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Rare Cretaceous ichthyosaur from Lincolnshire

John P Green (UK) As many amateur and professional palaeontologists are aware, ichthyosaurs are well-known aquatic reptiles from the Mesozoic era, which are especially common in Jurassic marine deposits in the UK. They are particularly conspicuous in the Charmouth and Whitby Mudstone Formations of the Lias (Lower Jurassic), as well as the Oxford and Kimmeridge Clay Formations (Upper Jurassic). These horizons have yielded numerous complete and fragmentary remains that grace many private and museum collections across the UK. By contrast, the record of ichthyosaurs in Britain from the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary interval is somewhat scanty, and only rare and fragmentary remains having been discovered. Any remains discovered from this time interval are therefore of great potential significance. Back in August 1995, during one especially hot summer’s day, I was fortunate to discover fragmentary ichthyosaur remains at a small quarry at Nettleton, Lincolnshire. This quarry exposed the Lower Spilsby Sandstone Formation, which is a shallow water marine deposit that embraces the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary interval in Lincolnshire (Gaunt et al, 1992). Fig. 1. Locality map of the Castle Top quarry. Reproduced from Green and Lomax 2014; image originally reproduced. by permission of the council of the Yorkshire Geological Society. The specimen was discovered at a single horizon, 3.5m above the base of the formation, which (based upon stratigraphical grounds) falls within the ammonite zone, Subcraspedites preplicomphalus (Casey, 1973). This was formerly considered to fall within the Volgian stage of the latest Jurassic (Gaunt et al, 1992), although more recent work by Hopson et … Read More

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Barry’s secret dinosaurs

Ryan Clayton (UK) I have always been curious about footprints and trackways made by prehistoric animals, especially dinosaurs, due to the concept that the ground has captured the process of an animal, which is now long dead and their species extinct. I find it even more exciting when the creature that made the tracks is not known from physical remains, as it allows the opportunity for absolutely anyone subsequently to discover bones or even skeletons which can be associated with the preserved trace fossils. An ichnogenus (a genus only known from trace fossils) can be identified, but the actual physical profile of the animal remains a mystery. I’ve known for many years that, not far from the town of Barry in South Wales, there are trackways made by different dinosaur genera and sizes at Bendrick Rock. As a student studying less than 30km away, it would soon be a place I would explore as the workload calmed after my first year in 2015. On scanning the ground when visiting for the first time, I knew all I needed to do was find that first print with the iconic ‘three toes’ or tridactyl track. After that, every depression I could see was a footprint. The opportunity of being able to put my hand down on the same bit of ground on which a dinosaur had walked about 200Ma, which no one has any idea what it looked like, was, for me, extraordinary. Fig. 1. A photograph capturing the density of tracks … Read More

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Fossil crustaceans

Dr Neale Monks (UK) The crustaceans are the second biggest group of arthropods after the insects and have a good fossil record, but, for one reason or another, they are not as familiar to fossil collectors as the trilobites. It may be because they’re a bit harder to identify, with many of the most diverse groups being essentially microscopic, while the bigger ones like shrimps and crabs – arely get preserved in their entirety. But even if they’re difficult to identify, crustacean fossils are interesting and often make very attractive specimens. So that’s the theme of this article really – to draw your attention to these fossils and allow you to think a bit more deeply about what they were like and how t hey w ere all related to each other. Fig. 1. While most crustaceans are marine, a large number of crayfish live in freshwater, including crayfish. Crustacean origins The earliest crustaceans are known from Cambrian sediments including the well known Burgess Shale fauna. These primitive crustaceans are essentially worm-like in shape, but they do have many of the key features of crustaceans visible even on modern types such as shrimps. Their body is segmented, but the dorsal (back) part of each segmented was hardened into a thick, protective plate. Most segments bore a pair of appendages, one pair of legs and one pair of gills. This ‘biramous’ condition has been used to contrast the crustaceans (and also the trilobites) with the ‘uniramous’ insects and spiders that normally only … Read More

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Book review: Walking the Jurassic Coast: Dorset and East Devon: The Walks, the rocks, the fossils, by Ronald Turnbull

There are a lot of guide books to the Jurassic Coast Work Heritage Site. This one is intended to provide a useful introduction to the general geology of the coastline, dealing with its formation, fossils and plate tectonics (among many other things), but specifically in the context of walks – for both afternoon rambles and long distance hikes for the more committed.

Book review: A History of Life in 100 Fossils, by Paul D Taylor and Aaron O’Dea

I wouldn’t say I know Paul Taylor, but I did once go on a fieldtrip with him, organised by the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, more years ago than I care to remember. It was to the Coralline Crag of Suffolk, which was chock full of bryozoans – Paul’s favourite niche fossil. And very interesting it was too – as was Paul. Therefore, I am not surprised how fascinating this book turns out to be.

Book review: Geology and Fossils of the Hastings Area (2nd edition), by Ken Brooks

I remember buying the first edition of Ken Brook’s fascinating little guide on Hastings a long time ago, and bumbling off to Hastings in the hope of finding Lower Cretaceous dinosaurs and tree ferns. Sadly, I was disappointed, as the area is not as productive as, say, the Dorset or North Yorkshire coastlines. Having said that, I have been back a few times armed with that first edition and have enjoyed the visits every time.

Book review: Early Miocene Paleobiology in Patagonia: High-Latitude Paleocommunities of the Santa Cruz Formation, by Sergio F Vizcaino, Richard F Kay and M Susan Bargo

Patagonia has not always been the cold, arid and dry place it is today. About 17mya – because the Andes were much lower allowing humid winds from the west to reach the area – it consisted of substantial forests and grasslands. It was also inhabited by strange and wonderful animals, many of which are now extinct, such as glyptodonts, huge snakes and the giant, tapir-like astrapotheres.

Book review: The Artists and The Scientists Bringing History to Life, by Peter Trusler, Patricia Vickers-Rich and Thomas H Rich

This fascinating book looks at the professional interaction over more than 30 years between a respected husband and wife team of US palaeontologists working for most of their professional lives in Australia (Prof Pat Vickers-Rich and Tom Rich) and a freelance artist (Peter Trusler), as he tries to interpret their work and bring to life ancient organisms and environments.

Book review: Amber: Tears of the Gods, by Neil D L Clark

Normally, I wouldn’t be interested in semi-precious stones and other pretty things. Personally, I prefer grubbing around in the dirt, perhaps for those far more beautiful, elusive and perfectly formed Cretaceous terebratulids or Silurian trilobites. However, some semi-precious stones have the advantage of also providing a tangible link to the ancient history of life.

Book review: Fossils in Amber: Remarkable snapshots of prehistoric forest life, by David Penney and David Green

Here at Deposits, we like our amber and this certainly isn’t the first book on the subject I have reviewed. In fact, over the years, we have published many articles on the fossilised sap and its inclusions, and have just finished publishing a short, two-article series by the authors of this excellent little publication.

Book review: Silurian Fossils of the Pentland Hills, Scotland (Palaeontological Association Field Guide to Fossils No 11), edited by N K Clarkson, David A T Harper, Cecilia M Taylor and Lyall I Anderson

The Pentland Hills in Scotland yield a large number of Silurian marine fossils. Although these fossils are only found within a small area of the Pentland Hills, the formations are extremely rich in fossils. The majority of these are preserved as moulds.