[Non-Ceph] Bits 'n Pieces

Phil

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The purpose of Bits 'n Pieces is to relate non-cephalopod fossil stories of interest. If anyone comes across any interesting news items, then this is the place for them. Invertebrate and/or marine news items are preferred, but anything goes!

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Non-ceph but (hopefully) of interest:

Following last Mondays episode of Big Monster Dig on Channel 4 whereby the team excavated the largest recorded specimen of the giant Jurassic fish Leedsichthys, here is a quite interesting account of the excavation with a few nice photographs. Leedsichthys is estimated to have grown up to 30m, and is known from the Oxford Clays, as far as I know all specimens recorded so far come from a clay pit near Peterborough in the UK and date from 155mya. The fish was a filter feeder and probably had a spine composed of cartilage, so far only the mineralised head and tail have been found:

Big Monster Dig: Leedsichthys


On another note, UK readers may be interested in this programme which I believe is to air on BBC1 sometime in October. It is the latest in the "Walking With...." series and is entitled "Swimming With Sea Monsters", and appears to be another special episode (or two) with a presenter taking a plunge into the Mesozoic oceans. Doubtless he will be snapped at by pliosaurs and ichthyosaurs, though we are also promised a sea scorpion which should be interesting. Lets hope Liopleurodon is shown realistically this time, the 25m version shown in Dinosaurs was far too big....

Those not in the UK (most of you!) should be able to catch the programmes on Discovery at some point as so far all the Walking With.... series have been shown on that channel. Book details here:

Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Predators of the Deep Book

Will post transmission dates when I can find out.
 

Phil

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um...

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Re: [Non-Ceph] Bits 'n Pieces

Phil said:
Leedsichthys is estimated to have grown up to 30m...
30 metres? Wow. I'd only ever read that it likely grew to over 12m, I didn't realize it might have grown that big. :shock:

This is good stuff, Phil...

Neil
 

Phil

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Thanks, Um....

As we all know from reading on this site about Architeuthis, the press tends to exaggerate the size of animals to make them more 'newsworthy' for some reason. I doubt if estimates of the maximum length of Leedsichthys will ever be 100% accurate unless a complete skeleton is one day found. And let's face it, with a body of that size and spine composed of cartilage, excepting a miracle that is not going to happen.

If you would like to know more about Leedsichthys, there is an interesting report from National Geographic here:

"Biggest Fish Ever Found" Unearthed in UK

A detailed report about the excavation is available here, with good photos:

Big Dead Fish

And you can view the remains of a specimen that was briefly on display in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow here:

Swimming With the Big Dead Fish

The ultimate 'one that got away' story!
 

um...

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Phil said:
As we all know from reading on this site about Architeuthis, the press tends to exaggerate the size of animals to make them more 'newsworthy' for some reason. I doubt if estimates of the maximum length of Leedsichthys will ever be 100% accurate unless a complete skeleton is one day found.
Very true, but that 6m head impresses the hell out of me. I was under the impression that 16-18m would end up being the 'fish story' size of these things.

Neil
 

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From the NGS report Extinction Theories
teleosts would have had a crucial competitive edge over pachycormids due to their reproductive strategy. While Leedsichthys relied on relatively small numbers of well-developed young to perpetuate the species, the newcomers produced huge quantities of small eggs.
This seems to be the opposite of the ammonoid/nautiloid extinction theory
:nautiloi: :arrow: :nautilus:
:ammonite: :arrow: :(
 

Phil

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Non-ceph, but very interesting nonetheless.

A fish-like animal has just been discovered in the 560mya Ediacaran deposits in South Australia. If it does turn out to have a primitive backbone, this will make it the earliest vertebrate yet discovered by a good 30 million years or so.

This is particularly interesting as it dates from the very early Cambrian, the period which gave rise to the basic body plans of the all the animals we are familiar with today. Most of the animals that were alive at this early date are enigmatic, strange quilted organisms that could have been animal or plant, jellyfish, animals resembling sea pens, and bizarre disk-like animals with three-fold symmetry. Almost all left no descendants.

Report from the BBC. Another good report can be read here

Also, it seems that a new geological period has just been announced (I shall hesitate to use the word 'discovered'). This is the Ediacaran period, the very period that this fish-like fossil was dates from. The new period will date from 600-543 million years. Information is available here

Looks as if I will have to change my chart already. It was only published here yesterday!
 

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Another item of invertebrate fossil interest.

A 300 million year old trigonotarbid fossil, i.e a rather heavily armoured looking ancestor of the arachnids has been discovered. These are not unknown, but are very rare.

What makes this one especially interesting is this particular fossil seems to display structures on its hind legs that may have been used to spinning silk. If this is the correct interpretation of these structures then this is the earliest evidence we have for spider-webs. Full story here:

http://www.cbc.ca/stories/2003/11/05/spider_web031105
 

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