Tuesday, 20 August 2019

BALEARITES OF MOROCCO

This beautifully prepped specimen of a Balearites cf. balearis (Nolan, 1984) ammonite is from Upper Hauterivian deposits near Tamri, a small seaside town and rural commune in Agadir-Ida Ou Tanane Prefecture, Souss-Massa, Morocco. Aside from wonderful fossil localities, this area of Morocco has some of the most amazing surfing and banana plantations.

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 is Romania, Slovakia, Austria, France, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Bulgaria and Morocco.

Photo: José Juárez Ruiz. The specimen is 202 mm.

Fancy a read? You'll enjoy reading more on this genus and other s in Arkell, W. J. et al., 1957. Mesozoic Ammonoidea, Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology Part L, Mollusca 4. 1957.

Monday, 19 August 2019

CERATITES AMMONITE WITH BEAK

A lovely example of the ammonite, Cératites Nodosus, an extinct genus of nektonic marine carnivore from shell limestone superior deposits near Alsace on the Rhine River plain of northeastern France.

You can see the nice ceratitic suture pattern on this specimen with his smooth lobes and frilly saddles. The sutures would have increased the strength of the shell and allowed Ceratites (de Haan, 1825) to dive deeper, bearing the additional pressure of the sea in search of food.

Ammonite shells are made up predominantly of calcium carbonate in the form of aragonite and proteinaceous organic matrix or conchiolin arranged in layers: a thin outer prismatic layer, a nacreous layer and an inner lining of prismatic habitat. While their outer shells are generally aragonite, aptychus are distinct as they are composed of calcite.

The aptychus we see here, hard anatomical structures or curved shelly plates now understood to be part of the body of an ammonite, are often referred to as beaks. If you look closely at this specimen, you can see the beak of the ammonite, that wee pointed piece, near the centre.

These ammonites lived in open shallow, to subtidal and basinal environments some 247 to 221 million years ago. We've found them, thus far, in just over forty collections from nearly ninety fossil deposits around the globe. Fossils of species have been found in the Triassic of Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.

The parent taxon is Ceratitinae according to E. T. Tozer 1981. That's our own Tim Tozer, one of the great knights errant of the Triassic timescale. It was Tim Tozer and Norm Silberling who published one the classic milestones of the Triassic timescale, "Biostratigraphic Classification of the Marine Triassic in North America, Geological Society of America, Special Paper 110." The Global Triassic: Bulletin 41 from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science by Lucas and Spielmann honors them in their work. Collection of Ange Mirabet, Strasbourg, France.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

ARMOURED WORM

A wonderful example of the “armoured” worm, Lepidocoleus sarlei, from Middle Silurian outcrops in the Rochester Shale Formation, Middleport, New York, USA. The Rochester Shales are known for their wonderful diversity of marine fossil specimens, especially our beloved invertebrates. I picture them living in their various layers, like an extensive, suspension-feeding apartment block with each group making a living and feeding across these beautifully diverse stratified communities.

There are lovely brachiopods, including the spiriferids Striipirifer and Eospirifer, the strophomenids Leptaena, Coolinia and Amphistrophia. We also see the orthids represented by Mendacella (formerly Dalejina) and Resserella.

They shales also house a stunning assortment of our echinoderm friends with their radial symmetry. We see cystoids, crinoids, asterozoans and edrioasteroids. The diversity of the crinoids is especially spectacular. We see the camerates Macrostylocrinus, Dimerocrinites, Saccocrinus and Eucalyptocrinites. Cladids are represented by the elegant and long-stemmed Dendrocrinus, with his lengthy anal sac and branched, non-pinnulate arms. Disparids occur as the wee Homocrinus, recumbent calceocrinids (Calceocrinus) and the coiled, Crinobrachiatus with his coiled bilateral symmetry.

We also see the flexible crinoids represented by Asaphocrinus, Icthyocrinus and Lecanocrinus. Gracing many of the beds is the rhombiferan cystoid Caryocrinites scattered in bits and pieces and on rarer occasions  fully intact, sometimes with rooted specimens associated with bryozoan thickets. The edrioasteroid Hemicystites occurs in select layers referred to as the Homocrinus Beds. These beds record a history from when the area that is now New York State was located south of the equator and covered by an ancient shallow sea.

The Lewiston Member of the Rochester Shale were first studied by James Hall in the 1850-60's. Many great paleontologists have contributed to our understanding of their place in geologic and paleontological history, including Eugene Ringueberg's work from 1884-88; Frank Springer's studies from 1914-22 and Carlton E. Brett (along with his students, Denis Tetreault, James Eckert and Wendy Taylor) in the 1970-90's.

While the site became famous back in the 1820s, it is because of these latter paleontologists that I came to know about the site and appreciate the full breadth of fauna. Collection of Felix Collantes. If you are interested in the diversity of fauna from this area, I highly recommend the 1999 publication by Taylor and Brett referenced below. It's a definitive work.

Reference:  Taylor and Brett 1999: Middle Silurian Rochester Shale of Western New York, USA, and Southern Ontario, Canada

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Saturday, 17 August 2019

PEMBROKESHIRE PUFFINS

This lovely fellow with his distinctive colouring is an Atlantic Puffin or "Sea Parrot" from Skomer Island near Pembrokeshire in the southwest of Wales. Wales is bordered by Camarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the northeast with the sea bordering everything else. It is a fine place to do some birding if it's seabirds you are interested in.

These Atlantic Puffins are one of the most famous of all the seabirds and form the largest colony in Southern Britain. They live about 25 years making a living in our cold seas dining on herring, hake and sand eels. Some have been known to live to almost 40 years of age. They are good little swimmers as you might expect, but surprisingly they are great flyers, too! They are hindered by short wings, which makes flight challenging but still possible with effort. Once they get some speed on board, they can fly up to 88 km an hour.

Their sexy orange beaks (dead sexy, right?) shifts from a dull grey to bright orange when it is time to attract a mate. While not strictly monogamous, most Puffin choose the same mate year upon year producing adorable chicks or pufflings (awe) from their mating efforts. Female Puffins produce one single white egg which the parents take turns to incubate over a course of about six weeks. They dutiful parents share the honour of feeding the wee pufflings five to eight times a day until the chick is ready to fly. Towards the end of July, the fledgling Puffins begin to venture from the safety of their parents and dry land. Once they take to the seas, mom and dad are released from duty and the newest members of the colony are left to hunt and survive on their own.

Friday, 16 August 2019

PLEISTOCENE BEARS

Fossil remains of Agriotherium, the short-faced giant bear, have been found in Collepardo, Italy. A fragment of a mandible was unearthed back in 2015 in the province of Frosinone. Thanks to several years of research and a recent CT scan, the team from Sapienza University of Rome were finally ready to publish.

Agriotherium is one of the largest of the mighty carnivores that lived in Europe back in the Pleistocene. They weighed as much as 900 kilos (almost 2,000 lbs) and grew up to 2.5 meters tall. These ancient bears roamed prehistoric Italy amid a humid and temperate climate, competing for food resources with some of our ancestors as they only becoming extinct 2.6 million years ago.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

PERFECTION & COHABITATION: ANAHOPLITES PLANUS

A beautiful specimen of the ammonite, Anahoplites planus (Mantell, 1822) from Albian deposits in Courcelles-sur-Voire, Aube, north-central France. Anahoplites (Sowerby, 1815) is a genus of compressed hoplitid ammonites with flat sides, narrow, flat or grooved venters, and flexious ribs or striae arising from weak umbilical tubercles that end in fine dense ventrolateral nodes.

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). Two formations are recognised in the clay facies (the "Gault" auct.) of the stratotype, the Argiles tégulines de Courcelles (82 m), overlain by the Marnes de Brienne (43 m). The boundary between the two formations is well-defined at the top of an indurated bed and readily identifiable in the field.

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 his flat sides. This specimen was prepared with potase by José Juárez Ruiz of Spain.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

EUSTHENOPTERON FORDI: DEVONIAN FISH

An exquisite fossil specimen of an Eusthenopteron Fordi from the upper Devonian (Frasnian), Eescuminac Formation, Miguasha Park, Bay of Heat, Gaspé, Quebec, Canadian Museum of Natural History, Miguasha Collection.

If you look closely at this specimen, you can see the remarkable 3-D and soft-bodied preservation. This fish specimen reminds me of the ray-finned fossil fish you see in carbonate concretion from Lower Cretaceous deposits in the Santana Formation, Brazil.

Eusthenopteron would have shared our ancient seas with the first ammonites and primitive sharks, along with well-established fauna including the trilobites, brachiopods, coral reefs and a whole host of interesting arthropods.

Miguasha National Park / Parc National de Miguasha, is a protected area near Carleton-sur-Mer on the Gaspé Peninsula along the south side of the Saint Lawrence River to the east of the Matapedia Valley in Quebec, Canada. It was created in 1985 by the Government of Quebec and designated as a World Heritage Site in 1999 in honour of paleontological significance for Devonian fish, flower and spore fossils.

These fossils represent five of the six main fossil fish groups recorded from the Devonian (370 million years ago) including specimens of the lobe-finned fish and tetrapods. We see the placoderms, armoured prehistoric fish, in their heyday, dominating almost every known aquatic environment. The Devonian is known as the 'Age of Fishes,' but it could have equally been called the 'Age of Spores,' as this was a time of significant adaptive radiation of terrestrial biota and free-sporing vascular plants. Immense forests carpeted the continents and we see the first of the plant groups evolving leaves, true roots and seeds.

The site was discovered in 1842 by a local geologist and medical doctor, Abraham Gesner. He shared much of his collection with both the British Museum and Royal Scottish Museum for further study.  Other names for this site are the Miguasha Fossil Site, the Bay of Escuminac Fossil Site, the Upper Devonian Escuminac Formation, and the Hugh-Miller Cliffs. It is also sometimes referred to on fossil specimens as 'Scaumenac Bay' or 'Scaumenac Bay P.Q. Photo credit to the deeply awesome John Fam

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

PORPOCERAS VERTICOSUM: RIDGED BEAUTY

An exquisite specimen of the delicately ridged ammonite, Porpoceras verticosum, from Middle Toarcian outcrops adjacent the Rhône in southeastern France.

Porpoceras (Buchman, 1911) is genus of ammonite that lived during the early and middle Toarcian stage of the early Jurassic. We see members of this genus from the uppermost part of Serpentinum Zone to Variabilis Subzone. These beauties are found in Europe, Asia, North America and South America.

Ammonites belonging to this genus have evolute shells, with compressed to depressed whorl section. Flanks were slightly convex and venter has been low. The whorl section is sub-rectangular. The rib are pronounced and somewhat fibulate on inner whorls (just wee nodes here) and tuberculate to spined on the ventrolateral shoulder.

It differs from Peronoceras by not having a compressed whorl section and regular nodes or fibulation. Catacoeloceras is also similar, but it has regular ventrolateral tubercules and is missing the classic nodes or fibulation of his cousins.

This specimen hails from southern France near the Rhône, one of the major rivers of Europe. It has twice the average water level of the Loire and is fed by the Rhône Glacier in the Swiss Alps at the far eastern end of the Swiss canton of Valais then passes through Lake Geneva before running through southeastern France. This 10 cm specimen was prepared by the supremely talented José Juárez Ruiz

Monday, 12 August 2019

SPOTTED CLEANER SHRIMP

"Wash that for you, sir?" If you were a fish living in the warm turquoise waters off the coast of Bonaire in the southern Caribbean Sea, you may not hear those words, but you'd see the shrimp sign language equivalent. It seems Periclimenes yucatanicus or the Spotted Cleaner Shrimp are doing a booming business in the local reefs by setting up a Fish Wash service.

That's right, a Fish Wash. You'd be hard pressed to find a terrestrial Molly Maid with two opposable thumbs as studious and hardworking as this wee marine beauty. You'll find them each day cleaning and snacking on a host of parasites. As many as twenty to thirty shrimp gather together to assemble a  highly-efficient marine cleaning station. They're even open to partnerships and mergers, partnering up with Cleaner Wrasse, or cleaner fish, for larger, high-end clients.

Spotted cleaner shrimp are about 2.5 cm long and have a delightful transparent body with telltale white and brown spots. Their legs, or chelae, are striped in purple, white and red. They live about 24 metres (or 79 ft) down on the sea floor in many of our planet's most beautiful waters. Aside from the Caribbean, they also enjoy setting up shop in the Bahamas, southern Florida and live as far south as Panama and Columbia.They are carnivorous crustaceans in the family, Palaemonidae.

This quiet marine mogul is turning out to be one of the ocean's top entrepreneurs. Keeping its host and diet clean and green, the spotted shrimp hooks up with the locals, in this case, local sea anemones and sets up a fish wash. Picture a car wash but without the noise and teenage boys. The signage posted is the shrimps' natural coloring which attracts fish from around the reefs.

Wash on, wash off.

Once within reach, the shrimp cleans the surface of the fish, giving the fish a buff and the shrimp its daily feed. This is good news for the shrimp, especially this time of year as they breed and brood their eggs in summer. After hatching, the larvae pass through many (sadly, tasty) planktonic stages before setting up a fish wash of their own. Once they are older, they gain some protection from being eaten by their clients by a special signalling system that essentially shouts, "just here cooperation not as food." Here's to Periclimenes for keeping up the family business.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

NELUMBO: LOTUS, LOVERS & SCENT DIFFUSERS

This beauty is the fruit of the lotus, Nelumbo. This specimen was found by Green River Stone (GRS) in early Eocene outcrops of the Fossil Lake Member of the Green River Formation. The awesome possums from GRS are based out of North Logan, Utah, USA and have unearthed some world-class specimens. They've found Nelumbo leaves over the years but this is their first fossil specimen of the fruit.
And what a specimen it is! The spectacularly preserved fruit was found in 2018 and measures 6-1/2" round. Here you can see both the part and counterpart in fine detail. Doug Miller of Green River Stone sent copies to me this morning and a copy to the deeply awesome Kirk Johnson, resident paleontologist over at the Smithsonian Institute, to confirm the ID.

There is another spectacular specimen from Fossil Butte National Monument. They shared photos of a Nelumbo just yesterday. Nelumbo is a genus of aquatic plants in the order Proteales found living in freshwater ponds. You'll recognize them as the emblem of India, Vietnam and many wellness centres.

Interestingly, these lovelies can thermoregulate, producing heat. Nelumbo use the alternative oxidase pathway (AOX) to exchange electrons. Instead of using the typical cytochrome complex pathway most plants use to power mitochondria, they instead use their cyanide-resistant alternative. This is perhaps to generate a wee bit more scent in their blooms and attract more pollinators. The use of this thermogenic feature would have also allowed thermo-sensitive pollinators to seek out the plants at night and possibly use the cover of darkness to linger and mate.

So they functioned a bit little like a romantic evening meeting spot for lovers and a wee bit like the scent diffuser in your home. This lovely has an old lineage with fossil species in Eurasia and North America going back to the Cretaceous and represented in the Paleogene and Neogene. Photo: Doug Miller of Green River Stone / Lotus Image: Sarah-Anne Juliette McCarthy / Foliage Image: J.M.Garg - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7249919

Saturday, 10 August 2019

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: PLIENBACHIAN APODEROCERAS

Apodoceras / Stonebarrow Fossils
Apoderoceras is a wonderful example of sexual dimorphism within ammonites as the macroconch (female) shell grew to diameters in excess of 40 cm – many times larger than the diameters of the microconch (male) shell. Apoderoceras has been found in the Lower Jurassic of Argentina, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and most of North-West and central Europe, including as this one is, the United Kingdom. This specimen was found on the beaches of Charmouth in West Dorset.

Neither Apoderoceras nor Bifericeras donovani are strictly index fossils for the Taylori subzone, the index being Phricodoceras taylori. Note that Bifericeras is typical of the earlier Oxynotum Zone, and ‘Bifericerasdonovani is doubtfully attributable to the genus. The International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) has assigned the First Appearance Datum of genus Apoderoceras and of Bifericeras donovani the defining biological marker for the start of the Pliensbachian Stage of the Jurassic, 190.8 ± 1.0 million years ago.

Apoderoceras, Family Coeloceratidae, appears out of nowhere in the basal Pliensbachian and dominates the ammonite faunas of NW Europe. It is superficially similar to the earlier Eteoderoceras, Family Eoderoceratidae, of the Raricostatum Zone, but on close inspection can be seen to be quite different. It is therefore an ‘invader’ and its ancestry is cryptic.

The Pacific ammonite Andicoeloceras, known from Chile, appears quite closely related and may be ancestral, but the time correlation of Pacific and NW European ammonite faunas is challenging. Even if Andicoeloceras is ancestral to Apoderoceras, no other preceding ammonites attributable to Coeloceratidae are known. We may yet find clues in the Lias of Canada. Apoderoceras remains present in NW Europe throughout the Taylori Subzone, showing endemic evolution. It becomes progressively more inflated during this interval of time, the adult ribs more distant, and there is evidence that the diameter of the macroconch evolved to become larger. At the end of the Taylori Subzone, Apoderoceras disappeared as suddenly as it appeared in the region, and ammonite faunas of the remaining Jamesoni Zone are dominated by the Platypleuroceras–Uptonia lineage, generally assigned (though erroneously) to the Family Polymorphitidae.

In the NW European Taylori Subzone, Apoderoceras is accompanied (as well as by the Eoderoceratid, B. donovani, which is only documented from the Yorkshire coast, although there are known examples from Northern Ireland) by the oxycones Radstockiceras (quite common) and Oxynoticeras (very rare), the late Schlotheimid, Phricoderoceras (uncommon) Note: P. taylori is a microconch, and P. lamellosum, the macroconch), and the Eoderoceratid, Tetraspidoceras (very rare). The lovely large specimen (macroconch) of Apoderoceras pictured here is likely a female. Her larger body perfected for egg production.

Friday, 9 August 2019

DEINOTHERIUM: PREHISTORIC ELEPHANTS

This partial specimen of Deinotherium giganteum hails from Cerecinos de Campos, Zamora from the Middle-Upper miocene, c. 15.97-5.33 Million Years.

The genus Deinotherium could reach a height of over 3.5 meters. Its structure and size are similar to those of the present-day elephant. Deinotherium first appeared approximately 17 million years ago and became extinct relatively recently, just 1.6 million years ago.

One of the distinguishing features of Deinotherium is their curved tusks inserted only in the jaw. One of the tusks from this fellow, on display at the Museo Nacional De Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain, while incomplete, was preserved rather nicely and shows the detail of where the tusk meets the jaw.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

GIANT GROUND SLOTH

In 1788, this magnificent specimen of a Megatherium sloth was sent to the Royal Cabinet of Natural History from the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata.

The megatheria were large terrestrial sloths belonging to the group, Xenarthra. These herbivores inhabited large areas of land on the American continent. Their powerful skeleton enabled them to stand on their hind legs to reach leaves high in the trees, a huge advantage given the calories needed to be consumed each day to maintain their large size.

Avocados were one of the food preferences of our dear Giant ground sloths. They ate then pooped them out, spreading the pits far and wide. The next time you enjoy avocado toast, thank this large beastie. One of his ancestors may have had a hand (or butt) in your meal.

In 1788, Bru assembled the skeleton as you see it here. It is exhibited at the Museo Nacional De Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain, in its original configuration for historic value. If you look closely, you'll see it is not anatomically correct. But all good paleontology is teamwork. Based upon the drawings of Juan Bautista Bru, George Cuvier used this specimen to describe the species for the very first time.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

GIANT TORTOISES & THE ISLAND RULE

Giant tortoises and other organisms that live and evolve on islands undergo a different set of selective pressures than those who live on our continental land masses. We call this the 'island rule'. Species develop unusual traits, becoming larger or smaller than their continental brethren.

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. 


Tuesday, 6 August 2019

WESTERN EUROPEAN HEDGEHOG

This little cutie is a Western European hedgehog, Erinaceus europaus, in the subfamily Erinaceinae (Fischer, 1814). They are native to western Europe, Asia, Africa and have been introduced (oops!) to New Zealand.

There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera. They share a distant ancestry with the family Soricidae (shrews) and the gymnures.

Hedgehogs are considered "Living Fossils" as they have changed very little over the past 15 million years. These small mammals are loners with their own kind, but live in close proximity to our human population. They dwell in inhabited areas, farmland, deciduous forests and desert. You'll know them by their distinctive spiny look (which may remind you of a very tasty chocolate from Purdy's in Canada) and their adorable piglike snorts and grunts as they make their way through the underbrush looking for tasty snacks.

Look for them in the evening in hedgerows and undergrowth as they hunt for frogs, toads, snails, bird eggs, grass roots, berries, insects, worms and snakes. They fatten themselves up in preparation for hibernation. They'll find a nice burrow or built a nest in leaves or compost heaps. In Europe, they generally hibernate by October or November and become active again in March to mid-April once temperatures reach over 15 degrees.

Monday, 5 August 2019

DOUVELLICERAS SPINIFERUM

Douvelliceras spiniferum, Cretaceous Haida Formation
Haida Gwaii or the Queen Charlotte Islands lay at the western edge of the continental shelf due west of the central coast of British Columbia. They form Wrangellia, an exotic tectonostratigraphic terrane that includes Vancouver Island, parts western British Columbia and Alaska.

The Geological Survey of Canada sponsored many expeditions to these remote islands and has produced numerous reference papers on this magnificent terrain, exploring both the geology and paleontology of the area.

Joseph Whiteaves, the GSC 's chief palaeontologist in Ottawa, published a paper in 1876 describing the Jurassic and Cretaceous faunas of Skidegate Inlet, furthering his reputation globally as both a geologist and paleontologist.

The praise was well-earned and foreshadowed his significant contributions to come. Sixteen years later, he wrote up and published his observations on a strange Mount Stephen fossil that resembled a kind of headless shrimp with poorly preserved appendages. Because of the unusual pointed shape of the supposed ventral appendages and the position of the spines near the posterior of the animal, Whiteaves named it Anomalocaris canadensis. The genus name "Anomalocaris" meant "unlike other shrimps" and the species name "canadensis" referred to the country of origin.

Whiteaves work on the paleontology of the Queen Charlotte Island provided us with excellent reference tools, particularly his work on the Cretaceous exposures and fauna that can be found there.

One of our fossil field trips was to the ruggedly beautiful Cretaceous exposures of Lina Island. We’d planned this trip as part of our “trips of a lifetime.” Both John Fam and Dan Bowen can be congratulated for their efforts in researching the area and ably coordinating a warm welcome by the First Nations community and organizing fossil field trips to some of the most amazing fossil localities in the Pacific Northwest. With great sandstone beach exposures, the fossil-rich (Albian to Cenomanian) Haida formation provided ample specimens, some directly in the bedding planes and many in concretion. Many of the concretions contained multiple specimens of typical Haida Formation fauna, providing a window into this Cretaceous landscape.

It is always interesting to see who was making a living and co-existing in our ancient oceans at the time these fossils were laid down. We found multiple beautifully preserved specimens of the spiny ammonite, Douvelleiceras spiniferum along with Brewericeras hulenense, Cleoniceras perezianum and many cycads in concretion.

Pictured above is Douvilleiceras spiniferum with his naturally occurring black, shiny appearance. Danna Straaf had recently asked me what my favourite cephalopod is, and I have to say that it is a hard choice but this fellow is in the top three. He is 6 inches long and 5 inches deep, and a beautiful example of the species.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

FLAT CLAMS: BIOCHRONOLOGICAL MACROFOSSILS

Paper clams or 'flat clams' were widespread in the Triassic. We call these bivalves 'flat clams' because of their very thin shell width and narrow valve convexity. They often dominate the rocks in which they are found, as in these specimens from Pine Pass near Chetwynd in the Foothills of northeastern British Columbia.

Pine Pass is part of the Pardonet Formation. Just a short hike from the road we were able to easily find the abundant outcroppings of the paper clam, Monotis subcircularis, perfectly preserved and cemented in this strata from the Late Triassic. Because of their widespread distribution and very high species turnover rates, they make for excellent biochronological macrofossils, helping us to correlate biological events through time.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING

Aptly named, Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is the largest hot spring in the United States (and one of the loveliest) and the third largest in the world. The rich yellow, red, orange, green and blue coloring you see here is the result of microbial mats of bacteria and archaea.

While a whole host of thermophilic (heat-loving) microorganisms are responsible, it is the cyanobacteria, one of the more common fellows from this group, which form most of the scum. Cyanobacteria grow together in huge colonies (bacterial mats) that form the delightfully colourful slimes and scum on the perimeter of hot springs. You can tell a fair bit about the water temperature and chemistry just by looking at the colour of the pools. The coloring shifts dependant upon the ratio of carotenoids to chlorophyll and ambient temperature. We see more orange and red in the summer and the colder temperature of late Fall and Winter bring more green to the coloring.

Friday, 2 August 2019

SYMBIOTIC SLOTHS

Ever wonder why the slow moving sloth has a slightly greenish hue? Ever consider the sloth at all? Well, perhaps not. Location, location, location, is the mantra for many of us in our macro world, but it is also true for the small world of algae.

Blue-green algae are microscopic, plant-like organisms. The term is used to describe any of a large, heterogeneous group of prokaryotic, principally photosynthetic organisms. These little oxygenic (oxygen-producing) fellows appeared are given credit for greatly increasing the oxygen content of the atmosphere, making possible the development of aerobic (oxygen-using) organisms and some very special relationships with some of the slowest moving mammals on the planet, the sloths or Folivora.

The tribes of South America who live close to these insect and leaf-eaters, call these arboreal browsers "Ritto, Rit or Ridette, which roughly translates to variations on sleep, sleepy, munching and filthy. Not all that far off when you consider the sloth and their lifestyle.

The sloth's body and shaggy coat, or pelage, provides a comfy habitat to two types of wee blue-green algae along with various other invertebrates. The hairs that make up the sloth's coat are long and coarse with grooves that help foster algal growth. They soak up water readily and make for the perfect habitat for algae, moths, beetles fungi and even cockroaches.

And, while Kermit the Frog says, "it's not easy being green," it couldn't be further from the truth for this slow-moving tree dweller. The blue-green algae gives the sloth a natural greenish camouflage, an arrangement that is certainly win-win.