Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A disturbingly familiar coral from the Middle Jurassic of southern Israel

April 3rd, 2015

Single Axosmilia side 585Our fossil this week is one I don’t share with my Invertebrate Paleontology classes until they’re ready for it. Those of us who grew up with Paleozoic fossils think we recognize it right away. Surely this is a solitary rugose coral? It has the right shape and the fine growth lines we call rugae (think “wrinkles”). This view below of the oral surface is not surprising either, unless you’re an enthusiast of septal arrangements.
Axosmilia oral view 585Instead of a rugose coral, though, this is a scleractinian coral from the Matmor Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian) of Hamakhtesh Hagadol, Israel. It is part of the collection of Matmor corals Annette Hilton (’17) and I are working through. This coral belongs to the genus Axosmilia Milne Edwards, 1848.
Axosmilia group 031815 585These corals are excellent examples of evolutionary convergence. The scleractinians are only very distantly related to the rugosans. They do not share a common ancestor with a calcareous skeleton, let alone a cone-shaped one like this. Instead the scleractinians like Axosmilia developed a skeleton very similar to that of the solitary rugosans, probably because they had similar life modes in similar environments, and thus similar selective forces. The rugosans, though, built their skeletons out of the mineral calcite, whereas the scleractinians use aragonite. (This specimens are calcite-replaced, like our specimen last week.) The vertical septa inside the cone are also arranged in different manners. Rugosans insert them in cycles of four (more or less), giving them a common name “tetracorals”; scleractinians have septal insertions in cycles of six, hence they are “hexacorals”. Rugose corals went extinct in the Permian; scleractinians are still with us today. Our friend Axosmillia appeared in the Jurassic and went extinct in the Cretaceous.

Rugose coral skeletons in the Paleozoic are commonly encrusted with a variety of skeletal organisms, and many are bored to some degree. I expected to see the same sclerobionts with these Jurassic equivalents, but they are clean and unbored. I suspect this means they lived semi-infaunally (meaning partially buried in the sediment).
Henri Milne-Edwards (1800–1885)Axosmilia was named by the English-French zoologist Henri Milne-Edwards (1800-1885) in the politically complex year of 1848. Henri was the twenty-seventh (!) child of an English planter from Jamaica and a Frenchwoman. He was born in Bruges, which is now part of Belgium but was then under the control of revolutionary France. Like many early 19th century scientists, Milne Edwards earned an MD degree but was seduced away from medicine by the wonders of natural history. He was a student of the most accomplished scientist of his time, Georges Cuvier, and quickly became a published expert on an amazing range of organisms, from crustaceans to lizards. The bulk of his career was spent at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. When he was 42 he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Society, receiving from them the prestigious Copley Medal in 1856. He died in Paris at the age of 85.

References:

Fürsich, F.T. and Werner, W. 1991. Palaeoecology of coralline sponge-coral meadows from the Upper Jurassic of Portugal. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 65: 35-69.

Martin-Garin, B., Lathuilière, B. and Geister, J. 2012. The shifting biogeography of reef corals during the Oxfordian (Late Jurassic). A climatic control?. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 365: 136-153.

Pandey, D.K., Ahmad, F. and Fürsich, F.T. 2000. Middle Jurassic scleractinian corals from northwestern Jordan. Beringeria 27: 3-29.

Pandey, D.K. and Fürsich, F.T. 2005. Jurassic corals from southern Tunisia. Zitteliana 45: 3-34.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: An encrusted scleractinian coral from the Middle Jurassic of southern Israel

March 27th, 2015

Amphiastrea Etallon 1859 Matmor Formation 585This week’s fossil is in honor of Annette Hilton (’17), who is my Sophomore Research Assistant this year. She has been diligently working through a large and difficult collection of scleractinian corals from the Matmor Formation (Middle Jurassic, Callovian) of Hamakhtesh Hagadol, Israel. These specimens were collected as parts of many paleoecological studies in our Wooster paleontology lab, so I thought it was time they received some systematic attention on their own. I knew it would be difficult, but Annette was up to the task and has done a splendid job.

The above specimen is a scleractinian coral of the genus Amphiastrea Étallon, 1859. It was collected from locality C/W-227 in the makhtesh. Considering the original was aragonite, it is remarkably preserved in a calcitized version. The large disks stuck to it are encrusting bivalves, probably of the genus Atreta.
Amphiastrea reverseHere we see the reverse with more encrusters. It is apparent that this cylindrical specimen was encrusted on all sides while it was in its erect living position, or this piece rolled around loose on the seafloor for an extended interval.
Amphiastrea serpulidOne of the encrusting bivalves was itself encrusted by a serpulid worm, which left part of its twisty calcitic tube behind.
Amphiastrea plicatulidThis thin, ghostly encruster is probably the bivalve Plicatula.
Amphiastrea close viewA close view of the corallites shows how well preserved they are on the surface of the coral. Each of these pits shows the vertical septa (walls of a sort) that were underneath the coral polyps in life. Despite this beautiful outer preservation, the interior of the specimen is mostly occupied by blocky calcite crystals.

This coral was found in a marly sediment, which explains why it is not locked into a solid piece of limestone as many Jurassic corals are. Amphiastrea apparently preferred environments with a significant amount of siliciclastic sediment (see Pandey and Fürsich, 2001, and other references below). I hope my students and I can further study this diverse and abundant coral fauna in the Matmor Formation. Annette Hilton has prepared the way.

Claude Auguste Étallon (1826-1862) named the genus Amphiastrea in 1859. He was a prominent paleontologist and geologist in his time. He was only 35 years old when he died, though, and has almost completely dropped out of the literature in English, except for the numerous invertebrate taxa he named. (There is a kind of immortality in our system of adding author’s names to taxa.) Using my Google Translator skills, I can read in the French literature that he was born to “an honest merchant family” in Luxeuil, France. He was a mathematics teacher first at collège Paul Féval à Dol-de-Bretagne and then later several other institutions. He developed a specialty in the rocks and fossils of the local Jurassic. Étallon created and published a geological map (“Carte géologique des Environs de St. Claude”), which was quite advanced for the time. The Late Jurassic turtle Plesiochelys etalloni was named after him in 1857. Auguste Étallon died suddenly of “the rupture of an aneurysm after two days of a slight indisposition” in February 1862.

Here’s to the memory of the energetic, productive and too short-lived Auguste Étallon.

References:

d’Amat, R. 1975. Étallon, Claude Auguste. Dictionnaire de Biographie Française 13: 163-164.

Löser, H. 2012. Revision of the Amphiastraeidae from the Monti D’Ocre area (Scleractinia; Early Cretaceous). Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 118: 461-469.

Pandey, D.K., Ahmad, F. and Fürsich, F.T. 2000. Middle Jurassic scleractinian corals from northwestern Jordan. Beringeria 27: 3-29.

Pandey, D.K. and Fürsich, F.T. 2001. Environmental distribution of scleractinian corals in the Jurassic of Kachchh, western India. Journal Geological Society of India 57: 479-495.

Pandey, D.K. and Fürsich, F.T. 2005. Jurassic corals from southern Tunisia. Zitteliana 45: 3-34.

Vinn, O. and Wilson, M.A. 2010. Sabellid-dominated shallow water calcareous polychaete tubeworm association from the equatorial Tethys Ocean (Matmor Formation, Middle Jurassic, Israel). Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie 258: 31-38.

Wilson, M.A., Feldman, H.R., Bowen, J.C. and Avni, Y. 2008. A new equatorial, very shallow marine sclerozoan fauna from the Middle Jurassic (late Callovian) of southern Israel. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 263: 24-29.

Wilson, M.A., Feldman, H.R. and Krivicich, E.B. 2010. Bioerosion in an equatorial Middle Jurassic coral-sponge reef community (Callovian, Matmor Formation, southern Israel). Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 289: 93-101.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A bored and formerly encrusting trepostome bryozoan from the Upper Ordovician of Indiana

March 20th, 2015

1 Trep Upper 030115The lump above looks like your average trepostome bryozoan from the Upper Ordovician. I collected it from the Whitewater Formation of the Cincinnatian Group at one of my favorite collecting sites near Richmond, Indiana. In this view you can just barely make out the tiny, regular holes that are the zooecia (calcitic tubes that held the bryozoan individuals — the zooids). There are bits of other fossils stuck to the outside, so it’s not particularly attractive as fossils go. (Except that all fossils are fascinating messengers in time.)

2 Trep Upper CloseWith this closer view you can see my initial interest in this particular bryozoan. Again, the regular, tiny holes are the zooecia. The larger pits are borings by worm-like, filter-feeding organisms. These borings are either in the ichnogenus Trypanites (if they are cylindrical) or Palaeosabella (if they are clavate, meaning clubbed at their distal ends). Such borings are common in all types of skeletal fossils in the Upper Ordovician — so common that they are part of the evidence for the Ordovician Bioerosion Revolution. So, let’s flip this ordinary, bored bryozoan over and see what’s underneath:

3 Trep Under 030115Here’s the main scientific beauty! We’re looking at the underside of the bryozoan. Ordinarily we’d expect to see a shell here that the bryozoan was encrusting, but the shell is gone. We’re gazing directly at the attachment surface of the bryozoan. It’s as if the colony had encrusted a sheet of glass and we’re looking right through it. The shell it was originally attached to has been removed either through dissolution (it might have been an aragonitic bivalve) or physical removal (it may have been a calcitic brachiopod). The borings are now much more prominent. They penetrated through the bryozoan into the mysterious missing shelly substrate. Some are small pits that just intersected the shell, others are horizontal as the boring organism turned at a right angle when it reached the shell and drilled along the bryozoan-shell interface. Removing the shell exposed the distal parts of these borings — parts that ordinarily would have been hidden by the encrusted shell.

4 Trep Under labeledHere is a closer, labeled view of this bryozoan basal surface. A is the earliest encruster recorded in this scenario; it is a small encrusting bryozoan that was first on the shelly substrate and then completely overgrown (or bioimmured) by the large trepostome. B shows that the trepostome was growing on a shell that already had borings from a previous encruster-borings combination that must have fallen off; these are grooves in the substrate that the trepostome filled in as it covered the shell. C is one of the many later borings that cut perpendicularly through the bryozoan and worked along the shell-bryozoan interface; as described above, only when that shelly substrate was removed would these be visible. In this surprisingly complex story, B represents an earlier version of C. We thus know that the shell was encrusted by one bryozoan, bored, and then that bryozoan was freed at its attachment (and not found in our collection). The same shell was then encrusted by this second bryozoan, which recorded the groove (or “half-borings”) made during the first encrustation.

These half-borings were first described in 2006 when my students Cordy Dennison-Budak and Jeff Bowen worked with me on them and we had a GSA abstract. Coleman Fitch is presently completing his Senior Independent Study enlarging the database for these features and developing detailed interpretations. The main implication from this work is that thick trepostome bryozoan encrusters often “popped off” shells, leaving no signs of their presence unless there were these half-borings in the shell surfaces and bryozoan undersides. Paleoecology and taphonomy on a very small scale!

References:

Taylor, P.D. 1990. Preservation of soft-bodied and other organisms by bioimmuration—a review. Palaeontology 33: 1-17.

Wilson, M.A., Dennison-Budak, W.C., and Bowen, J.C. 2006. Half-borings and missing encrusters on brachiopods in the Upper Ordovician: Implications for the paleoecological analysis of sclerobionts. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 38, No. 7, p. 514.

Wilson, M.A. and Palmer, T.J. 2006. Patterns and processes in the Ordovician Bioerosion Revolution. Ichnos 13: 109-112.

Wilson, M.A., Palmer, T.J. and Taylor, P.D. 1994. Earliest preservation of soft-bodied fossils by epibiont bioimmuration: Upper Ordovician of Kentucky. Lethaia 27: 269-270.

 

Days Five and Six – Mojave 2015

March 13th, 2015

Day five began at Kelso Dunes - sand, ripples, and Wooster Geologist footprints.

Day five began at Kelso Dunes – sand, ripples, and Wooster Geologist footprints.

Michael for scale.

Michael for scale.

Petroglyphs at Hole in the Wall.

Petroglyphs at Hole in the Wall.

Eric for scale, showing the size of tafoni at Hole in the Wall.

Eric for scale, showing the size of tafoni at Hole in the Wall.

Proof that the Wooster Geologists were at Hole in the Wall.

Proof that the Wooster Geologists were at Hole in the Wall.

And we made a friend at Hole in the Wall.

And we made a friend at Hole in the Wall.

Day five ended with a visit to a lava tube.

Day five ended with a visit to a lava tube.

Day six started with a visit to the Resting Springs Welded Tuff.

Day six started with a visit to the Resting Springs Welded Tuff.

Check out the fault at Resting Springs Pass.

Check out the fault at Resting Springs Pass.

We channeled our inner Dr. Mark Wilson and searched for fossils in the afternoon.

We channeled our inner Dr. Mark Wilson and searched for fossils in the afternoon.

Olivia found this trilobite! Wow!

Olivia found this trilobite! Wow!

We ended the day with date shakes at the China Ranch. Yum!

We ended the day with date shakes at the China Ranch. Yum!

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A new crinoid genus from the Silurian of Estonia

March 13th, 2015

Velocrinus CD-interray lateralIt is my pleasure to introduce a new Silurian crinoid genus and species: Velocrinus coniculus Ausich, Wilson & Vinn, 2015. The image above is a CD-interray lateral view of the calyx (or head), with the small anal plate in the middle-top. (This will make more sense below.) The scale bar is 2.0 mm, so this is a small fossil. It was captured by the Crinoid Master himself (my friend and colleague Bill Ausich) from the Middle Äigu Beds of the Kaugatuma Formation (Upper Silurian, Pridoli) at the Kaugatuma Cliffs of Saaremaa Island, Estonia. It is described in the latest issue of the Journal of Paleontology. Here’s a link to the abstract. (This is the first issue produced by Cambridge University Press, so we’re honored to be part of publishing history.)
Velocrinus E-ray lateralHere is another view of the calyx, this time looking laterally at the E-ray.
AusichWilsonVinn_Fig3This figure explains the calyx views we see above. It is a plate diagram of Velocrinus coniculus. Imagine it as what the crinoid would look like if we could separate all its preserved ossicles and lay them out. The radial plates are black; the anal plate is shown stippled and marked with an “X”; the other letters indicate the particular rays. The artwork, and the images above, are from Bill Ausich.

The genus Velocrinus is defined this way in the paper: “Crotalocrinitid with a calyx cone shaped, lacking stereomic overgrowths, comprised of relatively large plates; infrabasals not fused, visible in lateral view; two anal plates; primaxil minute, not visible in lateral view; fixed brachials present; free arms not laterally linked; anus on tegmen; (nature of tegmen plating unknown).” This certainly is opaque to most readers. Trust us — it separates this new genus from all described before. Velocrinus is derived from the Latin term velo, which means to cover or conceal (think “veil”). It refers to the tiny primibrachials, which are not visible in lateral view. The species name coniculus refers to the cone-shaped calyx.
Kaugatuma070511Velocrinus coniculus is known only from the Kaugatuma Cliffs locality on Saaremaa Island. This is one of my favorite outcrops in Estonia. The extensive bedding-plane exposures are rare in the region. They show hundreds of holdfasts (essentially roots) of crinoids, some very large. The deposit was a relatively high-energy carbonate sand shifting through a forest of tall crinoids rooted in the sediment. Palmer Shonk (’10) did an excellent Senior Independent Study with rocks and fossils we collected from this place. The site shown above, by the way, was the location of a Soviet amphibious landing in November 1944.
KaugatumaCrinoidStem070511This is a close look at a bedding plane of Middle Äigu Beds of the Kaugatuma Formation. The crinoid stems are robust and abundant. Oddly enough, we’re still not sure what genus is represented by the large stems and holdfasts. The calyx of Velocrinus coniculus is far too small to have been associated with them. I suppose this means we need another expedition to Estonia!

This is the 1000th post in the Wooster Geologists blog.

References:

Ausich, W.I., Wilson, M.A. and Vinn, O, 2012. Crinoids from the Silurian of western Estonia. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 57: 613–631.

Ausich, W.I., Wilson, M.A. and Vinn, O, 2015. Wenlock and Pridoli (Silurian) crinoids from Saaremaa, western Estonia (Phylum Echinodermata). Journal of Paleontology 89: 72-81.

For Our Wooster Family

March 13th, 2015

IMG_0021Here’s a photo of a peaceful sunrise at the Desert Studies Center to let our WOODS friends know that our thoughts are with them.

 

Days Three and Four – Mojave 2015

March 11th, 2015

owl_Canyon2

Day three was spent examining the sedimentology, structure and paleontology, and a bit of the wildlife biology at Owl Canyon. We even stopped at the Payless Shoestore in nearby Barstow (Dr. Wilson’s hometown).

tortoise

The wildlife was the desert tortoise.

granite_2

The first stop the next day was the Granite Mountains.

granite

Students (above) discussed the possibility of magma mixing and the enclaves of mafics.

group_granite

The group on a large sphere of granite.

amboy1

The next stop was Amboy Crater – a large basaltic cinder cone with associated lava flows. This is a view of the cone looking from the inside out as Nick secures the perimeter.

amboy2

Dr. Pollock was in her element on the ridge of basalt.

shelley

Dr. Judge explains to the group how during a time of tectonic extension large-scale folding can develop. This was the last stop of the day at Calico Ghost Town.

olivia

The tight ptigmatic folds are almost isoclinal – almost.

Dr_judge2

Using some sticks found on the side of the parking lot – Dr. Judge folds the earths crust at the location along a strike-slip fault, where the fault makes a bend.

sunrise

Zach Downes was up early taking a photo of the sunrise across Soda Lake – our home playa.

The First Two Days in the Mojave

March 10th, 2015

 

students

Nine students and five faculty and staff are part of Desert Geology 2015, a week-long fieldtrip to the Mojave Desert. Here the nine students, joined by Cam Matesich (Wooster ’14) gathered at an overlook of Death Valley (Dante’s View). Cam joined the group on the second day to guide us through various sites and share his experiences working with Park hydrologists as part of GSA’s GEOCORP Program. We are missing desert expert and usual trip leader Dr. Wilson, and Patrice Reeder this year and greatly thank them for getting the trip organized and sending us off on the right foot.

redrocks

After flying into Las Vegas on the first day the group approaches the red rocks of Red Rock Canyon.

thrust

At Red Rocks the group puzzled over the Keystone Thrust Fault that brought gray Paleozoic Limestones on top of the Mesozoic red sandstones.

notmine

A winter view of the same Keystone Thrust – photo courtesy of the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center.

zack

The photographer takes a break.

badwater

Day two – The full group at Badwater in Death Valley. Lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.

cam

Cam explains the spring and groundwater flow in Death Valley and how the park monitors and restores the hydrologic landscape in the Park.

devils

The group strikes a pose on the Devils Golf Course – Death Valley.

artist

Along Artists Drive in Death Valley photographers go to work.

nick

Nick strikes a pose on top of a weathered basalt boulder.

caitlin

Caitlin, the staff hydrologist, explains the hydrology of a large diameter well in a gravel wash.

staff

The faculty at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. 



Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A lucinid bivalve from the Middle Jurassic of southern Israel

March 6th, 2015

Fimbria CW265 2007 585Above is a specimen of the lucinid bivalve Fimbria sp. from the Matmor Formation (Middle Jurassic) of Makhtesh Gadol in southern Israel. I collected it in 2007 while working with Meredith Sharpe (Wooster ’08) as she pursued the fieldwork for her Independent Study project. It is a nice specimen in part because of its preservation. A closer look (below) shows very fine detail of the shell exterior.
Fimbria closeThe shell is no longer present, though. It was originally composed of the mineral aragonite, which was dissolved away, leaving an external mold that later filled in with very fine crystals of calcite. The sculpture of the shell is exquisitely reproduced; in some places even so well as to show growth lines. Many aragonitic bivalves and gastropods are preserved this way near the top of the Matmor Formation.
F fimbriata Solomon IslandsLucinid bivalves are still common today in the sea. The shell shown above is a modern Fimbria fimbriata from the Solomon Islands. They are infaunal, meaning they live burrowed in the sediment. Since they were not genetically endowed with long siphons, they use the foot to create mucus-lined tubes to the surface for access to seawater. Lucinids have an endosymbiotic relationship with sulfide-oxidizing bacteria in their gill tissues. They have a hemoglobin type that transports hydrogen sulfide to autotrophic bacteria, which in turn provide the bivalves with nutrition and enable them to survive in a variety of environments, from near deep-sea hydrothermal vents to shallow seagrass meadows.

Johann Karl Megerle von Mühlfeld (1765-1842) named Fimbria in 1811. I very much wish I had a portrait to go with that magnificent name. Megerle von Mühlfeld worked at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna through the eventful Napoleonic years. He is best known for his pioneering work with insects, but he also curated the mollusk collections, which led to his description of the new Fimbria.

References:

Anderson, L.C. 2014. Relationships of internal shell features to chemosymbiosis, life position, and geometric constraints within the Lucinidae (Bivalvia), p. 49-72. In: Experimental Approaches to Understanding Fossil Organisms. Springer Netherlands.

Megerle von Mühlfeld, J.K. 1811. Entwurf eines neuen System’s der Schalthiergehäuse. Gesellschaft Naturforschender Freunde zu Berlin, Magazin 5: 38-72.

Monari, S. 2003. A new genus and species of fimbriid bivalve from the Kimmeridgian of the western Pontides, Turkey, and the phylogeny of the Jurassic Fimbriidae. Palaeontology 46: 857-884.

Morton, B. 1979. The biology and functional morphology of the coral-sand bivalve Fimbria fimbriata (Linnaeus, 1758). Records of the Australian Museum 32: 389-420.

Taylor, J.D. and Glover, E.A. 2006. Lucinidae (Bivalvia)–the most diverse group of chemosymbiotic molluscs. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 148: 421-438.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: Star-shaped crinoid columnals from the Middle Jurassic of southern Utah

February 27th, 2015

Isocrinus nicoleti Kane County 585Just a quick Fossil of the Week post. Above we see isolated columnals (stem units) of the crinoid Isocrinus nicoleti (Desor, 1845) found in the Co-Op Creek Member of the Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic), Kane County, southern Utah. Greg Wiles recently received them as part of a donation to our department collections. They have such perfect star shapes that I had to share them here. For the full analysis, see my previous entry on columnals like these preserved in a limestone from the same location.

References:

Baumiller, T.K., Llewellyn, G., Messing, C.G. and Ausich, W.I. 1995. Taphonomy of isocrinid stalks: influence of decay and autotomy. Palaios 10: 87-95.

Tang, C.M., Bottjer, D.J. and Simms, M.J. 2000. Stalked crinoids from a Jurassic tidal deposit in western North America. Lethaia 33: 46-54.

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