Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Fantastic Fish Teeth

On Monday and Tuesday this week I was lucky enough to be working with a visitor who is an expert on fossil fish teeth. It was a fascinating couple of days! Elizabeth Sibert is a PhD student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at the University of California San Diego. She is currently on a research visit to the UK with one of the TW:eed Project Partners, Matt Friedman at the University of Oxford.

Elizabeth and I compared notes on the teeth of actinopterygian fish, from the Carboniferous (TW:eed Project) to Cretaceous and Cenozoic (Elizabeth’s PhD work). One of the fascinating things about these fish is how common they are in the Ballagan Formation, and how different they are to the larger rhizodont fish. We also discussed things such what the fish ate, and why their diversity changes through geological time. 

Elizabeth and I using the Scanning Electron Microscope to image fish teeth
On Tuesday we looked at some very tiny tooth specimens recovered from sediment residues during microfossil picking. As the teeth were less than 1 mm in size, we used the Scanning Electron Microscope to see their detailed structure. It was a very informative and fun two days and we hope to continue working together.

I wish everyone a Happy Easter!

Until next time

Monday, 23 March 2015

The TW:eed Project’s amazing ostracods

On Friday I went to the biannual Ostracod Group meeting of The Micropalaeontology Society, at Queen Mary University of London. I presented my findings on the TW:eed Project’s ostracods and discussed their occurrence with fish and bivalves in the Ballagan Formation. Ostracods are small arthropod crustaceans, about 1mm in length, that live in a wide range of water bodies and occur throughout the fossil record of the last 500 million years. All ostracods are interesting, but the ostracods from the TW:eed Project are particularly interesting as it is around this time in geological history when ostracods adapted from living in the oceans to being able to live in brackish and freshwater too. Different species are found in different salinities, which can help us to understand the environment the tetrapods were living in. Click this link to find out more amazing ostracod facts! 
A typical ostracod shell from the Ballagan Formation, approximately 1 mm in length
It was great to meet with other experts in ostracod research and hear about new discoveries. We heard eight talks on topics from ostracod reproduction and shell geochemistry, to ostracods from saltmarshes, lakes, marine settings and those that live under ice. Keynote speaker was Dr Tom Cronin from the US Geological Survey who took us through his vast body of research into modern Arctic climate change and explained how certain ostracods can be used as a proxy for sea-ice cover.
The Ostracod Group of The Micropalaeontology Society
Thank you to Anna March from QMUL for organising the day! We are all looking forward to the next ostracod conference, which will be the 8thEuropean Ostracod Meeting in Estonia in July 2015.

Until next time