Tuesday, 28 July 2015

TW:eed Project presents at E.O.M. 8

This week I travelled to Tartu in Estonia to present our work at the 8th European Ostracod Meeting.

Ostracods are found with tetrapods, fish, bivalves, scorpions and many other fossils in the Ballagan Formation of the early Carboniferous. They are 1 mm sized bivalve shells that belong to arthropod crustaceans. They are especially interesting in their ability to rapidly colonise environments and cope with a huge range of salinity. Want to know more about ostracods? Check out this great new site ostracoda.net.

Ostracods and bivalves are the most common invertebrate fossils found in the Ballagan Formation. I was presenting our work on the links between actinopterygian fish, bivalves and ostracods, that occur together very commonly. I discussed aspects such as how they may have survived in temporary water-bodies and how bivalves could have been transported. Due to our micropalaeontology and vertebrate palaeontology research (especially all the fish teeth discoveries) we are now able to piece together what Carboniferous food webs might have looked like. It was fantastic to get some feedback on this work and speak to some experts in living and fossil ostracods.

The group photo of E.O.M. 8, in Tartu, Estonia
Endla Nature Reserve, a large wetland area that is a habitat for living ostracods

Until next time

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

TW:eed Project Excavation Finale

After three weeks of intensive work, the excavation near Chrinside in the Scottish Borders has now finished. The excavated pit has been re-filled with rocks and the bund has been removed for the river to re-join its natural course. Over 900 fossil samples were collected from a 1 metre thick rock sequence, including hundreds of tetrapod and fish fossil bones, teeth and scales.

Rob Clack reports about week 2 on the TW:eedProject Facebook page. For those not on Facebook, the result that was Jenny Clack found a tetrapod skull bone on her first day there - well done Jenny! They also found some fantastic fish and plant fossils. Most of the week was spent intensively splitting rocks and recording the fossils within.

The TW:eed Team searching for fossils during week 2

I returned to the site on week 3 to continue recording the sediments present. During the week I was away 2 new exposures had been opened up a few metres away from the first. It was fascinating to record differences in the sediments over this interval. With the help of my field assistant (University of Leicester graduate) Graham Liddiard we logged the sediments on a centimetre-by-centimetre scale. It was tricky as the rocks were very muddy and we had to sit in a puddle, but well worth the effort. At this scale there are small changes in sediment deposition as you move up through the section, and horizontally across the site. With the help of the expert fossil team, we also recorded how the fossils present change through the succession.


Graham Liddiard examining the fossil-rich siltstone succession
One of the highlights of week 3 was finding some really well preserved ostracods at the base of the sequence, along with a host of other invertebrates such as shrimps, arthropods, bivalves and worm tubes. And the plant fossils were amazing!

Some of the hundreds of fantastic plant specimens discovered

Another highlight was talking to members of the public who came to see what was going on, especially those with children who were fascinated with the fossils. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to show your support and interest.

On the last day we helped with wrapping the fossil samples and recording them, then loading them into the van for curation at the National Museums of Scotland. It was quite a shock to see the total of over 900 samples! Despite the mud and occasional rain it was a beautiful location to work in, with exceptional sediments and fossils, so we were all sad to leave the site behind.

TW:eed Team on the last day, loading up the samples

What happens now?
The samples are being curated at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Once that is done they will be available for TW:eed Project scientists to work on. We hope to publish our findings in due course! In 2016 we are planning to open a museum exhibit on the project at the National Museum of Scotland, and there will also be a travelling exhibit. This exhibit will bring the tetrapod world to life, with reconstructions of the landscapes, plants and animals. I’ll keep you posted with dates of the exhibition nearer the time.

Until next time