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 New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature
24.05.2019 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New Measurement Device: Carbon Dioxide As Geothermometer
21.05.2019 | Universität Heidelberg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>