This blog seems to have turned into a TV/Media reporting site recently. Never mind.
The Beeb have a new series out called "Fossil Detectives".
Presented by Hermione Cockburn it is an 8-part series made by the OU
. (So that should be a good indicator of quality.) Sadly, unlike the OU shows I remember as a child there's a distinct lack of beards, and less detail in some things than I would like. But being the OU what is there is top-notch stuff. This weeks episode concentrated on Central England, so we got a look at the Dudley Bug (the trilobite Calymene
), the serial grinding work of Peter Sheldon that revealed a fossil sea-spider, David Attenborough reminiscing about his childhood collecting fossils, and the Ediacaran fauna of Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire.
What most excited me was the section on the BGS's work in rediscovering one of the more obscure Lagerstätten
deposits, an Oxford Clay site in Wiltshire where volcanic eruptions poisoned the water
, creating a predator trap, and preserving soft tissue in phosphate. The site had previously revealed beautiful cephalopod fossils, belemnites with their hooks in life positions, and squid with their arms, fins and ink sacs preserved. Sadly the site was lost as the local collector provided misleading information as to its location, but the BGS have rediscovered it.
What was especially exciting for me is that I'd looked at the NHM's collection as part of my undergrad degree, so the thought of this site being rediscovered warms the cockles of my dead-squid-loving heart.
Next weeks episode is on London, so of course we get "hippos in Trafalgar Square", and the other episodes detail different regions , with input from the appropriate scientists, Jeff Liston discussing Leedsichthys
in Peterborough for instance. I'm rather looking forward to them.
One of this week's "Charlie and Lola"
was entitled "It is very special, and extremely ancient." Charlie is given an ammonite, and his sister Lola is very interested in it. Its even older than 25. Lola decides to look for fossils with her friend Lotta. Of course they start looking in all the wrong places (digging holes in sandpits, etc) before being taken to the beach where after an unsuccessful day they finally find something right at the end. Its a wavy line in the cartoon. Lola thinks its a centipede, Charlie isn't sure its a fossil at all, and it turns out to be a Nematode worm, and is Very Special and put on display in the museum.
There's definitely a degree of accuracy. Very often the most exciting finds occur on the last day of the dig (this happened to John Ostrom when he discovered Deinonychus
, and seems to crop up in every other episode of Time Team). But the nematode fossil? That really would be something special. Nematodes are soft-bodied, so their chances of being fossilised are extremely rare. Some are known from Scotland, found inside the remains of a decaying sea-scorpion (Gigantoscorpio
), others from Mazon Creek in Illinois (and I assume that Charlie & Lola don't live near Chicago), and still more from amber, including records of parasitism. However trace fossils resembling the wavy lines of nematode trails are known from Triassic and Eocene deposits, and Cochlichnus
, a similar fossil is often attributed to nematodes, so perhaps that's what Lola found.
If a kids cartoon can get this sort of thing right, and it didn't take long to find the information via Google, then why can't newspapers?
Stormer, L. 1963. Gigantoscorpio willisi
, a new scorpion from the Lower Carboniferous of Scotland and its
associated preying microorganisms. Skrifter Utgitt a v Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi i Oslo, 8:1-171.Valentine, J. W. 2004. On the Origin of Phyla. University of Chicago Press.