Monday, 30 November 2020
The beautiful block you see here was prepared, photographed and is in the collections of José Juárez Ruiz. In it, you can see a lovely Pseudoxybeloceras (Parasolenoceras) soyaense (143 mm), Polyptychoceras jimboi (134 mm), Polyptychoceras sp. (114 mm), Gaudryceras mite (48 and 45 mm), Gaudryceras tenuiliratum (Hirano, 1978) at (48 and 20 mm), and a wee fragment of wood (69 mm).
Matsumoto published on the ammonites from the Campanian (Upper Cretaceous) of northern Hokkaido back in 1984, in the Palaeontological Society of Japan Special Series Papers, Number #27.
This was my first look at the glorious fauna from northern Japan. The species and preservation are truly outstanding. Since then, many of the Japanese palaeontologists have made their way over to Vancouver Island, to look at ammonites, inoceramids and coleoid jaws from the Nanaimo Group and compare them to the Japanese species.
Rick Ross and Pat Trask, both of Courtenay on Vancouver Island, collaborated with Dr. Kazushige Tanabe and Yoshinori Hikida of Japan, to produce a wonderful paper in the Journal of Paleontology, 82 (2), 2008, pp 398-408, on Late Cretaceous Octobrachiate Coleoid Lower Jaws from the North Pacific Regions. They compared eight well-preserved cephalopod jaws from Upper Cretaceous (Santonian and Campanian) deposits of Vancouver Island, Canada, and Hokkaido, Japan. Seven of these were from Santonian to lower Campanian strata of the Nanaimo Group in the northeastern region of Vancouver Island. The eighth specimen was from Santonian strata of the Yezo Group in the Nakagawa area, northern Hokkaido, Japan.
While they were collaborating on identifying coleoid jaws from the Comox Valley, Rick was visited twice by Dr. Kazushige Tanabe who was joined by his colleague Akinori Takahashi. Takahashi is an expert on temporal species-diversity changes in Japanese Cretaceous inoceramid bivalves.
They had the very great pleasure of visiting many fossil sites and seeing personal and museum collections. If you'd like to read Matsumoto's paper, here is the link: http://www.palaeo-soc-japan.jp/download/SP/SP27.pdf I have a pdf copy of the Coleoid paper from Rick. It has very nice photos and illustrations, including a drawing of the holotypes of Paleocirroteuthis haggerti n. gen. and Paleocirroteuithis pacifica.
Here's a link to one of Takahashi's papers: https://bioone.org/journals/paleontological-research/volume-9/issue-3/prpsj.9.217/Diversity-changes-in-Cretaceous-inoceramid-bivalves-of-Japan/10.2517/prpsj.9.217.short
Sunday, 29 November 2020
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. And in Madagascar, in the example seen here found near Sokoja, Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa at 22.8° S, 44.4° E: 28.5° S, 18.2° E.
Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Kaluga is known for its most famous resident, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a rocket science pioneer who worked here as a school teacher.
The Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics in Kaluga is dedicated to his theoretical achievements and their practical implementations for modern space research, hence the motto on the city's coat of arms: "The Cradle of Space Exploration."
Kaluga, founded in the mid-14th century as a border fortress on the southwestern borders of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, first appears in the historical record in chronicles in the 14th century as Koluga; the name comes from Old Russian Kaluga - "bog, quagmire."
During the period of Tartar raids, it was the western end of the Oka bank defence line. The Great Stand on the Ugra River was fought just to the west. In the Middle Ages Kaluga was a minor settlement owned by the Princes Vorotynsky. The ancestral home of these princes lies southwest of the modern city.
On 19 January 1777, the Kaluga drama theatre opened its first theatrical season, established with the direct participation of the Governor-General M. N. Krechetnikov.
General Kutuzov repelled Napoleon's advances in this direction and forced the retreating French army onto the old Smolensk road, previously devastated by the French during their invasion of Russia — an event that may be attributed to poor planning and tin buttons, but that is for another post.
On several occasions during the Russian Empire Kaluga was the residence of political exiles and prisoners such as the last Crimean khan Şahin Giray (1786), the Kyrgyz sultan Arigazi-Abdul-Aziz (1828), the Georgian princess Thecla (1834–1835), and the Avar leader Imam Shamil (1859–1868).
The German army briefly occupied Kaluga during the climactic Battle of Moscow, as part of Operation Barbarossa. The city was under full or partial German occupation from October 12th to December 30, 1941. In 1944, the Soviet Government used its local military buildings to intern hundreds of Polish prisoners of war — soldiers of the Polish underground Home Army — whom the advancing Soviet front had arrested in the area around Vilnius. This specimen is in the collection of the deeply awesome Emil Black. Maximum diameter of 58mm.
Monday, 23 November 2020
|Weyla (Nielsen, 1963) New York Canyon, Nevada|
The end-Triassic mass extinction was global, severe, and accompanied by worldwide disturbance to carbonate ramp and platform sedimentation. We see the effects played out in the Ferguson Hill Member of the Sunrise Formation. These outcrops are the result of the earliest known Jurassic carbonate ramp produced in the back-arc basin along NE Panthalassa following the extinction event to determine the biotic constituents and timing of local ecological recovery.
The Ferguson Hill Member (Hettangian and Sinemurian) of the Sunrise Formation in the New York Canyon area of west-central Nevada, USA has a lovely counterpart in the Rockies of British Columbia, Canada, explored over three field seasons in the early 2000s before being closed off as a provincial park.
In the Hettangian, post-extinction biosiliceous sedimentation extended to the inner ramp, where an ooid and grapestone shoal marked the outermost extent of a narrow belt of carbonate sedimentation. An early recovery phase in the late Hettangian is characterized by widespread, laterally homogeneous, demosponge-dominated level-bottom sedimentation across the mid- to inner-ramp, in addition to limited trophic tiering (sessile epifaunal suspension-feeding and mobile infaunal deposit-feeding), substantial ramp aggradation, and poor settling conditions for competitive benthic colonizers (e.g., corals, crinoids, infaunal bivalves).
Within 1.6–2 Myr after the extinction (in the early Sinemurian), a late recovery phase is recognized by the appearance of epifaunal grazers (gastropods, echinoids) and suspension feeders (crinoids, solitary scleractinian corals), phototrophic microbialites (oncoids, and possibly photosymbionts within corals), and infaunal deposit or suspension feeders (bivalves).
Although the late recovery faunas included more trophic levels than pre-extinction carbonate ramp habitats, development and progradation of the first Jurassic carbonate ramp still relied heavily on sponge, microbialite, and abiotic mineralization.
Sunday, 22 November 2020
The Jurassic ammonites of this section were first studied by Dr. Paul Smith, past Chair of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia and more recently by Andrew Caruthers et al.
Caruthers and his team took a goodly look at the Early Jurassic coral fauna. It is nice to see the other marine invertebrates getting the attention they deserve. Caruthers is an interesting cat. He uses a combination of invertebrate palaeontology and isotope geochemistry to ponder the effects of paleoclimate change and mass extinction. He has turned his eye in recent years to the Paleozoic of the Michigan Basin AND he's based in Kalamazoo, MI. Yep, Kalamazoo.
Others have taken up the mantle of discovery from these sites. Pengfei Hou did his 2014 Masters thesis comparing the Sinemurian (Early Jurassic) stratigraphic sections of Last Creek, British Columbia and Five Card Draw, Nevada including a detailed taxonomic study from the Involutum Zone to the lower part of the Harbledownense Zone of the Sinemurian.
Saturday, 21 November 2020
Ichthyosaurs are an extinct order of marine reptiles from the Mesozoic era. They evolved from land-dwelling, lung-breathing reptiles, they returned to our ancient seas and evolved into the fish-shaped creatures we find in the fossil record today.
They were visibly dolphin-like in appearance but seem to share some other qualities as well. These lovelies were warm-blooded and used their colouration as camouflage. The smaller of their lineage to avoid being eaten and the larger to avoid being seen by prey. Ichthyosaurs also had insulating blubber, a lovely adaptation to keep them warm in cold seas.
Over time, their limbs fully transformed into flippers, sometimes containing a very large number of digits and phalanges. Their flippers tell us they were entirely aquatic as they were not well-designed for use on land. And it was their flippers that first gave us the clue that they gave birth to live young; a hypothesis later confirmed by fossil embryo and wee baby ichy specimens.
We find their fossil remains in outcrops spanning from the mid-Cretaceous to the earliest Triassic. As we look through the fossils, we see a slow evolution in body design moving towards that enjoyed by dolphins and tuna by the Upper Triassic, albeit with a narrower, more pointed snout.
During the early Triassic, ichthyosaurs evolved from a group of unidentified land reptiles that returned to the sea. They were particularly abundant in the later Triassic and early Jurassic periods before being replaced as a premier aquatic predator by another marine reptilian group, the Plesiosauria, in the later Jurassic and Cretaceous.
Friday, 20 November 2020
Hoploscaphites nebrascensis is an upper Maastrichtian species and index fossil. It marks the top of ammonite zonation for the Western Interior. This species has been recorded from Fox Hills Formation in North and South Dakota as well as the Pierre Shale in southeastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska.
It is unknown from Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado due to the deposition of coeval terrestrial units. It has possibly been recorded in glacial deposits in Saskatchewan and northern North Dakota, but that is hearsay.
Outside the Western Interior, this species has been found in Maryland and possibly Texas in the Discoscaphites Conrad zone. This lovely one is in the collection of the deeply awesome (and enviable) José Juárez Ruiz. A big thank you to Joshua DrSlattmaster J Slattery for his insights on this species.
Thursday, 19 November 2020
|Euhoplites Ammonite, Collection of José Juárez Ruiz|
In some, ribs seem to zigzag between umbilical tubercles and parallel ventrolateral clavi. In others, the ribs curve forward from the umbilical shoulder and lap onto either side of the venter.
Its shell is covered in the lovely lumps and bumps we associate with the genus. The function of these adornments are unknown. I wonder if they gave them greater strength to go deeper into the ocean to hunt for food.
This species is the most common ammonite from the Folkstone Fossil Beds in southeastern England where a variety of species are found, including this 37mm beauty from the collections of José Juárez Ruiz.
Sunday, 15 November 2020
Back at the time of Nangkilslas, it was called Didakwaa Gwaii, or “shoreward country.” By any name, the islands are a place of rugged beauty and spirit and enjoy a special place in both the natural and supernatural world. The enormous difference between high and low tide in Haida Gwaii – up to twenty three vertical feet – means that twice a day, vast swathes of shellfish are unveiled, free for the taking.
An ancient Haida saying is still often heard today, “When the tide is out, the table is set.” Archaeological evidence shows that by about five thousand years ago, gathering shellfish replaced hunting and fishing as their primary food source. The shellfish meat was skewered on sticks, smoked and stored for use in winter or for travel.
Steeped in mist and mythology, the islands of Haida Gwaii abound in local lore that surrounds their beginnings. Today, the Hecate Strait is a tempestuous 40-mile wide channel that separates the mist-shrouded archipelago of Haida Gwaii from the BC mainland. Haida oral tradition tells of a time when the strait was mostly dry, dotted here and there with lakes. During the last ice age, glaciers locked up so much water that the sea level was hundreds of feet lower than it is today. Soil samples from the sea floor contain wood, pollen, and other terrestrial plant materials that tell of a tundra-like environment.
The islands of Haida Gwaii are at the western edge of the continental shelf and form part of Wrangellia, an exotic terrane of former island arcs, which also includes Vancouver Island, parts of western mainland British Columbia and southern Alaska.
|Brewericeras hulenense (Anderson, 1938)|
They had a long, arduous journey, first being pushed by advancing plates, then being uplifted, intruded, folded, and finally thrust up again. It’s reminiscent of how pastry is balled up, kneaded over and over, finally rolled out, then the process is repeated again.
This violent history applies to most of the rock that makes up the Insular Belt, the outermost edge of the Cordillera. Once in their present location, the rocks that make up the mountains and valleys of this island group were glaciated and eroded to their present form. Despite this tumultuous past, the islands have arguably the best-preserved and most fossil-rich rocks in the Canadian Cordillera, dating from very recent to more than 200 million years old.
The fossils found in the Triassic rock of Wrangellia are equatorial or low latitude life forms quite different from those found today on the Continent at the latitude of Haida Gwaii. This suggests those rocks were in the equatorial region during the Late Triassic, just over 200 million years ago.
The Lower Jurassic ammonite faunas found at Haida Gwaii are very similar to those found in the Eastern Pacific around South America and in the Mediterranean. The strata exposed at Maple Island, Haida Gwaii are stratigraphically higher than the majority of Albian localities in Skidegate Inlet. The macrofossil fauna belonged to the Upper part of the Sandstone Member of the Haida formation.
The western end of the island contains numerous well-preserved inoceramids such as Birostrina concentrica and a few rare ammonites of Desmoceras bearskinese. The eastern shores are home to unusual ammonite fauna in the finer grained sandstones. Here we find the fossils as extremely hard concretions while others were loose in the shale. Species include Anagaudryceras sacya and Tetragonites subtimotheanus. A large whorl section of the rare Ammonoceratites crenucostatus has also been found here. The ammonites, Desmoceras; Brewericeras hulenense; Cleoniceras perezianum, Douvelliceras spiniferum are all found in Lower Cretaceous, Middle Albian, Haida Formation deposits.
Saturday, 14 November 2020
|Lithography from William Buckland's 1824 Paper|
HOME, E. (1814) Some Account of the Fossil Remains of an Animal more nearly allied to Fishes than any of the Other Classes of Animals. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 104, 571- 577.
Friday, 13 November 2020
|Douvelliceras spiniferum, Cretaceous Haida Formation|
They form Wrangellia, an exotic tectonostratigraphic terrane that includes Vancouver Island, parts western British Columbia and Alaska.
The Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) sponsored many expeditions to these remote islands and has produced numerous reference papers on this magnificent terrain, exploring both the geology and palaeontology 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 palaeontologist.
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 palaeontology of Haida Gwaii provided 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. Choosing my favourite fossil is a tricky business as there are so many wonderful specimens to choose from but if I had to choose, this would be favourite. This satisfying chunky monkey is 6 inches long and 5 inches deep, and a beautiful example of the species. Missing from this trip log are tales of Rene Savenye, who passed away in the weeks before this trip. While he wasn't there in body, he was with us in spirit. I thought of him often on the mist-shrouded days of collecting. Many of the folk on who joined me on those outcrops were friends of Rene's and would go on to receive the Rene Savenye Award. There is a certain palaeo poetry in that.
Thursday, 12 November 2020
Clams or bivalves are molluscs, the second-largest phylum of invertebrates with about 85,000 extant species. While brachiopods share some similarities with their molluscan friends they are in a phylum all their own.
Brachiopods are small marine shellfish that are not so common today but back in the Palaeozoic they were plentiful the world over. The two valves that make up a brachiopods shell are of different sizes and if you look closely you'll see that the hinge runs top and bottom -- versus left and right like a clam.
Brachiopods had evolved from an ancestor similar to Halkieria, a slug-like Cambrian animal with "chain mail" on its back and a shell at the front and rear end; it was thought that the ancestral brachiopod converted its shells into a pair of valves by folding the rear part of its body under its front.
New fossils found in the last few years have shown us that the "chain mail" of tommotiids formed the tube of a sessile animal; one tommotiid resembled phoronids, which are close relatives or a subgroup of brachiopods, while the other tommotiid bore two symmetrical plates that might be an early form of brachiopod valves. Lineages of brachiopods that have both fossil and extant taxa appeared in the early Cambrian, Ordovician, and Carboniferous periods, respectively.
Other lineages have arisen and then become extinct, sometimes during severe mass extinctions. At their peak in the Paleozoic era, the brachiopods were among the most abundant filter-feeders and reef-builders and occupied other ecological niches, including swimming in the jet-propulsion style of scallops. Brachiopod fossils have been useful indicators of climate changes during the Paleozoic. However, after the Permian–Triassic extinction event, brachiopods recovered only a third of their former diversity.
Brachiopods were especially vulnerable to the Permian–Triassic extinction, as they built calcareous hard parts — made of calcium carbonate — and had low metabolic rates and weak respiratory systems. It was often thought that brachiopods went into decline after the Permian–Triassic extinction, and were out-competed by bivalves, but both brachiopod and bivalve species increased from the Paleozoic to modern times, with bivalves increasing faster; after the Permian–Triassic extinction, brachiopods became for the first time less diverse than bivalves.
Their lineage dates back to the Cambrian with over 12,000 fossil species and 350 living relatives sorted between 6,000 genera. There are two major groups of brachiopods, articulate with toothed hinges and simple open and closing muscles to manipulate their shells and inarticulate brachiopods with untoothed hinges and a more complex set of muscles used to control the brachial supports used to open and close their shells.
Wednesday, 11 November 2020
|Florissantia from Quilchena|
Fossil-Lagerstätten are unusual fossil sites found across the globe. A Lagerstätte is a sedimentary deposit with extraordinary fossils preservation. If we are truly lucky, this includes the preservation of soft tissues in remarkable detail.
Fossil-Lagerstätten can be formed in a number of ways. Sometimes an animal or plant is buried in an anoxic or low oxygen environment with minimal bacteria to break down the organic material. In this case, decomposition is minimized.
Even better if the burial happens quickly so that no scavengers can enjoy a tasty snack and the entire specimen is preserved. This type of burial preserves both the gross and fine biological features. If you look at the Florissantia petals above, they look like you may have pressed a modern blossom between the pages of a book. While this lovely is from Ypresian, Early Eocene, deposits near Quilchena, British Columbia, it looks as though it could reasonably have been plucked this year. In the case of Quilchena, the perfect blossom was preserved in a lakebed setting with fine silt that quickly covered and pressed down upon the pedals so that they are preserved here as impressions and carbonaceous films.
The Earth occasionally blesses us with Lagerstätten which can amass thousands, sometimes millions of preserved fossils in stunning quality. Birds can be found with their bones perfectly intact and feathers arranged in a beautiful display.
Flowers are captured in full bloom — as in the case of the lovely Florissantia above — and leaves look as if they had just fallen from a tree. Even amber-entombed insects have their tiny, delicate hairs untouched. Some of these fossil sites are quite well known: La Brea Tar Pits in California or Dinosaur National Monument in Utah and Colorado.
Others fly under the collective radar — Grube Messel in Germany or the Naracoorte Caves in Australia. Nevertheless — these sites all contribute vast quantities of knowledge about our ancient worlds and fill in the gaps that would otherwise be empty forever.
Konservat-Lagerstätten preserves lightly sclerotized and soft-bodied organisms or traces of organisms that are not otherwise preserved in the usual shelly and bony fossil record; thus, they offer more complete records of ancient biodiversity and behaviour and enable some reconstruction of the palaeoecology of ancient aquatic communities.
In 1986, Simon Conway Morris calculated only about 14% of genera in the Burgess Shale had possessed biomineralized tissues in life. The affinities of the shelly elements of conodonts were mysterious until the associated soft tissues were discovered near Edinburgh, Scotland, in the Granton Lower Oil Shale of the Carboniferous.
Information from the broader range of organisms found in Lagerstätten has contributed to recent phylogenetic reconstructions of some major metazoan groups. Lagerstätten seem to be temporally autocorrelated, perhaps because global environmental factors such as climate might affect their deposition
I've popped the link here for you. Definitely worth checking out! https://fossilbonanza.com/about/
Tuesday, 10 November 2020
Over the past 170 years, the Late Devonian Miguasha biota from eastern Canada has yielded a diverse aquatic assemblage including 20 species of lower vertebrates —anaspids, osteostra-cans, placoderms, acanthodians, actinopterygians and sarcopterygians — a more limited invertebrate assemblage, and a continental component including plants, scorpions and millipedes.
Originally interpreted as a freshwater lacustrine environment, recent paleontological, taphonomic, sedimentological and geochemical evidence corroborates a brackish estuarine setting.
Over 18,000 fish specimens have been recovered showing various modes of fossilization, including uncompressed material and soft-tissue preservation. Most vertebrates are known from numerous, complete, articulated specimens. Exceptionally well-preserved larval and juvenile specimens have been identified for 14 out of the 20 species of fishes, allowing growth studies.
Numerous horizons within the Escuminac Formation are now interpreted as either Konservat or Konzentrat–Lagerstätten — and perhaps a contender for Andy Connolly's Fossil Bonanza podcast. What's say, Andy?
This replica was purchased at the Musée d'Histoire Naturelle, Miguasha (MHNM) and is in the collection of the deeply awesome (and well-travelled) John Fam, Vice-Chair of the Vancouver Paleontological Society.
Great Canadian Lagerstätten 4. The Devonian Miguasha Biota (Québec): UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Time Capsule in the Early History of Vertebrates, Richard Cloutier, Département de Biologie, Chimie et Géographie, Université du Québec à Rimouski, 300 allée des Ursulines, Rimouski, QC, Canada, G5L 3A1, email@example.com, http://dx.doi.org/10.12789/geocanj.2013.40.008
Sunday, 8 November 2020
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 half a billion years old.
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 just over a hundred years ago on an unlikely day 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, palaeontologist 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 palaeontologists 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 its splendour. The land may have 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.
Photo: The view from Burgess Pass
Thursday, 5 November 2020
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!
They were prolific breeders that evolved rapidly. If you could cast a fishing line into our ancient seas, it is likely that you would hook an ammonite, not a fish. They were prolific back in the day, living (and sometimes dying) in schools in oceans around the globe. We find ammonite fossils (and plenty of them) in sedimentary rock from all over the world.
In some cases, we find rock beds where we can see evidence of a new species that evolved, lived and died out in such a short time span that we can walk through time, following the course of evolution using ammonites as a window into the past.
For this reason, they make excellent index fossils. An index fossil is a species that allows us to link a particular rock formation, layered in time with a particular species or genus found there. Generally, deeper is older, so we use the sedimentary layers rock to match up to specific geologic time periods, rather the way we use tree-rings to date trees. A handy way to compare fossils and date strata across the globe.
Tuesday, 3 November 2020
|Secretary Bird, Sagittarius serpentarius|
The parklands are part of the asserted traditional territory of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation which includes lands around the Bulkley River, Burns Lake, Broman Lake, and François Lake in the northwestern Central Interior of British Columbia.
The Wetʼsuwetʼen are a branch of the Dakelh or Carrier people, and in combination with the Babine people have been referred to as the Western Carrier. They speak Witsuwitʼen, a dialect of the Babine-Witsuwitʼen language which, like its sister language Carrier, is a member of the Athabaskan family.
Their oral history or kungax recounts a time when their ancestral village, Dizkle or Dzilke, once stood upstream from the Bulkley Canyon. This cluster of cedar houses on both sides of the river was said to be abandoned because of an omen of impending disaster. The exact location of the village has been lost. The neighbouring Gitxsan people of the Hazelton area have a similar tale, though the village in their version is referred to as Dimlahamid or Temlahan. Their house groups include the Gilseyhu or Big Frog Clan, the Laksilyu or Small Frog Clan, the Tsayu or Beaver Clan, the Gitdumden or Wolf and Bear Clan and the Laksamshu or Fireweed and Owl Clan.
The park was created in 1967 by the donation of the land by the late Gordon Harvey (1913–1976) to protect fossil beds on the east side of Driftwood Creek. The beds were discovered around the beginning of the 20th century.
Driftwood Canyon is recognized as one of the world’s most significant fossil beds. It provides park users with a fascinating opportunity to understand the area’s evolutionary processes of both geology and biology. Bird feathers are infrequently collected from the shales; however, two bird body fossils have been found here.
In 1968, a bird body fossil was collected in the Eocene shales of the Ootsa Lake Group in Driftwood Canyon Provincial Park by Pat Petley of Kamloops. Pat Petley donated the specimen in 2000 to the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) palaeontology collections. This fossil bird specimen is tentatively identified as puffbird, Piciformes Bucconidae, of the genus Primobucco.
Primobucco is an extinct genus of bird placed in its own family, Primobucconidae. The type species, Primobucco mcgrewi, lived during the Lower Eocene of North America. It was initially described by American paleo-ornithologist Pierce Brodkorb in 1970, from a fossil right-wing, and thought to be an early puffbird. However, the discovery of a further 12 fossils in 2010 indicate that it is instead an early type of roller.
Related fossils from the European Messel deposits have been assigned to the two species P. perneri and P. frugilegus. Two specimens of P. frugilegus have been found with seeds in the area of their digestive tract, which suggests that these birds were more omnivorous than the exclusively predaceous modern rollers. The Driftwood specimen has never been thoroughly studied. If there is a grad student out there looking for a worthy thesis, head on down to the Thompson Rivers University where you'll find the specimen on display.
Another fossil bird, complete with feathers, was collected at Driftwood Canyon in 1970, This one was found by Margret and Albrecht Klöckner who were travelling from Germany. Theirs is a well-travelled specimen, having visited many sites in BC as they toured around, then to Germany and finally back to British Columbia when it was repatriated and donated to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. I'm not sure if it is still on display or back in collections, but it was lovingly displayed back in 2008. There is a new grad student, Alexis, looking at Eocene bird feathers down at the RBCM, so perhaps it is once again doing the rounds.
This second bird fossil is of a long-legged water bird and has been tentatively identified by Dr. Gareth Dyke of the University of Southampton as possibly from the order Charadriiformes, a diverse order of small to medium-ish water birds that include 350 species of gulls, plovers, sandpipers, terns, snipes, and waders. Hopefully, we'll hear more on this find in the future.
If you fancy a visit to Driftwood Canyon Park, the park is accessible from Driftwood Road from Provincial Highway 16. You are welcome to view and photograph the fossils found here but collecting is strictly forbidden.