindqvist's work, we learned that polar bears split off the lineage from brown bears about 150,000 years ago. They evolved rapidly in the Late Pleistocene, taking advantage of their hunting prowess to become the apex predators of the northern arctic region.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

ISAAC LAKE: BOWRON CIRCUIT

It is day four of our holiday, with two days driving up from Vancouver to Cache Creek, past the Eocene insect and plant site at McAbee, the well-bedded Permian limestone near Marble Canyon and onto Bowron Provincial Park, a geologic gem near the gold rush town of Barkerville.

The initial draw for me, given that collecting in a provincial park is forbidden and all collecting close at hand outside the park appears to amount to a handful of crushed crinoid bits and a few conodonts, was the gorgeous natural scenery and a broad range of species extant. 

It was also the proposition of padding the Bowron Canoe Circuit, a 149,207-hectare geologic wonderland, where a fortuitous combination of plate tectonics and glacial erosion have carved an unusual 116-kilometre near-continuous rectangular circuit of lakes, streams and rivers bound on all sides by snowcapped mountains. From all descriptions, something like heaven.

The east and south sides of the route are bound by the imposing white peaks of the Cariboo Mountains, the northern boundary of the Interior wet belt, rising up across the Rocky Mountain Trench, and the Isaac Formation, the oldest of seven formations that make up the Cariboo Group (Struik, 1988). 

Some 270 million-plus years ago, had one wanted to buy waterfront property in what is now British Columbia, you’d be looking somewhere between Prince George and the Alberta border. The rest of the province had yet to arrive but would be made up of over twenty major terranes from around the Pacific. The rock that would eventually become the Cariboo Mountains and form the lakes and valleys of Bowron was far out in the Pacific Ocean, down near the equator.

With tectonic shifting, these rocks drifted north-eastward, riding their continental plate, until they collided with and joined the Cordillera in what is now British Columbia. Continued pressure and volcanic activity helped create the tremendous slopes of the Cariboo Range we see today with repeated bouts of glaciation during the Pleistocene carving their final shape.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

ATURIA: OLYMPIC PENINSULA NAUTILOID

Arturia angustata nautiloid, Clallam Formation, WA
This lovely Lower Miocene nautiloid is Aturia angustata collected on the foreshore near Clallam Bay, Olympic Peninsula, northwestern Washington. Aturia is an extinct genus of Paleocene to Miocene nautilids within Aturiidae, a monotypic family, established by Campman in 1857 for Aturia Bronn, 1838, and is included in the superfamily Nautilaceae in Kümmel 1964.

Aturia is characterized by a smooth, highly involute, discoidal shell with a complex suture and subdorsal siphuncle. The shell of Aturia is rounded ventrally and flattened laterally; the dorsum is deeply impressed. The suture is one of the most complex within Nautiloidea. It has a broad flattened ventral saddle, narrow pointed lateral lobes, broad rounded lateral saddles, broad lobes on the dorso-umbilical slopes, and a broad dorsal saddle divided by a deep, narrow median lobe. The siphuncle is moderate in size and located subdorsally in the adapical dorsal flexure of the septum. Based on the feeding and hunting behaviours of living nautiluses, Aturia most likely preyed upon small fish and crustaceans. 

I've found a few of these specimens along the beaches of Clallam Bay and nearby in a local clay quarry. I've also seen calcified beauties of this species collected from river sites within the Olympic Peninsula range.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Monday, 29 October 2018

PHYLLOCERAS CONSANGUINEUM

Phylloceras consanguineum (Gemmellaro 1876) a fast-moving carnivorous ammonite from Late Jurassic (Middle Oxfordian) deposits near Sokoja, Madagasgar, off the southeast coast of Africa. (22.8° S, 44.4° E: 28.5° S, 18.2° E)

This classical Tethyan Mediterranean specimen is very well preserved, showing much of his delicate suturing in intricate detail. Phylloceras were primitive ammonites with involute, laterally flattened shells.

They were smooth, with very little ornamentation, which led researchers to think of them resembling plant leaves and gave rise to their name, which means "leaf-horn."

They can be found in three regions that I know of.  In the Jurassic of Italy near western Sicily's Rosso Ammonitico Formation, Lower Kimmeridgian fossiliferous beds of Monte Inici East and Castello Inici (38.0° N, 12.9° E: 26.7° N, 15.4° E) and in the Arimine area, southeastern Toyama Prefecture, northern central Japan, roughly (36.5° N, 137.5° E: 43.6° N, 140.6° E) Dōitashimashite ; )

Saturday, 27 October 2018

RHACOLEPIS BUCCALIS

Rhacolepis Buccalis, an extinct genus of ray-finned fossil fish in carbonate concretion, Lower Cretaceous, Santana Formation, Brazil. These nektonic carnivores swam our ancient seas 122-109 million years ago.

Le premier et unique géoparc mondial UNESCO est situé dans le Cariri du Ceará (géoparc Araripe), dans l'intérieur semi-aride de la région Nordeste, Brésil

Thursday, 25 October 2018

BREWERICERAS HULENENSE

Brewericeras hulenense (Anderson 1938) a fast-moving, nektonic (no idle floating here!) carnivorous ammonite from the Lower Cretaceous (Albian) of Haida Gwaii (aka Queen Charlotte Islands), British Columbia, Canada.

Ammonites belong to the class of animals called mollusks. More specifically they are cephalopods. and first appeared in the lower Devonian Period.

Cephalopods were an abundant and diverse group during the Paleozoic Era. This specimen is just over 12cm in length, a little under the average of 13.4cm. There are several localities in the Queen Charlotte Islands where Brewericeras can be found (six that I know of and likely plenty more!) This specimen was found on a trip a few years back done with the Vancouver Paleontological Society and a few of the members of some of the Island paleo groups. The preservation is quite remarkable!

Brewericeras are also found in Albian deposits in Svedenborgfjellet, Ulladalen, Norway (Cretaceous of Svalbard and Jan Mayen - så fin!) (77.7° N, 15.2° E: paleocoordinates 66.6° N, 13.6° E) and Matanuska-Susitna County, Alaska, 62.0° N, 147.7° W: paleocoordinates 57.3° N, 85.6° W (112.6 to 109.0 Ma.)

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Friday, 12 October 2018

Friday, 5 October 2018

DACTYLIOCERAS AMMONITE

A lovely Dactylioceras ammonite from the Lower Jurassic Upper Lias Holderness of the Yorkshire Coast. This beauty measures over 8cm with especially attractive colouring.

Holderness is an area of the East Riding of Yorkshire, on the east coast of England. An area of rich agricultural land, Holderness was marshland until it was drained in the Middle Ages. Topographically, Holderness has more in common with the Netherlands than with other parts of Yorkshire. To the north and west are the Yorkshire Wolds.

Geologically, Holderness is underlain by Cretaceous chalk but in most places, it is so deeply buried beneath glacial deposits that it has no influence on the landscape.

The landscape is dominated by deposits of till, boulder clays and glacial lake clays. These were deposited during the Devensian glaciation. The glacial deposits form a more or less continuous lowland plain which has some peat filled depressions (known locally as meres) which mark the presence of former lake beds. There are other glacial landscape features such as drumlin mounds, ridges and kettle holes scattered throughout the area.

The well-drained glacial deposits provide fertile soils that can support intensive arable cultivation. Fields are generally large and bounded by drainage ditches. There is very little woodland in the area and this leads to a landscape that is essentially rural but very flat and exposed. The coast is subject to rapid marine erosion.

The Geology of Yorkshire in northern England shows a very close relationship between the major topographical areas and the geological period in which their rocks were formed. The rocks of the Pennine chain of hills in the west are of Carboniferous origin whilst those of the central vale are Permo-Triassic.

The North York Moors in the northeast of the county are Jurassic in age while the Yorkshire Wolds to the southeast are Cretaceous chalk uplands. The plain of Holderness and the Humberhead levels both owe their present form to the Quaternary ice ages.

The strata become gradually younger from west to east. Much of Yorkshire presents heavily glaciated scenery as few places escaped the direct or indirect impact of the great ice sheets as they first advanced and then retreated during the last ice age. This beauty is in the collection of the deeply awesome Harry Tabiner.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

EVERY CHILD MATTERS: THE SIXTIES SCOOP

For First Nation, Métis & Inuit families, stories of government involvement in family life goes back generations.  

The legacy of removing children from their families and communities, first through the residential schools, and then through the child protection system, continues to impact the lives of these families, their children and their grandchildren.

The term Sixties Scoop was coined by Patrick Johnston, author of the 1983 report Native Children and the Child Welfare System. It refers to the mass removal of First Nation, Métis and Inuit children from their families into the child welfare system — in most cases without the consent of their families, bands or communities. 

Professor Raven Sinclair recounts that Johnston told her about a social worker from British Columbia who shared the phrase when she told him …with tears in her eyes — that it was common practice in B.C. in the mid-sixties to scoop children from mothers on reserves — almost all newly born children were taken. She was crying because she realized — 20 years later — what a mistake that had been. 

The Sixties Scoop refers to a particular phase of a larger Canadian history, and not to an explicit government policy.  

Although the practice of removing Indigenous children from their families and into state care existed before the 1960s (with the Canadian federally funded Indian Residential Schools), the drastic overrepresentation of these children in the child welfare system accelerated in the 1960s. 

This is because a robust new resurgence of the practice saw large numbers of children seized and taken from their homes — and placed, in most cases, into middle-class Euro-Canadian families. 

Every Child Matters — An Epidemic of Aboriginal Child Apprehension

The government began phasing out compulsory residential school education in the 1950s and 1960s as the public began to understand its devastating impacts on families. It was the general belief of government authorities at the time that Aboriginal children could receive a better education if they were transitioned into the public school system. 

Residential schools, however, persisted as a sort of boarding school for children whose families were deemed "unsuitable" to care for them.  

This transition to provincial services led to a 1951 amendment that enabled the Province to provide services to Aboriginal people where none existed federally. Child protection was one of these areas. 

In 1951, twenty-nine Aboriginal children were in provincial care in British Columbia; by 1964, that number was 1,466. Aboriginal children, who had comprised only 1 per cent of all children in care, came to make up just over 34 per cent.

In the 1960s, the child welfare system did not require, nor did it expect, social workers, to have specific training in dealing with children in Aboriginal communities. Many of these social workers were completely unfamiliar with the culture or history of the First Nation, Métis & Inuit communities they entered. 

What they believed constituted proper care was generally based on middle-class Euro-Canadian values. For example, when social workers entered the homes of families subsisting on a traditional Aboriginal diet of dried game, fish, and berries, and didn’t see fridges or cupboards stocked in typical Euro-Canadian fashion, they assumed that the adults in the home were not providing for their children. 

Additionally, upon seeing the social problems reserve communities faced, such as poverty, unemployment, and addiction, some social workers felt a duty to protect the local children. So, instead of aiding the communities and providing support, they added to that emotional burden.  

In many cases, Indigenous parents who were living in poverty but otherwise providing caring homes had their children taken from them with little or no warning and absolutely no consent.  

It was not until 1980 that the Child, Family and Community Services Act required social workers to notify the band council if a child were removed from the community.

An alarmingly disproportionate number of Métis, Inuit and First Nation children were apprehended from the 1960s onward. By the 1970s, they would number one-third of all children in care. 

Approximately 70% of the children apprehended were placed into non-Aboriginal homes, many of them into homes in which their heritage was denied. In some cases, the foster or adoptive parents told their children that they were now French or Italian instead.

Government policy at the time did not allow birth records to be opened unless both the child and parent consented. This meant that many children suspected their heritage but were unable to have it confirmed.

Many children floated from foster home to foster home or lived in institutionalized care. Physical and sexual abuse was not uncommon, but it was usually covered up, rendered invisible by the lack of social services and support for the families and children, a result of the general social reluctance to publicly acknowledge such abuse at the time. 

The Aboriginal Committee of the Family and Children’s Services Legislation Review Panel’s report Liberating Our Children describes the negative consequences for Aboriginal children:

The homes in which children were placed ranged from those of caring, well-intentioned individuals, to places of slave labour and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The violent effects of the most negative of these homes are tragic for its victims. 

Even the best of these homes are not healthy places for these children. Anglo-Canadian foster parents are not culturally equipped to create an environment in which a positive self-image can develop. In many cases, our children were taught to demean those things about themselves that are part of their heritage. 

Impacts of the Sixties Scoop

Nunatsiarmiut Mother and Child, Baffin Island, Nunavut
Children growing up in conditions of suppressed identity and abuse tend to experience psychological and emotional problems. 

For many apprehended children, the roots of these problems did not emerge until later in life when they learned about their birth family or their heritage. 

Social work professor Raven Sinclair describes these experiences as creating “tremendous obstacles to the development of a strong and healthy sense of identity for the transracial adoptee.” 

Feelings of not belonging in either mainstream Euro-Canadian society or in Aboriginal society can also create barriers to reaching socio-economic equity.

And yet, we still act surprised.

Several factors came together to instigate a change in the state of Aboriginal child welfare in Canada.  The influential National Indian Brotherhood’s 1972 report Indian Control over Indian Education inspired Aboriginal leaders to take control of other social services as well. 

Some Aboriginal leaders, including Secwepemc leader Wayne Christian, helped draw attention to the disproportionately high number of Aboriginal children apprehended by child welfare services and to the need to act.  

In 1983, the Canadian Council on Social Development commissioned Patrick Johnston to undertake what became the first comprehensive statistical overview of Aboriginal child welfare. The results showed that Aboriginal children were consistently overrepresented in child welfare services.

In 1985, Justice Edwin Kimelman released a highly critical review of this child apprehension entitled No Quiet Place: Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions and Placements. 

In this report, popularly known as The Kimelman Report, Kimelman and his committee, after holding hearings and listening to oral testimony, made 109 recommendations for policy change.  Kimelman concluded that “cultural genocide has taken place in a systematic, routine manner.” 

He was particularly appalled at the tendency to have First Nation, Métis & Inuit children from Canada adopted out to American families, calling it a policy of “wholesale exportation.” Kimelman finished his report by expressing his thoughts on his findings:

An abysmal lack of sensitivity to children and families was revealed. Families approached agencies for help and found that what was described as being in the child’s “best interest” resulted in their families being torn asunder and siblings separated. Social workers grappled with cultural patterns far different from their own with no preparation and no opportunity to gain understanding.

Child apprehension became viewed as the successor to the residential school system and as a new form of “cultural genocide.” 

Under article 2(e) of the U.N. Convention on Genocide (1948), “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” constitutes genocide when the intent is to destroy a culture. 

Many individuals may have acted with the best of intentions but as a Canadian cultural practice, it was genocide.

During the 1980s, the accumulation of the Kimelman report, the Johnston report, and resolutions by First Nations bands led provinces to amend their adoption laws to prioritize prospective adoption placements as follows: first, within the extended family of the child; second, by another Aboriginal family; third, by a non-Aboriginal family.

In 1990, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) created the First Nations Child and Family Services program (FNCFS), which transferred the administration of child and family services from the province or territory to the local band. Under the program, bands administer these services according to provincial or territorial legislation and child welfare standards, and INAC helps fund the bands’ child and family welfare agencies.  

Bands have increasingly taken control over their own child protection services. These services have also undergone some reform, such as expanding resources for single parents and establishing juvenile probation services. 

A Métis Child-Family Services program based in Edmonton is another example of an organization that incorporates traditional values into its adoptive family assessments. In many provinces and territories across Canada, a child is now entitled to know its background, and cultural appropriateness is considered in the assessment and screening of potential caregivers.

What is the Situation Today?

Sadly, the involvement of the child welfare system is no less prolific in the current era…the “Sixties Scoop” has merely evolved into the “Millennium Scoop.” – Sinclair, “Identity lost and found: Lessons from the sixties scoop.”

This overrepresentation continues today. We are now in 2021, looking big-eyed and surprised. Who knew? We knew. We have known for a very long time — and we continue the practice today. 

We know it is wrong and we know we need to act. We know the solution is not separating and destroying families but rather supporting them, supporting communities. 

The time for Truth and Reconciliation is now. It is not something we need to work towards in future. The time for wholesale support of children, families and communities is now. Right now. The time to heal is now. Canada has a chance to show leadership and compassion, a chance to develop systems that work.

Look at the children in your life. Imagine this for them. What would you do? What wouldn't you do? For each of them, let us come together and do better — for everyone.

If you fancy a read, here are some links below for you to explore that provide various lenses on the issue.

https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/sixties_scoop/

Canada. Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume 3, Gathering Strength. Chapter 2, “Families.” Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1996. 9-106.

Bennett, Marilyn. “First Nations Fact Sheet: A General Profile on First Nations Child Welfare in Canada.” First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. Available online at: https://fncaringsociety.com/.../docs/FirstNationsFS1.pdf

Blackstock, Cindy, et al. “Keeping the Promise: The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Lived Experiences of First Nations Children and Youth.”  First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, 2004. Available online at: https://fncaringsociety.com/.../docs/KeepingThePromise.pdf

Fournier, Suzanne and Ernie Crey. Stolen from Our Embrace. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1997.

Mandell, Deena, et al. “Chapter Three: Aboriginal Child Welfare.” In Cameron, Gary, Nick Coady, and Gerald R. Adams, eds. Moving Toward Positive Systems of Child and Family Welfare: Current Issues and Future Directions.  Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007.

Sinclair, Raven. 2007. “Identity lost and found: Lessons from the sixties scoop.” First Peoples Child and Family Review. 3.1 (2007): 65-82. Available online at: https://fncaringsociety.com/.../vol3num1/Sinclair_pp65.pdf

Swidrovich, Cheryl Marlene. “Positive Experiences of First Nations Children in non-Aboriginal Foster or Adoptive Care: De-Constructing the “Sixties Scoop.”  MA Thesis, University of Saskatchewan. 2004. Available online at: http://hdl.handle.net/10388/etd-07082008-141746

Walmsley, Christopher. Protecting Aboriginal Children.  Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2005.

Photo: A gloriously happy Nunatsiarmiut Mother & Child, Solo Child, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada & Every Child Matters Illustration by the Fossil Huntress

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

JURASSIC BOUNTY

This Jurassic ammonite is from an all but inaccessible site in Sayward, Bonanza Group, Vancouver Island.

By the time these ammonites were being buried in sediment, Wrangellia, the predominately volcanic terrane that now forms Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands, had made its way to the northern mid-latitudes.

Within the basal part of the sequence, sedimentary beds are found interbedded with lapilli and crystal-tuffs. They include maroon tuffaceous sandstone, orange-grey sandstone, granule sandstone and conglomerate. Ammonites are found alongside gastropods and pelecypods. The Bonanza group is estimated to be at least 1000 metres thick.

We did a fossil field trip up there a few years ago. The site is quite small and the window to collect was limited so we were keen to see what had been exposed.

The drive up the mountain was thrilling as there had just been heavy rains and the road was washed out and narrowed until it was barely the width of our wheel base and then narrower further to be just shy of the width of the vehicle -- thrilling to say the least.

So scary that my passengers all got out as there was a good chance of going over the edge. I was going by some hand written notes and a wee map on a napkin that should have read, "park at the bottom and hike up," Ah, glorious fossils.

Graham Beard from Qualicum Beach was the fellow who showed me the site and drew the wee map for me. I cannot recall everyone on the trip, but Perry Poon was there (he shot a video of the drive up that he described as thrilling. I've never seen it but would like to one day) and so was Patricia Coutts with her lovely doberman. She and I had just done a trip up to Goldbridge where the cliff we were on had turned into a landslide into a ravine so she was feeling understandably cautious about the power of Mother Nature.

As I recall, I wasn't in my ordinary vehicle but a rental because my car had been stolen the weekend I'd headed to Jurassic Point to visit fossil sites with John Fam and Dan Bowen. Fortuitous really, as they stole my car but I'd unloaded my precious fossil collecting gear out of the trunk the day before.

Picture the angle, the hood of my jeep riding high and hiding what remained of the road beneath and a lovely stick shift that made you roll backwards a wee bit with every move to put it into gear. So, without being able to see the very narrow path beneath, I had to just keep going.

Both Perry and Patricia helped with filling in the pot holes so my tires would have something to grip. I bent the frame on the jeep heading up and had some explaining to do when I returned it to the car rental place.

The Memekay site yielded a mix of ammonites, gastropods and bivalves. Many of them poorly preserved.

Once up, I had to drive the whole thing again back down. Solo, as no one wanted to chance it. But well worth the effort as we found some great fossils and with them more information on the paleontology and geology of Vancouver Island.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Saturday, 22 September 2018

THE EVOLUTION OF FISH

The evolution of fish began about 530 million years ago with the first fish lineages belonged to the Agnatha, a superclass of jawless fish. We still see them in our waters as cyclostomes but have lost the conodonts and ostracoderms to the annals of time. Like all vertebrates, fish have bilateral symmetry; when divided down the middle or central axis, each half is the same. Organisms with bilateral symmetry are generally more agile, making finding a mate, hunting or avoiding being hunted a whole lot easier.

When we envision fish, we generally picture large eyes, gills, a well-developed mouth. The earliest animals that we classify as fish appeared as soft-bodied chordates who lacked a true spine. While they were spineless, they did have notochords, a cartilaginous skeletal rod that gave them more dexterity than the cold-blooded invertebrates who shared those ancient seas and evolved without a backbone. Fish would continue to evolve throughout the Paleozoic, diversifying into a wide range of forms. Several forms of Paleozoic fish developed external armour that protected them from predators. The first fish with jaws appeared in the Silurian period, after which many species, including sharks, became formidable marine predators rather than just the prey of arthropods.

Fishes in general respire using gills, are most often covered with bony scales and propel themselves using fins. There are two main types of fins, median fins and paired fins. The median fins include the caudal fin or tail fin, the dorsal fin, and the anal fin. Now there may be more than one dorsal, and one anal fin in some fishes.

The paired fins include the pectoral fins and the pelvic fins. And these paired fins are connected to, and supported by, pectoral and pelvic girdles, at the shoulder and hip; in the same way, our arms and legs are connected to and supported by, pectoral and pelvic girdles. This arrangement is something we inherited from the ancestors we share with fishes. They are homologous structures.

When we speak of early vertebrates, we're often talking about fishes. Fish is a term we use a lot in our everyday lives but taxonomically it is not all that useful. When we say, 'fish' we generally mean an ectothermic, aquatic vertebrate with gills and fins.

Fortunately, many of our fishy friends have ended up in the fossil record. We may see some of the soft bits from time to time, as in the lovely fossil fish found in concretion in Brazil, but we often see fish skeletons. Vertebrates with hard skeletons had a much better chance of being preserved. In British Columbia, we have lovely two-dimensional Eocene fossil fish well-represented from the Allenby of Princeton and the McAbee Fossil Beds. We have the Tiktaalik roseae, a large freshwater fish, from 375 million-year-old Devonian deposits on Ellesmere Island in Canada's Arctic. Tiktaalik is a wonderfully bizarre creature with a flat, almost reptilian head but also fins, scales and gills. We have other wonders from this time. There are also spectacular antiarch placoderms, Bothriolepsis, found in the Upper Devonian shales of Miguasha in Quebec.

There are fragments of bone-like tissues from as early as the Late Cambrian with the oldest fossils that are truly recognizable as fishes come from the Middle Ordovician from North America, South America and Australia. At the time, South America and Australia were part of a supercontinent called Gondwana. North America was part of another supercontinent called Laurentia and the two were separated by deep oceans.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Thursday, 20 September 2018

GRAPTOLITES

Graptolites (Graptolita) are colonial animals. The biological affinities of the graptolites have always been debatable. Originally regarded as being related to the hydrozoans, graptolites are now considered to be related to the pterobranchs, a rare group of modern marine animals.

The graptolites are now classed as hemichordates (phylum Hemichordata), a primitive group which probably shares a common ancestry with the vertebrates.

In life, many graptolites appear to have been planktonic, drifting freely on the surface of ancient seas or attached to floating seaweed by means of a slender thread. Some forms of graptolite lived attached to the sea-floor by a root-like base. Graptolite fossils are often found in shales and slates. The deceased planktonic graptolites would sink down to and settle on the sea floor, eventually becoming entombed in the sediment and are thus well preserved.

Graptolite fossils are found flattened along the bedding plane of the rocks in which they occur. They vary in shape, but are most commonly dendritic or branching (such as Dictoyonema), saw-blade like, or "tuning fork" shaped, such as Didymograptus murchisoni.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Sunday, 16 September 2018

DIABLO LAKE, NORTH CASCADES

Diablo Lake is a reservoir in the North Cascade mountains of northern Washington state

Sunday, 2 September 2018

BURGESS, WALCOTT & WAVING CAMBRIAN WORMS

High up in the Canadian Rockies in an area known as Burgess Pass is one of the most unlikely, perfect and improbable fossil sites on Earth. The Burgess Shale sits high up on the glacier-carved cliffs of the Canadian Rockies.

The fine-grained shales from the Burgess were once part of the ancient landmass known as Laurentia, the ancient geologic core of the North American continent, and are home to some of the most diverse and well-preserved fossils in the world. The sedimentary shales here contain fossils that open a window to marine life some 508 million years ago.

The site is made up of a few quarries and includes the Stephen Formation (Mount Wapta and Mount Field) and the upper Walcott quarry with its Phyllopod Bed. There is also a lower quarry named for Professor Piercy Raymond who opened the site in 1924.

It is one of the rare locations in the world where both soft tissues and hard body parts have been fossilized amidst the layers of black shale that form Fossil Ridge and the surrounding areas.
Discovered 109-years ago in 1909 by Charles D. Walcott, the site has continued to wow scientists and the community at large year after year. Charles was in Canada after losing his first wife to a train crash in Connecticut. He met Mary Morris Vaux, an amateur naturalist from a wealthy family and this new love and her interest in the wilds of Canada had brought him back.

Walcott was a geologist, paleontologist and administrator of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, USA. He was an expert in Cambrian fossils for his time. A company man, he joined the US Geological Survey in 1879 and rose to become a director in 1894.  He served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1923 and was an advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt.

Picture the world at this time. Coca-Cola sold their first soft drink, in Germany, Wilhelm Roentgen developed the first x-ray and it was a year before the United States Supreme Court ruled that "separate but equal" public facilities for whites and blacks ought to be legal.

So, up and coming Walcott was up exploring in the Rockies and stopped to rest his horse. Always a rock man, he had his hammer handy and split some likely blocks. They contained trilobites and other arthropods now famous from the site.

While he recognized the significance of the site, it wasn’t until 1960 through the work of Alberot Simonella and others that the Burgess received the scientific attention it deserved.

In 1967, Harry Whittington initiated the Cambridge Project to re-open the Burgess files and build on the work of his predecessors. He brought two grad students on board to do the heavy lifting as a means to publish or perish. Simon Conway Morris (Worms) and Derek Briggs (Arthropods) completed the trio and together they formed the foundation of what was to become some of the most significant work of our time.

Imagine the first paleontologists working on these weird and wonderful specimens. Wondering at the strange and unlikely creatures made real before their eyes. It is a rare and exquisite thing to see soft-bodied organisms fossilized.

Every year, a new species or magnificent specimen is unearthed. In 2011, a hiker discovered a rare fossil of Ovatiovemis, a genus of filter-feeding lobopodians. Picture a marine worm with nine arms waving to you. Yep, that’s him. The specimen she found is now described as Ovatiovermis cribratus and is one of only two known specimens of Oviatiovermis from the Burgess.

This important site in the Canadian Rockies has been awarded protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1981) in recognition of the exceptional fossil preservation and diversity of the species found here.

With countless hours of research and study, we now know the Burgess Shale contains the best record we have of Cambrian animal fossils. It reveals the most complete record of creatures that proliferated the Earth showcasing the Cambrian explosion 545 to 525 million years ago.

It was a time of oceanic life in all it's splendor. The land may habe been inhospitable, barren and uninhabited but our oceans were teeming with new species. Great soft fine-grained mudslides slid onto an ecosystem in a deep-water basin.

Millions of years later, this unlikely event was revealed to us through the fossils preserved at Burgess.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Friday, 31 August 2018

HETTANGIAN AMMONITES

Alsatites proaries, Photo Source: Wikipedia
At the end of the Rhaetian (part of the Triassic period), most of the ammonites had died out.

The Hettangian, a rather poorly understood 3 million year time interval followed the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction event.

During the Hettangian, the new or  Neoammonites developed quite quickly. Within a million years, a fairly large, diverse selection of genera and species had risen to fill the void. It is the time in our geologic history that the smooth shelled ammonite genus Psiloceras first appears.

It spans the time between 201.3 ± 0.2 Ma and 199.3 ± 0.3 Ma (million years ago). For my European friends, the Hettangian is the time span in which the marine limestone, shales and clay Lias of western Europe were deposited.

This Hettangian ammonite, Alsatites proaries, is a lovely example of the cephalopods cruising our ancient oceans at that time. They would have been swimming in the same seas, and being eaten occasionally, by Temnodontosaurus, a long, slender, large-eyed ichthyosaur.

Alsatites is an extinct genus of cephalopod belonging to the Ammonite subclass. They lived during the Early Jurassic, Hettangian till the Sinemurian and are generally extremely evolute, many whorled with a broad keel. Or, as described by one of my very young friends, he looks like a coiled snake you make in pottery class.

He does, indeed.

In British Columbia, we see the most diverse middle and late Hettangian (Early Jurassic) ammonite assemblages in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), an archipelago about 50 km off BC’s northern Pacific coast.

In total, 53 ammonite taxa are described of which Paradasyceras carteri, Franziceras kennecottense, Pleuroacanthites charlottensis, Ectocentrites pacificus and Curviceras haidae are new.

In general, North American Early Jurassic ammonites are of Tethyan affinity or endemic to the eastern Pacific. For this reason a separate zonation for the Hettangian and Sinemurian of the Western Cordillera of North America was established. Taylor et al. (2001), wrote up and published on much of this early research though, at the time, very little Canadian information was included.

Since then, Dr. Louise Longridge (Longridge et al. (2006) made significant changes to the upper Hettangian and lower Sinemurian zones based on a detailed study of the Badouxia fauna from Taseko Lakes. As part of her thesis, she studied the Queen Charlotte fauna to help draw comparisons and update the literature.

MONTENEGRO GEOLOGY


Thursday, 30 August 2018

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

FORT STRAZNIK, MONTENEGRO

Fort Stražnik, Orjen, Montenegro

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

AMMONITES AS INDEX FOSSILS

Ammonites 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.

Monday, 27 August 2018

BIOGRADSKA GORA

Biogradska Gora National Park, Montenegro

Friday, 24 August 2018

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Sunday, 5 August 2018

ORCINUS ORCA

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, orca or killer whales are known as max̱'inux̱.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Monday, 30 July 2018

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Saturday, 28 July 2018