Welcome to the first of many Fossil Friday posts! Each week, I’ll feature a new invertebrate fossil or group, along with pictures and a little bit of info. I will do longer posts about various fossil groups as part of my regular blog.
If you ever have any suggestions for critters you’d like to see, please leave comment!
Fossil Friday July 22/16
*Disclaimer – This post contains a lot of self-citations. I promise it won’t always be so, but I’m starting the blog with something familiar…*
My first Fossil Friday post is one of my favourite little brachiopod specimens that I’ve ever come across. I’ve affectionately nick-named it “The Champion/Champ”, which is how it is now known in our lab. The Champ is a brachiopod called Pseudoatrypa lineata from the Devonian of Alberta, and has been used for many different experiments in the lab.
A lot of my M.Sc. was based on this guy (or gal). It is very well preserved, so I created a bunch of models of it (made to resemble the weight and density of the original animal’s shell), and ran experiments in a flume (a large tank where you can control the speed and flow of the water). These experiments helped me determine the most realistic life orientation of the original animal, which is important for its interactions with other organisms (see below).
Not only is The Champ an exceptionally well preserved brachiopod, it is COVERED in lots of encrusting organisms. A lot of my undergraduate and M.Sc.theses were based on trying to determine if there were/are any relationships between encrusting organisms and their brachiopod hosts. The life orientation of the brachiopod can tell you the biological significance of the location of encrusters on the brachiopod’s shell (e.g. part of the shell would be resting against the substrate during life, so no encrusters could land there while the brachiopod was alive. Hence, if you observed encrusters on that area of the shell, the brachiopod must have been dead at the time of encrustation). Basically, The Champ is the ideal trophy fossil for many kinds of studies.
If you’d like to learn more about The Champ or the relationships between encrusters and brachiopods, check out some of my publications (Barclay et al. 2015a, and b), or leave a question in the comments.