Trackways and tracemakers preserved together in the fossil record are rare. However, the co-occurrence of a drag mark, together with the dead animal that produced it, is exceptional. Here, we describe an 8.5 m long ammonite drag mark complete with the preserved ammonite shell (Subplanites rueppellianus) at its end. Previously recorded examples preserve ammonites with drag marks of < 1 m. The specimen was recovered from a quarry near Solnhofen, southern Germany. The drag mark consists of continuous parallel ridges and furrows produced by the ribs of the ammonite shell as it drifted just above the sediment surface, and does not reflect behaviour of the living animal.
A new fossil mushroom is described and illustrated from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of northeast Brazil. Gondwanagaricites magnificus gen. et sp. nov. is remarkable for its exceptional preservation as a mineralized replacement in laminated limestone, as all other fossil mushrooms are known from amber inclusions. Gondwanagaricites represents the oldest fossil mushroom to date and the first fossil mushroom from Gondwana.
Crinoids, members of the phylum Echinodermata, are passive suspension feeders and catch plankton without producing an active feeding current. Today, the stalked forms are known only from deep water habitats, where flow conditions are rather constant and feeding velocities relatively low. For feeding, they form a characteristic parabolic filtration fan with their arms recurved backwards into the current. The fossil record, in contrast, provides a large number of stalked crinoids that lived in shallow water settings, with more rapidly changing flow velocities and directions compared to the deep sea habitat of extant crinoids. In addition, some of the fossil representatives were possibly not as flexible as today’s crinoids and for those forms alternative feeding positions were assumed. One of these fossil crinoids is Encrinus liliiformis, which lived during the middle Triassic Muschelkalk in Central Europe. The presented project investigates different feeding postures using Computational Fluid Dynamics to analyze flow patterns forming around the crown of E. liliiformis, including experimental validation by Particle Image Velocimetry. The study comprises the analysis of different flow directions, velocities, as well as crown orientations. Results show that inflow from lateral and oral leads to direct transport of plankton particles into the crown and onto the oral surface. With current coming from the “rear” (aboral) side of the crinoid, the conical opening of the crown produces a backward oriented flow in its wake that transports particles into the crown. The results suggest that a conical feeding position may have been less dependent on stable flow conditions compared to the parabolic filtration fan. It is thus assumed that the conical feeding posture of E. liliiformis was suitable for feeding under dynamically changing flow conditions typical for the shallow marine setting of the Upper Muschelkalk.
Coastal communities in tropical environments are at increasing risk from both environmental degradation and climate change and require urgent local adaptation action. Evidences show coral reefs play a critical role in wave attenuation but relatively little direct connection has been drawn between these effects and impacts on shorelines. Reefs are rarely assessed for their coastal protection service and thus not managed for their infrastructure benefits, while widespread damage and degradation continues. This paper presents a systematic approach to assess the protective role of coral reefs and to examine solutions based on the reef’s influence on wave propagation patterns. Portions of the shoreline of Grenville Bay, Grenada, have seen acute shoreline erosion and coastal flooding. This paper (i) analyzes the historical changes in the shoreline and the local marine, (ii) assess the role of coral reefs in shoreline positioning through a shoreline equilibrium model first applied to coral reef environments, and (iii) design and begin implementation of a reef-based solution to reduce erosion and flooding. Coastline changes in the bay over the past 6 decades are analyzed from bathymetry and benthic surveys, historical imagery, historical wave and sea level data and modeling of wave dynamics. The analysis shows that, at present, the healthy and well-developed coral reefs system in the southern bay keeps the shoreline in equilibrium and stable, whereas reef degradation in the northern bay is linked with severe coastal erosion. A comparison of wave energy modeling for past bathymetry indicates that degradation of the coral reefs better explains erosion than changes in climate and historical sea level rise. Using this knowledge on how reefs affect the hydrodynamics, a reef restoration solution is designed and studied to ameliorate the coastal erosion and flooding. A characteristic design provides a modular design that can meet specific engineering, ecological and implementation criteria. Four pilot units were implemented in 2015 and are currently being field-tested. This paper presents one of the few existing examples available to date of a reef restoration project designed and engineered to deliver risk reduction benefits. The case study shows how engineering and ecology can work together in community-based adaptation. Our findings are particularly important for Small Island States on the front lines of climate change, who have the most to gain from protecting and managing coral reefs as coastal infrastructure.
The fossil record of Ginkgo leaf and reproductive organs has been well dated to the Mid-Jurassic (170 Myr). However, the fossil wood record that can safely be assigned to Ginkgoales has not yet been reported from strata predating the late Early Cretaceous (ca. 100 Myr). Here, we report a new fossil wood from the Mid-Late Jurassic transition deposit (153-165 Myr) of northeastern China. The new fossil wood specimen displays several Ginkgo features, including inflated axial parenchyma and intrusive tracheid tips. Because it is only slightly younger than the oldest recorded Ginkgo reproductive organs (the Yima Formation, 170 Myr), this fossil wood very probably represents the oldest bona fide fossil Ginkgo wood and the missing ancestral form of Ginkgo wood evolution.
The earliest mammaliaforms are difficult to assess because the fossil record is poor and because their distinctive morphologies cannot be directly compared with more recent mammaliaforms. This is especially true for the haramiyid genus Theroteinus, only known in the Saint-Nicolas-de-Port locality (Rhaetian, France). This study presents a new definition of the type-species Theroteinus nikolai. A new species Theroteinus rosieriensis, sp. nov., is named and distinguished by the lingual shift of distal cusps, a larger size, and a stockier occlusal outline. Comparisons with Eleutherodon, Megaconus and Millsodon suggest that Theroteinus has potential close relatives among the Jurassic haramiyids.
Exceptionally well-preserved three-dimensional insects with fine details and even labile tissues are ubiquitous in the Crato Member Konservat Lagerstätte (northeastern Brazil). Here we investigate the preservational pathways which yielded such specimens. We employed high resolution techniques (EDXRF, SR-SXS, SEM, EDS, micro Raman, and PIXE) to understand their fossilisation on mineralogical and geochemical grounds. Pseudomorphs of framboidal pyrite, the dominant fossil microfabric, display size variation when comparing cuticle with inner areas or soft tissues, which we interpret as the result of the balance between ion diffusion rates and nucleation rates of pyrite through the originally decaying carcasses. Furthermore, the mineral fabrics are associated with structures that can be the remains of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS). Geochemical data also point to a concentration of Fe, Zn, and Cu in the fossils in comparison to the embedding rock. Therefore, we consider that biofilms of sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB) had a central role in insect decay and mineralisation. Therefore, we shed light on exceptional preservation of fossils by pyritisation in a Cretaceous limestone lacustrine palaeoenvironment.
Understanding the water vascular system (WVS) in early fossil echinoderms is critical to elucidating the evolution of this system in extant forms. Here we present the first report of the internal morphology of the water vascular system of a stem ophiuroid. The radial canals are internal to the arm, but protected dorsally by a plate separate to the ambulacrals. The canals zig-zag with no evidence of constrictions, corresponding to sphincters, which control pairs of tube feet in extant ophiuroids. The morphology suggests that the unpaired tube feet must have operated individually, and relied on the elasticity of the radial canals, lateral valves and tube foot musculature alone for extension and retraction. This arrangement differs radically from that in extant ophiuroids, revealing a previously unknown Palaeozoic configuration.
Echinoderms have long been considered to be one of the animal phyla that is strictly marine. However, there is growing evidence that some recent species may live in either brackish or hypersaline environments. Surprisingly, discoveries of fossil echinoderms in non-(open)marine paleoenvironments are lacking. In Wojkowice Quarry (Southern Poland), sediments of lowermost part of the Middle Triassic are exposed. In limestone layer with cellular structures and pseudomorphs after gypsum, two dense accumulations of articulated ophiuroids (Aspiduriella similis (Eck)) were documented. The sediments with ophiuroids were formed in environment of increased salinity waters as suggested by paleontological, sedimentological, petrographical and geochemical data. Discovery of Triassic hypersaline ophiuroids invalidates the paleontological assumption that fossil echinoderms are indicators of fully marine conditions. Thus caution needs to be taken when using fossil echinoderms in paleoenvironmental reconstructions.
- Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society
- Published about 8 years ago
Around the globe, coral reefs and other marine ecosystems are increasingly overfished. Conventionally, studies of fishing impacts have focused on the population size and dynamics of targeted stocks rather than the broader ecosystem-wide effects of harvesting. Using parrotfishes as an example, we show how coral reef fish populations respond to escalating fishing pressure across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Based on these fish abundance data, we infer the potential impact on four key functional roles performed by parrotfishes. Rates of bioerosion and coral predation are highly sensitive to human activity, whereas grazing and sediment removal are resilient to fishing. Our results offer new insights into the vulnerability and resilience of coral reefs to the ever-growing human footprint. The depletion of fishes causes differential decline of key ecosystem functions, radically changing the dynamics of coral reefs and setting the stage for future ecological surprises.