Saturday, 21 June 2014

Ostracod hunting

Last week I was hunting for fossils, this week it was microfossils! I was visiting the fossil collections at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh. During the week I studied the material from the Norham West Mains core for ostracods. What are ostracods? They are small arthropod crustaceans, about 1mm in length, which live in just about any aquatic environment. Their carapace is preserved in the rock record, and different features of the carapace indicate their species. They lived at the same time as tetrapods, alongside fish, molluscs and other aquatic life. 
Me with the trolley of samples containing ostracods

I am studying them because different ostracod species live in different salinity conditions, so this can tell us what the environment was like. Freshwater and marine ostracods are quite different. I saw many different species in the hundreds of samples I examined last week, a promising start. The next step will be to examine the specimens under a Scanning Electron Microscope, to confirm their species.

It was great to re-visit this field after studying ostracods for my PhD, I am a big fan of ostracods! They are remarkably resilient animals, surviving in aquifers, on leaves out of water, in hypersaline conditions and they can even survive being eaten by fish! Find out more about ostracods: 10 amazing facts about ostracods 
A living freshwater ostracod Eucypris virens, you can see some of the appendages emerging from its shell (the carapace). Image copyright Carys Bennett

Until next time


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