Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: A trace fossil from the Ordovician of Estonia

November 21st, 2014

Hyoliths03_585The fossils above have been in a previous post as examples of hyolith internal molds from the Middle Ordovician of northern Estonia. I collected them on my first visit to the Baltic countries in 2006. This week I want to recognize them again, but this time for the squiggly trace fossils you can just make out on their outer surfaces. These are the ichnospecies Arachnostega gastrochaenae Bertling, 1992. They are the subject of a paper that has just appeared in Palaeontologia Electronica entitled, simply enough, “The trace fossil Arachnostega in the Ordovician of Estonia (Baltica)“. The senior author is my Estonian buddy Olev Vinn. My Polish friend Michał Zatoń, my new Estonian colleague Ursula Toom, and I are co-authors.
399-861 copyAbove is an unpublished image of a gastropod internal mold from the Estonian Ordovician taken by Olev. It shows very well the variable branching nature Arachnostega. This trace was formed by a deposit-feeding organism mining organic material in a sediment-filled shell. It worked along the sediment-shell interface, probably because there was more nutrient value at that margin. The internal mold was formed when sediment filling the shell was cemented and the shell dissolved away, leaving the hard mold behind.
Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 4.05.40 PMThis is Figure 3.1 in the new paper. Note the variation in the traces as well as the shells it inhabited. The caption as published: Arachnostega gastrochaenae Bertling in a gastropod from Haljala Regional Stage (Sandbian), Aluvere Quarry, northern Estonia. GIT 399-948-1. 2. Arachnostega gastrochaenae Bertling in a gastropod from the Kunda Regional Stage (Darriwilian), Kunda Ojaküla, northern Estonia. GIT 404-355-1. 3. Arachnostega gastrochaenae Bertling in a bivalve from the Haljala Regional Stage (Sandbian), Aluvere Quarry, northern Estonia. GIT 399-1590-1. 4. Arachnostega gastrochaenae Bertling in a bivalve from the Haljala Regional Stage (Sandbian), Aluvere Quarry, northern Estonia. GIT 399-1601-1. 5. Arachnostega gastrochaenae Bertling in a cephalopod from the Uhaku Regional Stage (Darriwilian), Püssi, northern Estonia. GIT 695-12-1.

Our paper analyzes the distribution of Arachnostega through the Ordovician of Baltica, a paleocontinent with a long history, including a collision with Avalonia (western Europe today, more or less) in the Late Ordovician. By plotting the occurrences of Arachnostega over time, we conclude that the makers of Arachnostega likely preferred cool climates and bivalve shells over gastropods. The tracemakers may have also been negatively influenced by the many biotic changes associated with the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event.

Please check out the article itself. As with all papers in Palaeontologia Electronica, it is open access.

References:

Bertling, M. 1992. Arachnostega n. ichnog. – burrowing traces in internal moulds of boring bivalves (late Jurassic, northern Germany). Paläontologische Zeitschrift 66: 177-185.

Vinn, O., Wilson, M.A., Zatoń, M. and Toom, U. 2014. The trace fossil Arachnostega in the Ordovician of Estonia (Baltica). Palaeontologia Electronica 17, Issue 3; 41A; 9 p.

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Embedded cornulitids from the Lower Silurian of Estonia

May 12th, 2013

Cornulitids_Strom_051113At first specimen this looks like a series of holes drilled into a small, smooth substrate (like Trypanites), but then you notice that the substrate has grown up around the holes, and on the far left you can make out two cones. These are cornulitid tubes that lived on and then inside a living stromatoporoid sponge. Jonah Novek (’13), a Wooster geologist graduating tomorrow, found these in the Hilliste Formation (Rhuddanian, Llandovery) during his Independent Study work on Hiiumaa Island in Estonia.

My Estonian paleontologist friend Olev Vinn is the expert in bioclaustrated (embedded in a living substrate) cornulitids, as you can see from the papers listed below. These fossils are an excellent example of endosymbiosis, or the living relationship of one organism embedded within the skeleton of another (see Tapanila and Holmer, 2006). We can’t tell yet without a thin-section, but the cornulitid here is probably very similar to the Sheinwoodian (Wenlock) Cornulites stromatoporoides Vinn and Wilson, 2010. The specimen shown above is already in the mail to Estonia for further analysis. This specimen is the earliest example of cornulitid endosymbiosis in the Silurian.
Closer_Cornulitids_Strom_051113A closer view of the embedded cornulitid tubes. The tubes in these holes appear to have dissolved away, at least in their distal parts. Some of the details of the stromatoporoid substrate are just visible.

Jonah_MW_Richa_071213Fond memories of the 2012 Wooster-Ohio State University expedition to Estonia. Jonah Novek (’13), me, and Richa Ekka (’13) on the top of the Kõpu Lighthouse, Hiiumaa Island, Estonia. Photo by our friend Bill Ausich (OSU).

Congratulations to Jonah on his find, and best wishes to all the senior Wooster Geologists on this graduation weekend.

References:

Tapanila, L. and Holmer, L.E. 2006. Endosymbiosis in Ordovician-Silurian corals and stromatoporoids: A new lingulid and its trace from eastern Canada. Journal of Paleontology 80: 750-759.

Vinn, O. and Wilson, M.A. 2010. Abundant endosymbiotic Cornulites in the Sheinwoodian (Early Silurian) stromatoporoids of Saaremaa, Estonia. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie 257:13-22.

Vinn, O. and Wilson, M.A. 2012a. Encrustation and bioerosion on late Sheinwoodian (Wenlock, Silurian) stromatoporoids from Saaremaa, Estonia. Carnets de Géologie [Notebooks on Geology], Brest, Article 2012/07 (CG2012_A07).

Vinn, O. and Wilson, M.A. 2012b. Epi- and endobionts on the Late Silurian (early Pridoli) stromatoporoids from Saaremaa Island, Estonia. Annales Societatis Geologorum Poloniae 82: 195-200.

Stratigraphy and paleoenvironments of the Soeginina Beds (Paadla Formation, Lower Ludlow, Upper Silurian) on Saaremaa Island, Estonia (Senior Independent Study Thesis by Richa Ekka)

January 28th, 2013

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Editor’s note: Senior Independent Study (I.S.) is a year-long program at The College of Wooster in which each student completes a research project and thesis with a faculty mentor.  We particularly enjoy I.S. in the Geology Department because there are so many cool things to do for both the faculty advisor and the student.  We post abstracts of each study as they become available.  The following was written by Richa Ekka, a senior geology major from Jamshedpur, India. She finished her thesis and graduated in December, so her work is the first of her class to be posted. You can see earlier blog posts from Richa’s study by clicking the Estonia tag to the right.

In July 2012, I travelled to Estonia with my advisor, Dr. Mark Wilson, a fellow Wooster geology major Jonah Novek, Dr. Bill Ausich and three geology students of The Ohio State University. It was quite an adventure with a few unexpected changes in our travel plans. Dr. Wilson and I had to spend a day in Tallinn, waiting for Jonah as his flight was delayed. Upon Jonah’s arrival we headed for the island of Saaremaa, where I carried out my research. We stayed in Kuressaare, on the southern shore of the island. I did my field research on the Soeginina Beds at Kübassaare in eastern Saaremaa.

The Kübessaare coastal area is an outcrop of the Soeginina Beds in the Paadla Formation (lowermost Ludlow) that represents a sequence of dolostones, marls, and stromatolites (see figure above). The Soeginina Beds represent rocks just above the Wenlock/Ludlow boundary, which is distinguished by a major disconformity that can be correlated to a regional regression on the paleocontinent of Baltica. The occurrence of these sedimentary structures and fauna in the Soeginina Beds provide us with evidence that there was a change in paleoenvironmental conditions from a shelfal marine environment to a restricted shallow marine setting followed by a hypersaline supratidal setting.

The base of the section has Chondrites trace fossils and marly shale that represent a shelfal marine environment. The next section on top has dolostones with Herrmannina ostracods, oncoids, and eurypterid fragments that indicate a shallow marine setting (lagoonal). The next section above has stromatolites (see figure below) that form in exposed intertidal mud flats. The topmost section has halite crystal molds that represent a hypersaline supratidal setting. Thus, we see a change from shelfal marine environment to a restricted shallow marine setting and finally to a hypersaline supratidal setting.

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The first Wooster Geology student posters at GSA 2012

November 4th, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA–The brave souls Jonah Novek (’13) above and Kit Price (’13) below were the first Wooster students to present their posters at the 2012 Geological Society of America meeting. Jonah worked in Estonia this past summer on Early Silurian recovery faunas in the Hilliste Formation on Hiiumaa Island. You can read his abstract directly here, and you can recall his field adventures by searching for “Jonah” in this blog. Kit collected Upper Ordovician cryptic sclerobiont fossils in Indiana in the late summer. Her abstract is here, and you can see her work in this blog by searching for “Kit“. Jonah and Kit started off our GSA presentation experience with confidence and joy.

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: Giant ostracods (Silurian of Estonia)

October 7th, 2012

During our Estonian expedition this summer, Richa Ekka (’13) chose as her Independent Study project focus the Soeginina Beds (lowermost Ludlow, Upper Silurian) of the Paadla Formation exposed in southeastern Saaremaa Island. These carbonate sediments, mostly dolomitized, were deposited in very shallow conditions — so shallow that in some places we have syneresis cracks and halite crystal molds. I expected the fossils to be mostly stromatolites and rare traces. We were pleasantly surprised to also find, though, a bed with numerous valves of the giant ostracod Herrmannina Kegel 1933 (shown above). I should have guessed that the hardy and extraordinarily successful ostracods would have been present.

At first we thought that these slightly-recrystallized shells must be bivalves (clams) because of their relatively large size (up to 25 mm long). But we didn’t see the typical bivalve muscle scars or hinging teeth and sockets. They had to be ostracods — but so big? The typical ostracod valve, shown below, is two mm or less in length. These Silurian examples are over 10 times that size. It would be like me meeting my 60-foot equivalent. Turns out that Herrmannina is known for its gigantism in the ostracod world — and it is not even the largest.

Cyamocytheridea sp. from the Eocene of Nederokkerzeel, Belgium. (Public Domain, Wikimedia.) This is the typical small size for an ostracod.
Today the ostracods, members of the Phylum Arthropoda, have over 8000 living species in both fresh and marine waters. Most crawl or burrow into sediments (that is, most are vagrant benthic epifaunal and infaunal), and a few are suspended in the water column (planktic). They have a wide range of feeding habits, from filter-feeding and deposit-feeding to herbivory and carnivory. (This is a key to their survival from the Early Paleozoic to today.) The living ostracod above shows that they are essentially a large head with several pairs of appendages inside two hinged valves. (The image is public domain from Anna33 at Wikipedia.) Their sex life is astonishing: ostracods have the largest sperm of any animals in both relative and absolute measures. Ostracod sperm are often ten times the length of the male body. (No, I don’t know how that works!)

Herrmannina is in the Order Leperditicopida of the Class Ostracoda. This genus was named in 1933 by Wilhelm Kegel (1890-1971), a geologist in the Preussische Geologische Landesanstalt of Berlin, Germany, who specialized in the Devonian and Carboniferous systems. I couldn’t find out much more about Dr. Kegel, but did stumble across an uncredited, undated low-resolution photo of him above. A fuzzy face from our paleontological past!

References:

Abushik, A. 2000. Silurian-earliest Devonian ostracode biostratigraphy of the Timan-Northern Ural Region. Proceedings of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Geology 49: 112-125.

Belak, R. 1977. Ontogeny of the Devonian Leperditiid ostracode Herrmannina alta. Journal of Paleontology 51: 943-952.

Kegel, W. 1933. Zur Kenntnis palaozoischer Ostrakoden 3, Leperditiidae aus dem Mitteldevon des Rheinischen Schiefergebirges. Preussischen Geologischen Landesanstalt, Jahrbuch fur das Jahr 1932, Bd. 53, p. 907-935.

Kesling, R.V. 1958. A new and unusual species of the ostracod genus Herrmannina from the Middle Silurian Hendricks Dolomite of Michigan. Contributions, Museum of Paleontology, The University of Michigan 14, No. 9: 143-148.

Putzer, H. 1971. Wilhelm Kegel. Geologisches Jahrbuch 89: xiii-xxii.

Vannier,J., Wang, S.Q., and Coen, M. 2001. Leperditicopid arthropods (Ordovician – Late Devonian): Functional morphology and ecological range. Journal of Paleontology 75: 75-95.

Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: a twisted little crinoid (Lower Silurian of Estonia)

September 9th, 2012

This week’s fossil is a tiny little crinoid with an odd shape. Calceocrinus balticensis (shown above with the scale bar as one millimeter) is a new species from the Lower Silurian (Llandovery) of Hiiumaa, western Estonia. It is part of a series of new crinoid taxa described in the most recent issue of Acta Palaeontologica Polonica by Ausich et al. (2012). All that geological work in Estonia by Ohio State and Wooster geologists is resulting in several paleontological publications, all with the collaboration of our friend Olev Vinn at the University of Tartu, Estonia.

The western Estonian island of Hiiumaa where our little crinoid was found. (Image courtesy of Google Maps.)

Calceocrinus balticensis Ausich, Wilson and Vinn, 2012 (to give its full and glorious name) is unusual because its crown (the filter-feeding “head” of the crinoid) is recumbent on the column (the “stem”). In the images above you can see the column as a series of disks on their sides at the bottom of the view. The crown is the set of larger plates attached to the top of the column, from which there are several arms extending to the right. This new species is the first of its genus from the paleocontinent Baltica. It had sister species in North America on what became Anticosti Island in eastern Canada (see Ausich and Copper, 2010).

Calceocrinids (Order Calceocrinida Ausich, 1998) lived very close to the seafloor. The column of an individual, which in other crinoids holds the crown far off the substrate, lay horizontally along the bottom. The crown was hinged at its base so that it could be elevated perpendicular to the stem with the arms spread wide to filter organic material from the water. During non-feeding times the crown would lie inconspicuous on the bottom. This crinoid literally had a very low profile compared to its showy cousins.

Now, though, the shy little Calceocrinus balticensis gets a moment of exposure and formal admission to the roll call of life’s species.

References:

Ausich, W.I. 1998. Phylogeny of Arenig to Caradoc crinoids (Phylum Echinodermata) and suprageneric classification of the Crinoidea. The University of Kansas Paleontological Contributions, n.s. 9, 36 pp.

Ausich, W.I. and Copper, P. 2010. The Crinoidea of Anticosti Island, Québec  (Late Ordovician to Early Silurian). Palaeontographica Canadiana 29, 157 pp.

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

Wooster’s Fossils of the Week: A stromatoporoid-stromatolite combination (Upper Silurian of Saaremaa Island, Silurian)

July 22nd, 2012

There are two common fossil types that begin with “strom” and look roughly alike to the untrained eye. One is the stromatoporoid, which is a calcareous sponge, and the other is the stromatolite, which is a layered structure produced by photosynthetic bacteria. I hadn’t seen them together until our expedition to the Silurian of Estonia last summer. Wooster senior Nick Fedorchuk (’12) collected the specimen above at his outcrop of limestones and dolomites just above the Wenlock/Ludlow Boundary along Soeginina Cliff, Saaremaa. (In the rock sequence Richa Ekka is now studying.) We thought it was simply a stromatolite until he cut it to show that the base was a stromatoporoid.
“Stroma” is Greek for a bed or layer. Both stromatolites and stromatoporoids have horizontally laminated structures. The “lite” in stromatolite means rock, so a stromatolite is literally a “layered rock”. They are accretionary structures made by mostly cyanobacteria that collect and bind fine sediment into thin layers, usually in very shallow waters. Often the bacteria make their own calcareous cement for these laminae as a byproduct of photosynthesis. They’ve been doing this for a long time: the earliest known fossils are 3.5 billion-year-old stromatolites.

Stromatoporoids are very different. The “poroid” refers to their semi-porous skeletal layers, which are separated from each other by minuscule pillars. Their peak of abundance was in the Silurian and Devonian Periods, but they survived all the way up into the Cretaceous. They made significant reefs in the Paleozoic, often more common than the corals back then. We believe that they were a type of sponge (Phylum Porifera) with a thin layer of soft tissue on the exterior layer filter-feeding in the typical sponge manner.

Stromatolites are more common in sediments formed in very shallow, warm marine waters with elevated salinity; stromatoporoids liked more normal marine conditions. Finding the stromatolite on top of the stromatoporoid here means that either the environment changed between the two (shallowing, likely), or that the stromatoporoid was dislodged from more offshore waters during a storm and washed into a shallow lagoon, becoming a substrate for stromatolitic growth.

Curiously, there was a suggestion in 1990 by Kaźmierczak and Kempe that stromatoporoids ARE stromatolites. They pointed out that precipitation features in modern stromatolites can be very complex, producing features that resemble those of ancient stromatoporoids. This idea gained no traction, though, and most paleontologists are satisfied that these two types of “strom” have very different origins.

References:

Akihiro, K. 1989. Deposition and palaeoecology of an Upper Silurian stromatoporoid reef on southernmost Gotland, Sweden. Geological Journal 24: 295-315.

Kaźmierczak, J. and Kempe, S. 1990. Modern cyanobacterial analogs of Paleozoic stromatoporoids. Science 250, no. 4985, pp. 1244-1248.

Lebold, J.G. 2000. Quantitative analysis of epizoans on Silurian stromatoporoids within the Brassfield Formation. Journal of Paleontology 74: 394-403.

Segars, M.T. and Liddell, W.D. 1988. Microhabitat analyses of Silurian stromatoporoids as substrata for epibionts. Palaios 3: 391-403.

Soja, C.M., White, B., Antoshkina, A., Joyce, S., Mayhew, L., Flynn, B. and Gleason, A. 2000. Development and decline of a Silurian stromatolite reef complex, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Palaios 15: 273-292.

Vinn, O. and Wilson, M.A. 2010. Endosymbiotic Cornulites in the Sheinwoodian (Early Silurian) stromatoporoids of Saaremaa, Estonia. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abh., v. 257: p. 13–22.

Analysis of a Rhuddanian (Llandovery, Lower Silurian) sclerobiont community in the Hilliste Formation on Hiiumaa Island, Estonia: a hard substrate-dwelling recovery fauna — An abstract submitted to the Geological Society of America for the 2012 annual meeting

July 19th, 2012

Editor’s note: The Wooster Geologists in Estonia this summer wrote abstracts for posters at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, this November. The following is from student guest blogger Jonah Novek in the format required for GSA abstracts:

Analysis of a Rhuddanian (Llandovery, Lower Silurian) sclerobiont community in the Hilliste Formation on Hiiumaa Island, Estonia: a hard substrate-dwelling recovery fauna

NOVEK, Jonah M., WILSON, Mark A., EKKA, Richa N., Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH 44691 USA; AUSICH, William I., School of Earth Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210 USA; VINN, Olev, Department of Geology, University of Tartu, Ravila 14A, 50411 Tartu, Estonia

The Hilliste Formation on the island of Hiiumaa, western Estonia, is a Rhuddanian (Llandovery, Lower Silurian) sequence of limestones and shales.  It represents some of the earliest Silurian rocks on the paleocontinent of Baltica. The depositional system was tropical and shallow marine with tempestites indicated by overturned and broken corals and stromatoporoids. This unit contains a recovery fauna from the Ordovician Mass Extinction. Major taxa in the Hilliste Formation include crinoids, trilobites, bryozoans, corals, stromatoporoids, gastropods, and brachiopods. Sclerobiont communities (organisms that lived on or within hard substrates) have not yet been described from Rhuddanian faunas. The Hilliste Formation contains many encrusters and a few borings on skeletal substrates (primarily corals and crinoid stems). These sclerobionts include at least three kinds of crinoid holdfasts, cornulitids, sheet-like bryozoans, runner-type bryozoans, erect bryozoan holdfasts, and auloporid corals. Most if not all of these sclerobionts inhabited dead substrates. We studied the Hilliste Formation in a small quarry near the village of Hilliste on Hiiumaa. Numerous encrusted and bored specimens were collected for analysis of sclerobiont occurrences in this rare example of a Rhuddanian hard substrate community. These encrusters and borings, along with the macrofauna, have a distinct Late Ordovician aspect.

Stratigraphy and paleoenvironment of the Soeginina Beds (Paadla Formation, Lower Ludlow, Upper Silurian) on Saaremaa Island, Estonia — An abstract submitted to the Geological Society of America for the 2012 annual meeting

July 19th, 2012

Editor’s note: The Wooster Geologists in Estonia this summer wrote abstracts for posters at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, this November. The following is from student guest blogger Richa Ekka in the format required for GSA abstracts:

Stratigraphy and paleoenvironment of the Soeginina Beds (Paadla Formation, Lower Ludlow, Upper Silurian) on Saaremaa Island, Estonia

EKKA, Richa N., WILSON, Mark A., NOVEK, Jonah M., Department of Geology, The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH 44691 USA; VINN, Olev, Department of Geology, University of Tartu, Ravila 14A, 50411 Tartu, Estonia

The Soeginina Beds in the Paadla Formation on the island of Saaremaa, western Estonia, are a Lower Ludlow (Upper Silurian) sequence of dolostones, marls, and stromatolites. They represent rocks just above the Wenlock/Ludlow boundary, which is distinguished by a major disconformity that can be correlated to a regional regression on the paleocontinent of Baltica. We interpret the depositional environment of the Soeginina Beds as having been a hypersaline lagoon. Our evidence includes halite crystal molds, oscillation ripples, eurypterid fragments, stromatolites, ostracods, gastropods, Chondrites trace fossils, intraclasts and oncoids. Nautiloid conchs are common, probably because storm currents washed them in. We measured two sections of the Soeginina Beds at Kübassaare, eastern Saaremaa, western Estonia. The beds in one section are virtually horizontal; in the second they are steeply dipping, probably because of Pleistocene glacial ice overpressure. The beds begin with fine-grained dolostone and end with large, well-preserved domical stromatolites. The equivalent section at Soeginina Pank in western Saaremaa (about 86 kilometers away) has larger oncoids, branching coral fragments, and smaller stromatolites. It is also more heavily dolomitized. We interpret these differences as showing the western Soeginina Beds were deposited in slightly deeper, less saline waters than those in the east at Kübassaare.

Our last evening in Estonia

July 17th, 2012

TALLINN, ESTONIA–We had our final group dinner in the Olde Hansa restaurant. (Freezing at an outside table, I might add, but the food and company was excellent.) We leave for the USA at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. Pictured above, just after our hearty dinner, are, from the left, Mark Peter, Jeff Thompson, Alyssa Bancroft, Mark Wilson, Jonah Novek, Bill Ausich, and Richa Ekka. It is a delightful team. We are already looking forward to our Ohio reunion.

Bill’s image of our last dinner in Tallinn. So much fun, especially after such a successful field trip. Note that it was a bit chilly!

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