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.

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.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

LINKING TIME

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.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

PHASIANUS CHOLCHICUS

Common Pheasant, Phasianus Cholchicus
These playful lovelies 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 around field and stream looking for tasty insects, seeds and grain.

Friday, 21 December 2018

PUMA CONCOLOR

Cougars are meat-eating mammals (primarily dining on deer) who boast being the most widely distributed land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. They are impressive athletes, able to leap 18 feet or more straight upward from a sitting position.

They lead solitary lives and are excellent at avoiding humans for the most part. Cougars have a massive range which 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 graggs, along rocky ledges, in dense woodland areas and under uprooted trees and debris.

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.

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.

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!