Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Paleontologists audition modern examples of ancient behavior

Date:
April 18, 2011
Source:
University of Cincinnati
Summary:
A video of a modern shellfish by paleontologists suggests a way to test theories about the behavior of fossilized specimens.

Fossil brachiopod from the Oslo, Norway region.
Credit: iStockphoto

Paleontologists agree that it's difficult to observe behavior in fossil specimens that are dead -- even extinct -- and petrified. One method is to find a modern, living, species that has some similarities to the ancient animal.

Related Articles


That's the strategy adopted by David L. Meyer, University of Cincinnati professor of geology and colleagues as they study a group of ancient shellfish known as brachiopods. Although they resemble clams or other shelled mollusks, brachiopods are more closely related to marine worms. Relatively rare today, brachiopods were a dominant species in Paleozoic seas.

In the fossil-rich rocks of the Cincinnati region, a group of brachiopods known as strophomenates are found fossilized surrounded by tiny "moats." It is believed that the brachiopods themselves made the moats, but it is not certain how they did so. Paleontologists think the animals needed to open their shells to a gape of more than 45 degrees to make the moats.

Meyer, along with Benjamin Dattilo of Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne (a Ph.D. graduate of UC's geology program), and two students went looking for a modern analogue to the Paleozoic brachiopods. They found a tiny modern brachiopod named Thecidellina meyeri in the waters off Curaηao in the southern Caribbean.

"It's a reasonably good analogue," Meyer said. "They gape widely, and the internal anatomy shows similar structures."

Meyer, Dattilo, and UC students Tanya Del Valle and Christine Rahtz collected a fragment of coral covered with more than 30 Thecidellina specimens, and placed it in a tank with running seawater in the lab in Curaηao.

"They rapidly recovered," Meyer said, "resumed normal feeding behaviors, and maintained a 90-degree gape."

With video cameras recording, the paleontologists measured the ability of the modern brachiopods to move water around, generating relatively sluggish feeding currents and relatively strong currents when they snapped their shells shut.

Sometimes, the brachiopods would snap shut, stay shut, and then slowly open. At other times, they would open partially and shut several times in rapid succession.

The behavior of the modern animals provides a clue to ancient behaviors.

"By analogy," Meyer said, "feeding currents of the ancient brachiopods were too weak to disturb sediments, allowing them to feed close to the sea floor."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cincinnati. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Cincinnati. "Paleontologists audition modern examples of ancient behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316142628.htm>.
University of Cincinnati. (2011, April 18). Paleontologists audition modern examples of ancient behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316142628.htm
University of Cincinnati. "Paleontologists audition modern examples of ancient behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110316142628.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) — A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) — A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) — Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins