Friday, October 30, 2015

Iguanodon Footprints cast in red mudstone for Fossil Friday

It's been a while since I posted fossil photos for "Fossil Friday", so here are the missing photos that I posted to Facebook over the past few weeks.

Iguanodon Footprints

Although dinosaur footcasts preserved in Wessex Formation sandstones are perhaps more obvious, there are many preserved out in the vividly coloured mudstones too. Infilled footprints can often be found at the boundary (contact) between beds of different colours. This red-infilled footcast was probably made by an Iguanodon.

Wessex Formation, Barremian, Lower Cretaceous, ~130 Ma, Grange Chine, Brighstone foreshore, Isle of Wight, UK.

The three toes of the hindfoot are especially well defined in this footcast.
Here is another in the same horizon, a little more weathered.

This is the exposure itself at Grange Chine (Brighstone foreshore). You can see two red footprints in the foreground.



Ammonites in the lower chalk 

Collecting ammonites from the glauconitic marl with my dad and brother (pictured). Usually you find small Schloenbachia and Mantelliceras, but occasionally the big species turn up. Old Park Hotel, Isle of Wight, UK; Lower Chalk, Cenomanian, ~95 Ma, Upper Cretaceous.

How many ammonites can you see in this picture?

A mammoth day out

Back in the day, I used to run fossil-hunting field trips for armies of ten year olds. This is probably the best thing ever found on my trips: a mammoth tooth. We were actually looking for dinosaur bone in the Wealden, but Letitia brought this up to me and asked what it was, so I then had to explain about the Pleistocene gravels that form the upper 2m or so of the cliffs. This was shortly after we met a man on the beach who had found a lost baby stoat and had it crawling around all over his jacket. The kids were already pretty excited about that, so the mammoth tooth sent them wild!

This was quite a few years ago now. Still better than anything I have found from the Pleistocene.

Some associated pterosaur bones

Some pterosaur bones for #fossilfriday. My dad collected these a few years ago from the Vectis Formation, UK. Pterosaur material is supposedly rare, but turns up fairly regularly if you know what to look for. Collecting pterosaur bones in the UK helped me to identify a few pieces that I have found or helped describe from the Late Cretaceous of the USA. One day I will get round to describing the pterosaur bits we have found in the UK too.

Vectis Fm, lower Aptian, Lower Cretaceous, Isle of Wight, UK.

Pterosaur limb bones in coquina (storm bed) dominated by the bivalve Filosina.

Fossil lobster (okay, it's more shrimp-sized...)

A small Meyeria magna lobster, preserved in 3D. These are very attractive little fossils, and quite abundant if the right layer is exposed and you know what you are looking for.

Lower Lobster Bed, Lower Greensand (Aptian), Atherfield, Isle of Wight, UK.

Everyone likes to find fossil crustaceans, especialy when they have fine detail such as the tiny spines on this Meyeria.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

When stegosaurs had smarts

This week, I'm posting scans of a recently acquired postcard.

The postcard dates from around the 1960's, but it features an 1895 poem which regales the hypothesis that an enlarged space in the pelvises of many dinosaurs meant that they might have possessed a second brain. Paleontologists are still interested in the possible function of the swollen spinal canal, but it is no longer considered to have housed a hindbrain.

Anyway, I thought the poem was quite clever, so here it is:

Front of postcard

Reverse of postcard

Another poem, this time from 1885, similarly reflects the Victorian fascination with paleontology. I sometimes wonder what was different about this time in the recent past, when scientific discoveries were so ingrained in the public consciousness that leading newspapers and magazines treated them not only as interesting facts, but as cultural objects of inspiration and humour. The modern media seem concerned only with the frivolous lives of shrill celebrity dimwits, or the opinions of boorish career politicians.

Anyway, I digress. This second (somewhat overlong) poem concerns the enormous eyes of the extinct marine reptile, Ichthyosaurus. I liked it. You should too.

From Punch magazine (1885);

Inspired by these kinds of things, since about 2011 once per field season my paleontology field crew have held a poetry evening, where we attempt to recount our experiences in pithy prose. Maybe if I can find some of the poems I will repost them here... or at least some of those that are repeatable in polite society...

Okay, back to work...

--- edit 6th October ---
I just noticed the implicitly racist "Aryan brain" line in the Ichthyosaurus poem. Apologies if anyone was offended; obviously this is a representation of the kind of discriminatory language and attitudes that were widespread in Victorian society.