Sunday, 29 August 2021

A Podcast About the Ediacaran

A Podcast About the Ediacaran 

I came across this podcast and thought it might be of interest. You can listen to it HERE.

It tells about the finding of the fossils and the geologist, Reg Spriggs, who found them. Also the campaign to get the area declared a Conservation Park.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

The Ancestor of All Scaled Reptiles

The Ancestor of All Scaled Reptiles 

THIS ARTICLE tells us of a very well preserved, but tiny (32mm), fossil found in north west Argentina in 231 million year old (Late Triassic) sediments. It is described as the most primitive scaled reptile yet found.

It is a Lepidosaur - a group which contains lizards and snakes - the most diverse group of terrestrial vertebrates presently alive. But very little is known of their early origins. I has been named Taytalura alcoberi.

The enormous reptiles of the period are well known. In contrast, the little ones are almost unknown. It is hoped that this specimen will lead to the areas of ignorance being diminished.

If you have access you can read the original paper HERE.

Life restoration of the Taytalura skull. (Jorge Blanco, Gabriela Sobral and Ricardo Martínez).

Police Raid Finds Flying Reptile Fossil

Police Raid Finds Flying Reptile Fossil 

Yet another correspondent directed me to THIS ARTICLE. It tells us that a police raid in São Paulo found six limestone slabs with a very well preserved fossil of Tupandactylus navigans, a member of the Tapejarid subgroup of the pterosaurs

You can find a much larger version of this HERE

Tupandactylus navigans fossils are commonly found in Brazil but usually only the head is preserved. This is the most complete tapejarid skeleton ever found in Brazil.

I wish I knew more of how the police raid happened and did the "owners" know what they had.

The scientific description of the specimen can be found HERE.

All You Need to Know About Dog Vomit Slime Mould

All You Need to Know About Dog Vomit Slime Mould 

A correspondent brought THIS ARTICLE to my notice. As she said it is not very geological - slime moulds (actually myxomycetes) have a limited place in the fossil record - but it is a fascinating read. 

If you want to know about a single cell that can grow as large as a bath mat, has no brain, no sense of sight or smell, but can solve mazes, learn patterns, keep time, and pass down the wisdom of generations, read the article!

The slime mould is used by the author to talk about the classification of nature and the creation of hierarchies. All in all a very good read.

Badhamia utricularis

Four-Legged Egyptian Whale

Four-Legged Egyptian Whale 

Two correspondents directed me to this fossil find made in the Fayum Depression in Egypt. The beastie lived 43 million years ago and marks the transition from, as Darwin said, "something like a bear" to modern whales.

You can read all about it HERE and HERE.

An imagined reconstruction of Phiomicetus anubis by palentologist Dr Robert Boessenecker

(Robert Boessenecker)

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

The Five Most Impressive Geological Structures in the Solar System

The Five Most Impressive Geological Structures in the Solar System 

Or - Field trips I would like to go on.

I came across THIS ARTICLE and, although it has little to do with the West Country, could not resist putting it into the blog.

My favourites are the fold mountains of Venus and the drowned coastline of Titan. 

Fold mountains in Ovda Regio, Venus. The insert is a similar view of part of the Applachians in central Pennsylvania. NASA/JPL

Left: Part of Titan’s Ligeia Mare, showing a coastline with valleys drowned by a sea of liquid methane. Right: The Musandam peninsula, Arabia, where coastal valleys are similarly drowned, but by a saltwater sea. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell and Expedition 63, International Space Station (ISS)

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Mars in 4K Resolution

Mars in 4K Resolution 

Various sources have brought this video to my attention. The pictures are amazing  (Very Good). So is the commentary (Words good, Voice awful).

You can see it HERE, or watch it below.

Bath Walking Trails

Bath Walking Trails 

A correspondent from Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution has sent me some information on four walks around Bath, some of which will be of interest to geologists. They are all of interest to everyone!

She Writes:-
I wonder if you would be interesting in circulating the information below about the new BRLSI Bath Discovery Trails, accessed with a free App for Android and Apple Smartphones, produced in collaboration with BathSpa University? I think some of these will interest your readers.

The four walking trails are: The First Meteorite, The Railway Leviathan, On the Origin of Species and The War Crosses.

All you need is your phone and a decent pair of shoes; the trails take about 1.5 - 2 hours to walk, but you can easily skip sections or take a break along the way if you feel the need! Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution is open 10-4, Monday to Saturday.

The First Meteorite

This centres on an object from outer space that is small enough to fit in your hand and is 4.2 billion years old. This trail explores ‘deep time’ and the very origins of our solar system through a story that connects 18th-century astronomers with druid temples and a Siberian forest. Once you have completed your journey to BRLSI you will be able to see this unique fragment from the earliest years of the universe.

Activation Code: bathdiscovery3

The Railway Leviathan

Rediscover a lost world, here in Bath. This trail brings to life extinct species from a time before human beings and explains how the industrialisation of Bath’s landscape in the nineteenth century unearthed long lost creatures that once roamed the land and swam in the seas where Bath now stands—and how BRLSI was crucial in preserving that prehistoric past. At the end of this trail you will be able to view the skull of a Jurassic steneosaurus, just one of BRLSI’s many fossils.

Activation Code: bathdiscovery4

The Origin of Species

Learn about one of the world’s most important scientific books through the lens of a very local friendship. Charles Darwin spent his life gathering data based on his observations of animals and plants, which would lead to the development of the theory of evolution. This trail explores the lifelong friendship between Darwin and Leonard Jenyns, who lived here in Bath, through a correspondence that reveals a shared love for natural history and intellectual curiosity about the natural world. Jenyns donated his library to BRLSI and, once you have completed the trail, you will be able to see his own copy of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, alongside a letter he wrote to Darwin.

Activation Code: bathdiscovery2

The War Crosses

Take a closer look at the human cost of conflict through the city’s war memorials and the soldiers who experienced this first industrialised war. In this trail you will discover the places where returning soldiers were treated for their injuries, the houses where army generals lived, and the memorials to the fallen. Once you complete the trail you will be able to view relics of the Crimean War, part of BRLSI’s extensive collections related to human conflict across the centuries.

Activation Code: bathdiscovery1

You can download the app for free via your usual provider or just click on the links:


Saturday, 14 August 2021

Join the Avon RIGS Group

Join the Avon RIGS Group 

As the threat of Covid seems to be in retreat, the prospect of field work advances.

And an opportunity for field work is with the local RIGS group. RIGS (regionally Important Geological Sites) is administered by BRERC (Bristol Regional Environmental Recording Centre) which is based at Blaise Castle House Museum. 

A look at BRERC's web site (see HERE) shows it is mainly concerned with wildlife but it is trying to enliven its geological footprint. There are many RIGS in this area and many have not been looked at in decades. Joining the RIGS group will help get the data base up to date. 

The tasks can range from the easy - does the site still exist?, is it overgrown, has it been built on, is it accessible - to the more exacting - what are its exact boundaries, does it show what it is said to show.

The first step to help with this endeavour is to join the Group. To do so send an email to Tim Corner at asking to join.

Friday, 13 August 2021

Does Global Warming Lead to Mass Extinction?

Does Global Warming Lead to Mass Extinction? 

We know when mass extinctions have happened; we know the sea surface temperature for many millions of years. Is there a connection?

THIS ARTICLE, based on THIS PAPER, looks at this. And the news is not good!

Data for the two sets is usually not presented in similar ways. Extinction data usually comes as number of disappearances per geological stage; sea surface temperature is more nearly continuous.

To make correlations the authors put the data into 10 million year time bins and this is what you see below.

Changes since the end of the Ordovician: red = extinction rate in time bins; green = the greatest magnitude of change in temperature in each bin; blue- the greatest rate of temperature change in each bin. Grey bars show mass extinctions (Credit: Song et al., Fig 1)

The data shows that there is a good correlation between the two data sets. When the sea surface temperature rises quickly, mass extinctions happen. 

And the sea surface temperature is rising very fast indeeed.

Monday, 9 August 2021

Jurassic Ark – Spectacular Fossils from an Ancient Somerset Sea

 Jurassic Ark – Spectacular Fossils from an Ancient Somerset Sea

A Summer Exhibition, with free entry, at the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution (BRLSI), 16 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN, until 2nd October, 10am–4pm Monday–Saturday.

The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is celebrating their unique collection of fossils from the Lower Jurassic of Strawberry Bank. Beneath the Somerset town of Ilminster, lies a beautifully-preserved Jurassic ecosystem, from which Victorian geologist Charles Moore collected hundreds of fossils. The fossils show exceptional preservation, revealing soft tissues such as muscles, guts, and traces of skin. Importantly, they retain the animals’ original three-dimensional shape. Uncompressed, three-dimensional fossils that preserve soft tissues are very rare, and the concentration of a diverse fauna at this site makes it one of the best-preserved Lower Jurassic marine ecosystems in the world.

Specially commissioned illustrations by John Sibbick, one of the world's foremost palaeontological illustrators, recreate the landscape in which these extinct marine reptiles, fish, crustaceans, squid-like cephalopods, and insects flourished.

Although Moore’s original quarry was infilled in 1860, a new excavation in 2019, headed by the BRLSI, opened two trenches to study the strata of what is now called the ‘Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte’.

These extraordinary fossils have been studied in depth as part of a four-year project of intensive research through the JESBI project, an exciting collaboration between the BRLSI Collections team and Bristol University, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol is excited to see the findings of the project presented to a wider audience. He said “The fossils may be old, and they were collected 170 years ago, but they are providing remarkable new scientific information.”


An introduction to the exhibition can be seen HERE.

A video of the making of the exhibition can be seen HERE.

A short film about the research done on a Strawberry Bank ichthyosaur skull from the exhibition, in collaboration with the University of Bristol can be found HERE.

A series of three talks connected to the Strawberry Bank fossils which can be viewed on the BRLSI YouTube channel.

The suggested order of viewing is:-

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Down to Earth Extra - August 2021

 Down to Earth Extra - August 2021 

The latest edition of Down to Earth Extra is HERE.

And you can read it below.

Sea Level Changes Affect Eruptions

Sea Level Changes Affect Eruptions 

Many thanks to a correspondent who brought THIS ARTICLE to my attention. It is based on THIS ARTICLE in Nature.

It is based on a study of Santorini which looked at sea level and eruptions. The data covers the last 360 thousand years. In that period there were 211 eruptions, 208 occurred when sea level was low.

The theory is that when sea level is high (as it is now) the pressure on the magma chamber (4km down) keeps the roof intact. When sea level drops by 40m the pressure on the magma chamber roof lessens, cracks develop, magma, in the form of dykes, moves upwards. At a sea level drop of 70m the dykes reach the surface. 

The study suggests that it takes 13,000 years for the cracks to reach the surface. The eruption which may have been the demise of the Minoan Civilization occurred in 1,600BCE, the sea level was last below -40m 11,000 years ago, so we are in a quiet period as sea level continues to rise.

Friday, 6 August 2021

How Old Are Sponges?- Continued

How Old Are Sponges?- Continued 

Last weeks POST on sponges was the subject of a NATURE PODCAST. You can listen to it on the link.

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Seatown Landslide

Seatown Landslide 

I came across this on Facebook and thought you might find it interesting. The original post on Facebook is HERE.