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/Geology

Articles, features and stories with an emphasis on geology.

15 06, 2022

Searching for Evidence of Ice Age Settlements Under the Sea

By | June 15th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Geology, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

A study published in the journal Ocean and Coastal Management predicts that rising sea levels threaten 200,000 properties in England. Sea levels have changed before and a new research programme instigated by scientists at the University of Bradford is setting out to map Stone Age settlements that have been swallowed by the sea.

The extent of the palaeolandscape prior to sea level changes.
Approximate maximum extent of marine palaeolandscapes off the Irish and British coasts. Scientists plan to map Stone Age settlements that once existed on landmasses that are now submerged. Picture credit: University of Bradford.

Searching for Human Settlements

The archaeological study, the first of its kind in the world, is being led by Dr Simon Fitch, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Bradford. It will entail the use of unmanned underwater drones and advanced three-dimensional seismic sensors to map coastlines as they looked between 20,000 BCE and 10,000 BCE (BCE – Before the Common Era).

During the later stages of the Palaeolithic, sea levels were between 120 metres to 40 metres lower than they are today, the British Isles was still connected to the European mainland and much of the area we now refer to as the North Sea was land (Doggerland). This project aims to find evidence of human occupation in areas which are now underwater.

Geoarchaeologist Dr Simon Fitch
Dr Simon Fitch is a geoarchaeologist who has a long interest in the study of all aspects of submerged landscapes. Dr Fitch will lead the project to find evidence of Stone Age occupation in areas that are now under the sea. Picture credit: University of Bradford.

The “Life on the Edge” Project

The five-year project entitled “Life on the Edge” has received funding from several sources including the use of a vessel provided by the Flanders Marine Institute.

Commenting on the significance of this study, Dr Fitch stated:

“Our knowledge of the submerged coastal zones of the Late Palaeolithic is essentially non-existent and we have little to no knowledge on the settlement of these areas. This project will represent the first serious attempt to record these landscapes and understand the communities who lived on the edge of the continents.”

Ice Age Settlements

During the last glacial period, humans occupied the extensive plains that linked the British Isles to the European mainland. It is likely that there were many settlements and this project sets out to map the unexplored record of coastal occupation with the focus on three locations the coast of Scotland, Belgium and the continental shelf of Croatia.

Whilst looking backwards into human history, this research also has important implications for the future of humanity. The study will examine how people adapted to the challenges of sea levels and climate change – issues that threaten humanity today.

Brown Bank Stone Age artefacts.
Brown Bank artefacts – A selection of prehistoric artefacts from Brown Bank (southern North Sea) collected by Dr Dick Mol polished stone axe mace head; b) perforated deer antler socketed adze axe head; c) human mandible, without scale from (Peeters 2011). Picture credit: University of Bradford.

Dr Fitch added:

“It is not hyperbole to say this is ground-breaking. This survey will provide significant advances in scientific understanding and the results will be of global importance, as it will vastly improve the methodologies available to investigate the vast inundated prehistoric landscapes that can be found around the world.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a press release from the University of Bradford in the compilation of this article.

16 05, 2022

A Knitted Geological Time Scale

By | May 16th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, General Teaching, Geology, Main Page, Photos, Teaching|0 Comments

It can be difficult to visualise the immensely long geological time scale and to demonstrate what lifeforms developed along the way, so, why not knit one and use prehistoric animal models to illustrate key moments in the history of life on Earth.

That’s exactly what Sue Mallender, Learning Programmes Science Officer, (Nottingham City Museums) and the Learning and Engagement team did – creating a colourful and striking depiction of the evolution of life on Earth.

Knitted geological time scale.
Sue Mallender, Learning Programmes Science Officer, Nottingham City Museums (UK) has found a novel way of demonstrating deep time. The geological time scale has been knitted and prehistoric animal models placed on it at the appropriate point to demonstrate the evolution of life on Earth. Picture credit: Sue Mallender.

Visualising Geological Time

In order to study the history of life, scientists need to locate important evolutionary events such as the development of animals with exoskeletons and the evolution of vertebrates within the geological time scale. Planet Earth was formed around 4.57 billion years ago. Geologists have divided the history of our planet into time intervals of varying duration. This time scale was devised in the 19th century, (although amendments to it and revisions continue to be made). The boundaries between the time intervals mark notable events such as dramatic changes in the type of fossils found in strata.

Knitted geological time scale.
Demonstrating deep geological time in knitted form. The geological time scale knitted by Helen Crowfoot. Picture credit: Sue Mallender.

It is difficult to understand geological time and a knitted time scale, with each boundary carefully produced in a contrasting-coloured wool provides a novel and very innovative way of demonstrating this fundamental aspect of geology.

This colourful visualisation of the age of our planet was created by dedicated knitter Helen Crowfoot.

The “Slow Burning Fuse” to Complex Life

The long interval of time from the origin of the Earth to the start of the Cambrian is referred to as the Cryptozoic Eon (meaning hidden life). This enormous time interval is also referred to as the Precambrian. Its length in comparison to the Phanerozoic Eon (visible life) – the time interval to the present day, is dramatically demonstrated in the knitted time scale by the burgundy-coloured strip.

Some palaeontologists have described the Cryptozoic Eon as the “slow burning fuse to complex life.”

Demonstrating the Cryptozoic Eon in knitted form.
A novel way of demonstrating the Cryptozoic Eon, informally known as the Precambrian – the immensely long period of time before complex life evolved on Earth. It is depicted in the time scale in burgundy. Picture credit: Sue Mallender.

Cambrian Creatures

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that they had been contacted about this innovative project and ask to recommend prehistoric animal models that could be placed along the time scale to depict the sort of creatures that evolved during the main geological periods.

The Everything Dinosaur spokesperson explained:

“We started with the Cambrian, suggesting some figures that could represent some of the first, large complex animals and then worked forwards from there recommending various models that could be used to populate the knitted time scale.”

Cambrian animal models on knitted time line.
The Safari Ltd Cambrian Toob models placed on the knitted timeline. Picture credit: Sue Mallender.

The spokesperson added:

“What a super idea! This is a fantastic way to visualise geological time and we congratulate Sue and the Learning and Engagement team for such an innovative and creative way of demonstrating how life on our planet has changed over millions of years.”

11 05, 2022

Unexpected Patterns of Prehistoric Activity Detected at Stonehenge

By | May 11th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Geology, Main Page, Photos|0 Comments

Researchers from the University of Birmingham and Ghent University (Belgium), have identified hundreds of possible large prehistoric pits and thousands of smaller ones at the heart of the ancient Stonehenge landscape. This discovery challenges our understanding of land use through time at this famous UNESCO World Heritage site, the most intensively investigated prehistoric monument in the world.

Detected and excavated map of pits at Stonehenge.
Hundreds of possible prehistoric pits detected in the landscape, indicating those that have been validated and excavated, plotted on a magnetic soil map from Stonehenge. Picture credit: De Smedt et al.

The Oldest Evidence of Land Use at Stonehenge

Writing in the academic “Journal of Archaeological Science”, the researchers report the discovery of a substantial pit, more than four metres wide and two metres deep excavated into chalk bedrock. Estimated to have been constructed over 10,000 years ago it stands out as the most ancient trace of land use yet discovered at Stonehenge. This prehistoric pit bears witness to hunter-gatherers roaming the landscape during the early Mesolithic, when Britain was re-inhabited after the last Ice Age. This is only one of many new sites and unexpected patterns of prehistoric activity detected at Stonehenge by the Ghent-Birmingham study team.

Overview of the excavation work.
An overview of the excavation work. Picture credit: University of Ghent/University of Birmingham.

Unique Research

In a unique piece of research, extensive, electromagnetic induction surveying was combined with borehole analysis and twenty exploratory archaeological excavations. These revealed the extensive sub-surface pits.

Philippe De Smedt, Associate Professor at Ghent University and co-author of the scientific paper commented:

“Geophysical survey allows us to visualise what’s buried below the surface of entire landscapes. The maps we create offer a high-resolution view of subsurface soil variation that can be targeted with unprecedented precision. Using this as a guide to sample the landscape, taking archaeological ‘biopsies’ of subsurface deposits, we were able to add archaeological meaning to the complex variations discovered in the landscape.”

Four Hundred Large Pits

The project team identified over four hundred potential large pits (each over 2.5 metres in diameter), of which six were excavated in the course of the project, ranging in date from the Early Mesolithic (c.8000 BCE) to the Middle Bronze Age (c.1300 BCE).

While each of these sites adds to our knowledge of prehistoric activity in the Stonehenge landscape, the Mesolithic pit stands out as exceptional. The size and shape of the pit suggest it was probably dug as a hunting trap for large game such as aurochs, red deer and wild boar. Dating to 8200-7800 BCE, it is not only one of the earliest of the very few Mesolithic sites near Stonehenge (predating, for instance, the Blick Mead occupation site 1.5 kms away), it is also the largest known Early Mesolithic pit feature in north-western Europe.

Collecting samples in the Mesolithic pit.
Collecting environmental samples in the Mesolithic pit. Picture credit: University of Ghent/University of Birmingham.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Birmingham in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Novel Insights into Prehistoric Land Use at Stonehenge by Combining Electromagnetic and Invasive Methods with a Semi-Automated Interpretation Scheme” by De Smedt, Philippe, Paul Garwood, Henry Chapman, Koen Deforce, Johan De Grave, Daan Hanssens and Dimitri Vandenberghe published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

27 02, 2022

A Time Traveller’s Guide to Fossil Hunting on the West Dorset Coast

By | February 27th, 2022|Adobe CS5, Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

When visiting Lyme Regis and other parts of the Jurassic Coast we are often aghast at the huge numbers of fossil hunters to be seen on the beach. We tend to avoid the late summer months as this beautiful part of the Dorset coast will have been virtually picked clean of all the fossil material. The tide might continue to wash out the remains of creatures from an Early Jurassic sea, but the enthusiastic holidaymakers and tourists soon make short work of whatever has been deposited on the beach.

Sitting on some large rock, comfortably away from the dangerous cliffs, with a flask of tea and a local pastie to sustain us, we are often approached by beachcombers curious to ask our advice or to receive assistance in identifying their finds. Diligently and politely, we offer what assistance we can, but amongst the hubbub we often think what it would have been like to have explored the foreshore in earlier times, before this stunning coastline became a haven for tourists.

Thanks to a new, delightful book by Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers, we have the opportunity to do so.

Front cover of "Jurassic Fossils of the West Dorset Coast"
A time traveller’s guide to fossil hunting on the west Dorset coast. A fantastic collector’s guide in the form of an Edwardian diary with wonderful illustrations and photographs. Written by renowned fossil hunters and preparators Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers and available from Siri Scientific Press.

“Jurassic Fossils of the West Dorset Coast – A Time Traveller’s Journal”

The fourth collaboration between devoted fossil hunters Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers takes the form of an Edwardian diary. Imagine finding on the beach at Charmouth an old journal that catalogues the visit of two Edwardian gentlemen to the west Dorset coast at the beginning of the 20th Century. Starting at Seatown and Golden Cap, the two explorers record the geology, the fossil discoveries and the Dorset landscape over a period of eight days, culminating with a trip to Pinhay Bay where the strata records the boundary between the Triassic and the Jurassic.

"Jurassic Fossils of the West Dorset Coast" contents
Photographs of fossil finds plus lots of helpful notes – a time traveller’s guide to the west Dorset coast.

Illustrations by Andreas Kurpisz

Produced by Siri Scientific Press and with illustrations by Berlin-based artist Andreas Kurpisz, this is a novel and quirky guide to fossil hunting on the west Dorset coast. There is a copious amount of helpful information provided on each location, with notes and lots of photographs of fossils associated with the site. Talented artist Andreas Kurpisz provides colourful illustrations depicting prehistoric scenes – there are even one or two dinosaurs featured.

At around 160 pages long, this is a most informative guide, we particularly enjoyed examining the biostratigraphical maps provided and the accompanying images of strata – all helpfully labelled. Priced as we write at £19.99 plus postage and available from the Siri Scientific Press website this is a welcome and imaginative addition to the plethora of fossil hunting guidebooks that address the amazing geology of the Dorset coast.

"Jurassic Fossils of the West Dorset Coast"
Written in the form of an Edwardian gentleman’s journal, the book is packed with helpful information, fossil hunting tips and wonderful photographs of fossil discoveries.

Bringing the Past to Life

“Jurassic Fossils of the West Dorset Coast – A Time Traveller’s Journal” helps to bring the past to life and provides an echo of a time when the beaches around Lyme Regis were less busy and undoubtedly more productive. However, armed with this guide your chances of finding an incredibly special fossil are greatly enhanced.

The book concludes with our courageous Edwardian explorers coming across evidence of another visitor to the “Jurassic Coast”, this time from the 21st century. The gentlemen have been left notes on how to prepare ammonites for display from a kind-hearted collector from our own time. This device permits the authors to segue into a section of the book that provides helpful tips and advice on modern tools such as air scribes that will assist collectors with fossil preparation.

Visit Siri Scientific Press and use the search word “Jurassic” to find the books about Dorset written by Steve Snowball and Craig Chivers including the excellent “Jurassic Fossils of the West Dorset Coast – A Time Traveller’s Journal”: Siri Scientific Website.

17 12, 2021

The Big Herbivores of the Nemegt Formation

By | December 17th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

In a recently published scientific paper describing a new species of armoured dinosaur from the Nemegt Formation, it was postulated that some Late Cretaceous ankylosaurs evolved a selective feeding habit in order to avoid competition from other herbivorous dinosaurs.

The ankylosaurs Tarchia teresae and the recently described Tarchia tumanovae had relatively narrow muzzles, compared to earlier ankylosaurids known from the Bayanshiree, Djadokhta and Baruungoyot Formations. Although these ankylosaurs were around five metres in length and perhaps weighed as much as two thousand kilograms, there were several much larger types of herbivorous dinosaur that co-existed with them.

Mega herbivores of the Nemegt Formation
A diagram showing the major, large herbivores that have been scientifically described from the Upper Cretaceous Nemegt Formation of Mongolia. The relatively small size of the Tarchia spp. in comparison with the other large herbivorous dinosaurs may have led to selective pressure on these ankylosaurs to evolve a different feeding habit to reduce interspecific competition for food resources.

Evolving a Selective Feeding Strategy to Avoid Excessive Competition

Writing in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, the researchers postulate that Tarchia species became more selective feeders as a result of competition from other larger herbivorous dinosaurs such as titanosaurs, therizinosaurs and ornithomimosaurs such as the giant Deinocheirus (D. mirificus).

The shift in feeding strategy may have coincided with the arrival of more bulk feeders such as saurolophine hadrosaurids, that may have entered Asia from North America. The invasion of new, highly efficient, bulk-feeding hadrosaurs, may have caused even greater interspecific competition for limited resources, possibly driving selection pressure on the diets of ankylosaurs.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s earlier article on the scientific description of Tarchia tumanovae: Tarchia tumanovae a New Ankylosaur Species.

9 11, 2021

Triceratops Skeleton on Display

By | November 9th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Triceratops might be one of the most recognisable of all the dinosaur genera, but we still have a lot to learn about this Late Cretaceous ornithischian and perennial favourite amongst dinosaur fans. It might be a famous resident of the Hell Creek Formation, but Triceratops remains have also been reported from other North American geological formations too, all of which date from the very last faunal stage of the Cretaceous – the Maastrichtian.

Triceratops on Display
A cast of a Triceratops skeleton on display at the Naturmuseum Senckenberg (Natural History Museum – Frankfurt). On the left, a wall mounted example of a Plateosaurus can be seen.

Where Have Triceratops Fossils Been Reported From?

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have tried to compile a list of the geological formations, other than the famous Hell Creek Formation, from which Triceratops fossil material has been excavated.

Here is our list:

  • Scollard Formation (south-western Alberta, Canada).
  • Frenchman Formation (Saskatchewan, Canada).
  • Evanston Formation (Wyoming, USA).
  • Lance Formation (Wyoming, USA).
  • Laramie Formation (Colorado, USA).
  • Denver Formation (Colorado, USA).
Triceratops fossil mount.
“Three-horned face” Part of an exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (USA).

Two Formally Recognised Species

Scientifically described and named back in 1889 (T. horridus – Marsh), several species have been assigned to the Triceratops genus over the years, many of which were based on highly fragmentary and poorly preserved fossil remains. Today, only two species are formally recognised, Triceratops horridus and the geologically younger Triceratops prorsus.

Intriguingly, fossils from the Hell Creek Formation suggest that there are probably other species of Triceratops awaiting formal recognition. Triceratops horridus is known from the lower portion of the Hell Creek Formation and T. prorsus from the upper portion, there is a distinct, transitional, intermediate form of Triceratops reported form the middle portion of this geological formation. The fossils associated with these strata probably represent an as yet, unnamed and undescribed new species of “three-horned face”.

Stratigraphic placement of Hell Creek Formation Triceratops.
Stratigraphic placement of Hell Creek Formation Triceratops reveals trends in cranial morphology, helping to confirm species. Picture credit: Scannella et al.

For an article that looks at the evolutionary relationship between the two, formally recognised species of Triceratops: How Triceratops Got its Horns and Beak.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s blog post from 2018, that examines the ceratopsian family tree and looks at the taxonomic relationship between the Triceratops genus and other Late Cretaceous horned dinosaurs: A Horned Dinosaur Family Tree.

20 09, 2021

Plotting the Fauna of Late Cretaceous Patagonia

By | September 20th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Scientists now know that during the Late Cretaceous (Campanian to Maastrichtian), southern Patagonia was home to ankylosaurs and that predatory abelisaurids competed with terrestrial crocodyliforms when it came to scavenging the carcases of giant Titanosaurs.

Researcher have examined fossilised teeth and osteoderms (bony plates and scales embedded in skin) collected from a small area of Upper Cretaceous deposits from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation in Santa Cruz province and used these fossils to piece together an archosaur dominated palaeocommunity.

Cerra Fortaleza Formation dinosaurs and peirosaurids.
The peirosaurid and dinosaur dominated ecosystem as indicated by fossils from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation (Late Cretaceous of Patagonia). Picture credit: J. González.

Teeth from Abelisaurids, Titanosaurs and Ankylosaurs

The dinosaur fauna of the Cerro Fortaleza Formation is very poorly known with only a few dinosaurs named and described, such as the giant titanosaur Dreadnoughtus schrani. However, researchers who included scientists affiliated to CONICET as well as a researcher from Seoul National University (South Korea), have published a paper in the on-line, open access journal PLOS One reporting on the discovery of several very worn and broken teeth that along with fossil osteoderms have enabled the research team to reconstruct the fauna that once roamed this ancient landscape.

Location map showing the provenance of the teeth and osteoderms (Cerro Fortaleza Formation).
Location map (A) showing the provenance of the teeth and osteoderms (Cerro Fortaleza Formation). Region between Viedma and Argentino lakes showing the Cerro Fortaleza Formation (red colour) outcropping at both sides of La Leona river. The dinosaur-fossil-bearing Chorrillo Formation is indicated in green (B). Photograph of the dig site (C) the red arrow marks the level from where the osteoderms and teeth were collected. Picture credit: Paulina-Carabajal.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s blog post about the discovery of the huge titanosaur Dreadnoughtus: A Little Detail on a Big Dinosaur – Dreadnoughtus.

The Cerro Fortaleza and Chorrillo Formations

Lying some 100 miles (160 kilometres) to the south of the Cerro Fortaleza Formation exposures that yielded the teeth and osteoderm fossils, the Chorrillo Formation is also regarded as an important source of dinosaur fossils. Palaeontologists are not sure of the temporal relationship between these dinosaur-fossil-bearing units, although it has been postulated that the Chorrillo Formation is slightly older. Both units have provided evidence of titanosaurs, theropods and ornithopods, but up to now only the Chorrillo Formation had provided evidence of ankylosaurs. Whilst working at the Cerro Fortaleza locality in December 2016, field team members discovered several isolated osteoderms and a single, very worn tooth thus confirming the presence of armoured dinosaurs in the Cerro Fortaleza Formation too.

Whilst it is difficult to identify a specific type of ankylosaur from just skin scales and a single tooth, the researchers postulate that these fossils represent a nodosaurid.

Ankylosaur osteoderms from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation
Views of various ankylosaur osteoderms collected from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation. These bony scales along with an ankylosaur tooth confirm the presence of armoured dinosaurs in this locality. Note scale bars equal 1 mm. Picture credit: Paulina-Carabajal et al.

The Dinosaurs of the Cerro Fortaleza Formation

The researchers were able to confirm the presence of a large abelisaurid theropod and an ankylosaur based on the fossil teeth. Very worn and broken titanosaur spp. teeth were also recorded. The types of dinosaurs that lived in the area represented by the Cerro Fortaleza Formation were similar to those reported from the Chorrillo Formation, although the two populations were very probably made up of different genera.

Intriguingly, evidence of hadrosaurs has been reported from the Chorrillo Formation, as yet no fossils that could be assigned to the Hadrosauridae have been reported from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation.

Dinosaur teeth from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation (Argentina)
Dinosaur teeth from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation. Partial tooth assigned to an abelisaurid theropod (A-C). Partial tooth of an unidentified archosaur (D). Titanosauria partial tooth (E-F) and tooth assigned to an Ankylosaur (G-I). Note scale bars equal 1 mm (except A-B equals 5 mm). Picture credit: Paulina-Carabajal et al.

Crocodyliforms Competing with Carnivorous Dinosaurs

In addition to the dinosaur fossils, the researchers found a total of 9 broken teeth which they assigned to the Peirosauridae family. Peirosaurids are an extinct group of terrestrial crocodyliforms, not closely related to modern crocodilians and seemingly confined to Gondwana. Their upright gait and different shaped teeth (heterodont teeth) indicate that these archosaurs may have had a more varied diet than the carnivorous dinosaurs. Most of the fossils found represent peirosaurid teeth (75%) and this suggests that there were more crocodyliforms present in the area than dinosaurs. The peirosaurid teeth represent the most southerly distribution of this type of archosaur recorded to date and since the teeth do not match those of Colhuehuapisuchus lunai which is known from Chubut Province to the north, this suggests at least two taxa of peirosaurids present in southern Patagonia during the Late Cretaceous.

Peirosaurid teeth from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation.
Examples of peirosaurid teeth from the Cerro Fortaleza Formation. Small fossils such as teeth and dermal armour have enabled palaeontologists to piece together the faunal composition of southern Argentina during the Late Cretaceous. Theropod dinosaurs (abelisaurids) would have competed with peirosaurid mesoeucrocodylians over food, but little can be deduced about food chain roles with regards to apex and secondary predators. Picture credit: Paulina-Carabajal et al.

The ankylosaur fossils from Cerro Fortaleza and Chorrillo formations, indicate that armoured dinosaurs lived in the region of southern South America during the Late Cretaceous. These fossils although fragmentary help to fill a gap in the fossil record between Antarctica and central-northern Patagonia. Thanks to this research the Late Cretaceous dinosaur record in southern South America has been improved.

The scientific paper: “A Late Cretaceous dinosaur and crocodyliform faunal association–based on isolate teeth and osteoderms–at Cerro Fortaleza Formation (Campanian-Maastrichtian) type locality, Santa Cruz, Argentina” by Ariana Paulina-Carabajal, Francisco T. Barrios, Ariel H. Méndez, Ignacio A. Cerda and Yuong-Nam Lee published in PLOS One.

31 08, 2021

Red Wharf Bay – Anglesey

By | August 31st, 2021|Geology, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

The picturesque Red Wharf Bay on the eastern coast of the isle of Anglesey is often visited by geology students. The rocks surrounding the bay provide evidence of changing sea levels from the Carboniferous. Rounded pebbles part of the way up one of the cliffs provide evidence of a much more recent change in sea level. The weather-worn and eroded rocks represent a raised beach, geological proof of sea levels being much higher during interglacial intervals (Pleistocene Epoch).

The views are fairly spectacular too.

Red Wharf Bay - Anglesey
Red Wharf Bay on the east coast of Anglesey is a popular location for geology students, it has stunning views too.

Carboniferous Limestones

The limestones that make up the cliffs were deposited around 330 million years ago during the Serpukhovian stage (the youngest stage of the Mississippian, the lower subsystem of the Carboniferous). The area is dominated by the huge Castell Mawr (Castle Rock), the limestone was quarried for many years, but all quarrying has been abandoned and the area is now a haven for nesting seabirds. The bay attracts a variety of birds, as well as the ubiquitous gulls, many different types of wading bird can be found in this area including oystercatchers, sandpipers and curlews. Occasionally, visitors to this part of Anglesey can be treated to a view of a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) hunting for fish as the tide comes in.

This area of outstanding natural beauty is famous for its geology, the limestone was formed in a shallow, tropical sea, but the presence of sandstone indicates that the sea retreated and the sandstones represent estuarine and river channels that criss-crossed the area, with the sand infilling the limestone as it was partially dissolved away.

Fossils can be found, but they are relatively rare. Brachiopod traces can be seen in the limestone rocks that litter the beach, a testament to the rich marine life that thrived in this area during the Carboniferous.

Carboniferous brachiopods.
Brachiopod fossils can be seen in the limestone rocks as you walk along the coast from Red Wharf Bay to the village of Benllech.

Occasional Corals Found in Pebbles

Walkers, if they descend onto the beaches from the Welsh Coastal Path can find the occasional fossil of colonial corals in pebbles scattered along the beach. They are rare and difficult to differentiate from the limestones and other material on dry, sunny days, but with patience the fossil collector can be rewarded with some finds, albeit highly eroded specimens.

Pebble containing coral fossils.
Occasionally weathered pebbles containing colonial coral remains can be found.

Whilst sunny weather can never be guaranteed in North Wales, Red Wharf Bay is a family friendly beach close to beautiful countryside with stunning views which even on Bank Holidays is never overcrowded. It also provides the opportunity to spot a fossil or two.

Carboniferous fossil Red Wharf Bay
The fossilised remains of a Carboniferous brachiopod from Red Wharf Bay.
17 08, 2021

Scientists Solve Puzzle of Where the Dinosaur Killing Asteroid Came From

By | August 17th, 2021|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Researchers from the Department of Space Studies at the Southwest Research Institute (Boulder, Colorado), have developed a dynamic model to predict the origin of the extra-terrestrial body that smashed into our planet 66 million years ago. This colossal impact event played a significant role in the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs.

The end of the non-avian dinosaurs.
An artist’s impression of the bolide about to impact with the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago. Picture credit: Chase Stone.

From the Outer Half of the Main Asteroid Belt

The research suggests that the dinosaur-killing asteroid originated from the outer half of the main asteroid belt between Mars and the gas giant Jupiter. It had been thought that this region of space did not produce many impactors (bodies that crash into other planets, moons etc). The paper published in “Science Direct” concludes that the processes that deliver large asteroids to Earth from that region occur at least ten times more frequently than previously thought and that the composition of these bodies match what we know of the dinosaur-killing impactor.

The Southwest Research Institute team consisting of lead author Dr David Nesvorný, Dr William Bottke and Dr Simone Marchi used sophisticated computer models of asteroid evolution combined with observations of known asteroids to investigate how frequently so-called Chicxulub events might occur. Around 66 million years ago an extra-terrestrial bolide estimated at around 10 kilometres in diameter smashed into the Gulf of Mexico (Yucatan peninsula). This impact event devastated life on Earth and formed the Chicxulub crater – which is over 150 kilometres across.

Commenting on the purpose of their research, Dr William Bottke explained that two very important questions remained unanswered:

“What was the source of the impactor? How often did such impact events occur on Earth in the past?”

An asteroid hits Earth
An artist’s impression of the impact event which helped to wipe out the non-avian dinosaurs. Picture credit: SwRI and Don Davis.

The Search for the Source of the Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid

Using recently published research on the composition of the Chicxulub crater the researchers identified that the extra-terrestrial body that smashed into Earth had a similar chemical signature to the carbonaceous chondrite class of meteorites. Intriguingly, whilst carbonaceous chondrites are common amongst the many mile-wide bodies that approach the Earth, none today are close to the size needed to produce the Chicxulub impact with any kind of reasonable probability.

Dr Nesvorný explained that this finding sent the team on a hunt into space to find the likely source of the bolide that collided with Earth with such catastrophic consequences for about 75% of all terrestrial lifeforms.

He commented:

“We decided to look for where the siblings of the Chicxulub impactor might be hiding.”

The team turned to the NASA’s Pleaides Supercomputer and modelled the trajectories of 130,000 asteroids, examining how gravitational kicks from the planets might push these objects into orbits near to Earth. The researchers found that their computer simulations predicted Earth impacts from asteroids originating from the outer half of the asteroid belt ten times more frequently than previously thought.

Annotated map of the solar system
A map of the solar system with the outer portion of the asteroid belt shown by the yellow arrow. Picture credit: BBC with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur.

They calculated that asteroids in excess of 10 kilometres in diameter hit Earth once every 250 million years or so.

This suggests that the non-avian dinosaurs and the other organisms that became extinct 66 million years ago, were very unlucky. Fortunately, in deep geological time, such catastrophic Earth impacts remain rare.

Commenting on the importance of this new research, Dr Nesvorný added:

“This work will help us better understand the nature of the Chicxulub impact, while also telling us where other large impactors from Earth’s deep past might have originated.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the Southwest Research Institute in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Dark primitive asteroids account for a large share of K/Pg-scale impacts on the Earth” by David Nesvorný, William F. Bottke and Simone Marchi published in Science Direct.

9 07, 2021

Providing Advice About Visiting Lyme Regis

By | July 9th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, General Teaching, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

As Everything Dinosaur team members have written quite a lot about staying safe when visiting the beaches around Lyme Regis on the famous Jurassic Coast of southern England, we are now receiving emails from first time visitors to Dorset asking for our advice.

Our dedicated team members are happy to provide assistance and to direct these enquiries to the local tourist information office and various visitor centres.

Some of the recently built sea defences around Lyme Regis. Stonebarrow and Golden Cap can be seen in the background. The stunning and very beautiful part of the UNESCO World Heritage site around the picturesque town of Lyme Regis (Dorset) – the “Jurassic Coast”.

Our Advice

As the school holidays approach many families are wanting to have a vacation in the UK rather than travel abroad. The Dorset coast is a popular destination and first-time visitors have turned to Everything Dinosaur for advice on staying safe when visiting the beaches. Whilst team members can provide general information and guidance it is important that visitors obey any local notices that have been posted up.

Avoid the cliffs, don’t go near them and whatever you do please do not attempt to climb them. For further information about visiting the beaches around Lyme Regis: Visiting Lyme Regis in Summer. If you are at Charmouth, pop into the local Heritage Centre and ask their advice, you may also be able to book a fossil walk or at least enquire about availability.

Supervised fossil walks are always a good idea, most are now fully booked but it might be worthwhile emailing local guides and enquiring. Brandon Lennon is one of the most respected in the area, he can be contacted here: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks.

For further advice you can visit the local Lyme Regis Tourist Information centre located in the town centre of Lyme Regis – 62, Church Street, Lyme Regis DT7 3BS. Local knowledge can be invaluable.

If you want specific information about tides and beach safety, you can enquire at the lifeboat station down on the Cobb at Lyme Regis. Alternatively, there are a number of websites that provide information about high and low tides on this part of the coast, or for a small fee, an annual tide timetable can be purchased.

It is a good idea to go fossil collecting on a falling tide and to keep away from the steep cliffs. Everything Dinosaur team members provide general advice and guidance to visitors to Lyme Regis and Charmouth.
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