Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A picture is worth a thousand miles not traveled to measure the fossil of an ancient sea creature

29.03.2004


The body size of ancient creatures, bivalves and brachiopods, could tell geoscientists a lot about the creatures’ life history and about the ecology of the times in which they lived. However, traveling the world to measure these creatures’ fossils would take several life-times and more travel funds than scientists usually have.

Since the same creatures have also become abundant in scientific literature since the mid 1800s, a team of Virginia Tech researchers is determining whether measuring photos of fossils collected worldwide would be a reliable way to compile body size data. Richard A. Krause Jr. of Greenfield, Wis., a PhD. student in the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech, will report on his assessment of this nontraditional approach at the joint meeting of the Northeastern and Southeastern Sections of the Geological Society of America, to be held March 25-27 in Tysons Corner, Va.

Bivalves (i.e. clams) are common today while brachiopods, which look like clams but have a different biology, were most common in ancient oceans. Both types of organism have been around for over 500 million years and still exist today, which makes them good subjects for an assessment of long-term body size trends. Changes in body size could reveal whether an organism evolved and became more efficient or whether environmental changes had an impact. "But no one has compiled a list of how body size changed for a group of animals over long time periods," Krause says. He and colleagues want to look at two time periods – from 500 million to 300 million years ago and from 200 million to 25 million years ago.



"Since paleontology became a science, people have been publishing papers on new species from all over the world. With the advent of photography, authors began to provide volumes of photographic plates that document everything they thought was important about a species. If we could find a way to get size data from the photos, we could travel around the world simply by going to the library," says Krause.

But there were two big questions. Are the photos an accurate representation of size, and, were the specimens selected to be photographed actually representative of those collected?

Virgnia Tech professor of geosciences Michal Kowalewski addressed the first question by measuring brachiopods in photos and then measuring the actually specimens that were retained at museums. He reported, along with several colleagues, that the difference was negligible and was within the error range of the instruments used to take the measurements (Kowalewski et al., 2000).

Krause and colleagues have been researching the second question by examining the specimens field geologists originally shoveled into their collection boxes. They compared the range of sizes of the specimens in each box with those finally selected for the limelight in a scientific journal. "The author can’t photograph every specimen due to space," says Krause. He went to museums to examine the boxed fossils originally collected for 41 species of brachiopods and 45 species of bivalves from a half-dozen countries.

"The distribution of those that were photographed were generally within the range we observed by measuring the collections," Krause says. However, authors did tend to pick more of the larger specimens to photograph than would have actually been representative, the Virginia Tech researchers discovered. "In both the bivalve and brachiopod samples, about one-third of the specimens photographed were in the top 10 percent of those collected in terms of size," says Krause.

"The taxonomic literature is biased," Krause says, "but it is biased in the same direction and roughly the same magnitude for both brachiopods and bivalves. So, we feel that the methodology of measuring photographs in the literature can be useful," says Krause, "although, it is still controversial. There are geoscientists who are not comfortable with this approach."

He and his colleagues will continue to double check the methodology as they collect large amounts of size data over the next several years. They expect that these data will help answer many important questions about the history of life, and it will probably spark some new ones as well.

Krause will present the paper, "Assessing the usefulness of literature-derived estimates of body size" (60-2), at 8:20 a.m. Saturday, March 27, in the Lord Thomas Fairfax Room of the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. Co authors are Krause, Virginia Tech graduate student Jennifer Stempien, Kowalewski, and Arnold Miller of the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati.

Krause says he has always been interested in geology and biology. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, he discovered he could combine the interests. His bachelor’s degree is in geology from the University of Wisconsin and his master’s degree in geology is from the University of Cincinnati.


Reference:
Kowalewski, M. Simões, M.G., Torello, F.F., Mello, L.H.C., and Ghilardi, R.P. (2000) Drill holes in shells of Permian benthic invertebrates. Journal of Paleontology, 74:532-543.

Contact for further information:
Richard Alan Krause, Jr, rkrause@vt.edu, 540-231-8828
Dr. Michal Kowalewski, michalk@vt.edu, 540-231-5951

Susan Trulove | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.technews.vt.edu/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks
17.06.2018 | Kyushu University, I2CNER

nachricht Decades of satellite monitoring reveal Antarctic ice loss
14.06.2018 | University of Maryland

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A sprinkle of platinum nanoparticles onto graphene makes brain probes more sensitive

15.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

100 % Organic Farming in Bhutan – a Realistic Target?

15.06.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Perovskite-silicon solar cell research collaboration hits 25.2% efficiency

15.06.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>