Friday, 15 July 2016

TW:eed Team visits Holland

Last week, members of the TW:eed Team were in Holland for the annual meeting of the European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontology. Dr Tim Smithson reports:

The Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands. Photo credit: Tim Smithson.

The conference was held at the Teylers Museum in the lovely mediaeval town of Haarlem, west of Amsterdam. As well as the usual eclectic mix of talks on all aspects of vertebrate palaeontology, the meeting included a number of themed symposia. Jenny Clack and Tim Smithson had been invited to take part in one entitled ‘Early Tetrapods Awaken’. 

Jenny  described some of the features of the limbs and braincase of the tetrapods we have found in the Ballagan Formation that distinguish them from the earliest tetrapods found in the Devonian, and she suggested that these innovations may be linked with a more terrestrial way of life. Tim reviewed the sedimentology and palaeogeography of our sites in the Tweed Basin and argued that localities with similar conditions elsewhere in the Carboniferous would be a good place to look for new early tetrapods. They were joined by Tom Challands who described some of the new lungfish material we have been finding in the Borders and explained how it reveals an increase in evolutionary rate in lungfish immediately following the End Devonian Extinction Event.

Jenny presenting her talk. Photo credit: Tim Smithson.
Jenny, Tim and Tom in the Teylers Museum before the Conference Dinner.  Photo credit: Lesley Agar.
The meeting also included a symposium entitled ‘Fossillegal’ which explored the ethics of fossil collecting, international legislation governing the export and trade in fossils and the ethics of publishing on privately-owned material.  It was a lively session and raised a number of important issues for palaeontology. It was reassuring that the TW:eed Project is following best practise, working with land owners and government agencies and ensuring that all the material we collect is registered in museums so it will be available to researchers in the future.

Other TW:eed News
Congratulations to University of Leicester students Levi Curry and Hattie Dulson, who graduated this week. Both students did exceptional Master's research projects and will continue working with me on microfossil research this summer.

Our latest newsletter is available to download on our website:

In a week's time some of the TW:eed Team including myself are visiting Nova Scotia to do some fieldwork with our colleague Martin Gibling. We will examine the Carboniferous sequences to see how similar or different they are to the ancient tetrapod environments we see in Scotland.

Until next time

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