Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Fossil hunting!

The team examining fossil material: Janet Sherwin, Carys Bennett, Tim Smithson and James Mawson
Last week I was joined by undergraduate James Mawson from the University of Leicester. James was volunteering with me to gain experience in palaeontology and we spent the week hunting for fossils! James helped me continue the time-consuming (but rewarding!) job of splitting apart some of the hundreds of rock samples I have collected from the Ballagan Formation. Each sample was split along the bedding planes, and freshly exposed surfaces examined under a binocular microscope. 

Throughout the week we found a lot of fish material such as scales, teeth and bone fragments. Specimens of actinopterygians and rhizodonts were the most common, with rare lungfish fragments. We also found many ostracods that were preserved in 3D and from which we could identify the species present. This is very useful in terms of understanding the ancient environment, and it was exciting after seeing quite a lot of flattened carapaces or poorly preserved specimens in other samples. James is interested in arthropods, and although these are very rare, we did find numerous scorpion cuticle fragments.

On Thursday we had a visit from TW:eed Project member Tim Smithson, who came to help the Leicester team identify some of the vertebrate material we have found. It was fantastic to have an expert with us for the day, and we all learnt a lot about fish palaeobiology. Great work Team TW:eed!

Until next time

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