Monday, December 21, 2009

Off-topic: My top records 2009

Like last year, I would like to ponder on the most exciting records that this year brought to me...

Coalesce - Ox (relapse records)

I always thought they split up some years ago, so I was a little bit surprised as the band announced a new record and a tour this year. I didn’t expected too much because most of such reunion-records are rather lame and bands usually never find their ingenuity of the “early days”. In this case, however, it is not a typical reunion because they just split and re-formed many times. Long story short: Ox (both, Lp and ep) completely blew me away. It’s like taking the best part of every Coalesce release (including their Led Zeppelin cover album) and welding it to a perfect album. They even made it to include clean vocal parts within some songs, which in my view usually appears misplaced in such music. The blunt guitar riffing topped with the acridly barking vocals is typically coalesce but the clean singing and the almost "morriconesque" interludes really make it a special record. I think this is probaly the last Hardcore album that really means something to me.

Baroness – Blue Record (relapse records)

Gaudiest metal record of all time. Baroness once emerged from a rather rough small cove embedded somewhere between Hardcore/Crust Mountain and a more advanced Heavy Metal Volcano not unlike early Mastodon. At least since their last release “red album” they got a little bit more straight forward and fancy. I don’t mean this in a negative way. The “blue record” follows this path consequently. It twinkles and sparkles with every pearly guitar riff passing your auditory meatus. Not to mention the hymnal vocal parts that instantly reminded me of Hot Water Music. Sometimes, I felt a little embarrassed because some songs are so cheesy but at the same time it sounds amiable and refreshing for this kind of music where every band tries to sound as evil and brutal as possible. This is a honest release of a honest band.

Bat for lashes - Two suns (Emi)

I don’t know too much about pop so I can’t present a thorough review like for the records above. This is a very fragile and spooky pop album that was my background music as I walked through summer nights of Zürich.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Run crinoid, run!

This one has been posted already here and there on the net and actually, the paper was published 2.5 years ago. However, this report really surprised me and I want to share my amazement.

Fig. 1: Gif-movie showing crawling crinoid in quick motion.
Picture from cover of Palaeontologia Electronica Vol 10/1

Baumiller and Messing (2007) report that extant isocrinids are able to move as fast as 10 - 30 mm per second using their "arms" to crawl over the seafloor (fig. 1). Although some groups of crinoids were suggested and proven to perfom some sort of locomotion, the authors provide evidence for an almost "benthic-vagile" lifestyle of a group of organisms that is largely recognized as de facto sessile.

This contribution concerns me for two reasons. First, I am highly interested if there are some trace fossils that were found to represent crinoid locomotion (see fig. 2) and second, the portion of crinoids suggested to apply this kind of locomotion is highest in the Triassic (fig. 3).

Fig. 2: Traces of Davidaster rubiginosa in a fishtank experiment, scale bar: 20 mm (Baumiller and Messing, 2007).

Fig. 3: Generic diversity of crinoids from Ordovician to modern times. Red bars represent the portion of crinoidtaxa that might have been able to perform the observed mode of locomotion (Baumiller and Messing, 2007).

Working in the lower Triassic with a keen interest in ichnology, I will keep this work in my head when returning to the field. Does anybody knows about crinoid trace fossils?


Baumiller, T.K., and Messing, C.G., 2007: Stalked Crinoid locomotion, and its ecological and evolutionary implications. Palaeontologia Electronica, v. 10/1.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hammer Party

Sorry, it is Sunday, I finished my tasks scheduled for today (building up an ikea-something) and my significant other is trapped in a synchrotron somewhere in France. Let me dump the internet with useless information (nothing new, actually).

Probably on every student field trip a picture like this is going to be taken. It was a third years field trip, so you still see tools from DIY markets, which are infact unsuitable for torturing rocks. They easily chip. I once shot a fellow student in the leg while I tried to decompose a cherty limestone. Blood everywhere, I tell you. She sued me and I still have to pay her smart money. So get decent gear for fieldwork. Safety first!

Some details of the story are exaggerated to justify a blog post but basically it's true.


Go and see this movie. Being a geologist, I really enjoyed the part with the Yellowstone eruption (fig. 1). Although 99% of the stuff happening there is far beyond being realistic, the explosion of a caldera appears to be more or less like that (according to what I learned in my volcanics-class). However, the pyroclastic cloud in the movie appears quite comfortable. A real one probably wouldn't release an aircraft that it once caught.

Fig. 1: Zzzzsch-Kraboom

Apart from the CGI earth decomposition, which is well done, I would recommend to movie directors to throw all this emotional crap away and add self-irony and dirt instead. The pretence to create a movie which tries to sell family-compatible ethics although there is terror and destruction everywhere just doesn't work. All of this pathos really destroyed the movie more than the earth has been destroyed in the movie. Haha, but that's okay, they want to earn money. I understand that.

My wish: just show the cool parts and add cool music. I found the following clip on youtube which is pretty close to what I imagine:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New old Blog

It is online for quite a while so it is not really new: A blog by Kevin Bylund called Ammonoida which is focused on Cephalopds from the U.S. Kevin joined the recent field trip. He is an Ammonite-specialist and there is probaly no one who knows better about the Geology of Utah and adjoining areas.

From the east coast to the west coast...

Recently, I returned from a field trip with American (Jim Jenks and Kevin Bylund) and French (Dr. Arnaud Brayard) Cephalopod researchers. I have been in the south-western U.S. for almost 4 weeks to see the Panthalassian faunas mainly of the Smithian and Spathian (Upper Early Triassic, Olenekian if you want). I've got a lot of things to do right now so I just will post some pictures from the field trip and some ichnologic goodies. Almost everything that is suggested for publication will emerge here (if any) after definite publication. It is not that I am conceited or afraid that someone snitches my ideas but most journals require that the submitted material is not published elsewhere in any form (hence, including blog-posts). In fact, currently I am working on a manuscript on some trace fossils from the Dolomites that I'd love to show you. Anyway back to the U.S. (as always: click to enlarge!):

The ?Thaynes Formation at the Dog Valley locality (Pahvant Range, central Utah).

Our camp with the Thule Valley in the background seen from the Disappointment Hills (Confusion Range, Utah) . The backmost mountains belong to the House Range and are mainly composed of Cambrian sediments.

One of the sections at the Disappointment Hills locality. The succession of interest starts at the right with a calcarenitic bed (the bright bedding plane) blanketing a ?permian paleo-relief. The Triassic here is represented by the Thaynes Formation (Smithian and Spathian) .

Well, the desert can be a lonely place...

...but furry guests show up from time to time.

Thats a locality called Smiths Phalen Ranch near Currie (Nevada). See the post on Ammonoidea.

"Superb" outrcop conditions in NE-Nevada (Winecup Ranch, or something). We weren't even sure if its Lower Triassic at all.

The morning after a 25°C drop in temperature.

The Spathian Virgin Member (stratigraphic nomenclature is debated, some researcher refer to the Vrgin Limestone Formation) near Hurricane. Basically, a shale interbedded with a series of prominent limestone ledges.

The lowermost of such "ledges", here very variable in thickness. It pinches out towards the left. I think it represents an estaury filling incisions in the underlying terrestrial red beds. The base of the Virgin member is highly variable in facies. It must have been a very dissected coastline with shoals, tidal flats, lagoons and estuaries. Honey Moon Trail east of the Hurricane cliffs.

The same little mesa showing the prominent pinch-out towards the left.

The Hurricane Cliffs east of Hurricane (Utah).

So called "wrinkle structures". Little pseudo ripples which are formed by microbial mats. It is considered as an "anachronistic" facies showing up in areas or times when grazing and bioturbation in general is dramatically reduced due to nonexistence of grazers and burrowers (Lower Cambrian) or as a result of a previous massive extinction (Lower Triassic). If you are interested read Pruss et al. 2004 for instance.

An ichnologic goodie: Cruziana in the lower Triassic. Usually, Cruziana is suggested to have been produced by Trilobites. As they went extinct in the course of the end-Permian mass extinction, similar structures can be obviously produced by someone else. A paper dealing with this topic is Zonneveld et al. 2002. The occurence reported in that reference is dated to the Middle Triassic. So my specimen (Spathian Virgin Member) should be the earliest large Cruziana after the end-Permian Mass extinction found so far. Well, the photographed specimen is not the whole story and I hope I can come back to this one when we have better data and a publication.

Me and my little clam truck.


Pruss S. B., Fraiser M. L., Bottjer D. J. 2004: The proliferation of Early Triassic wrinkle structures: implications for environmental stress following the end-Permian mass extinction. Geology, 32, 461–464.

Zonneveld J. P., Pemberton S. G., Saunders T. D. A., Pickerill R. K., 2002: Large, Robust Cruziana from the Middle Triassic of Northeastern British Columbia: Ethologic, Biostratigraphic, and Paleobiologic Significance. Palaios, 17, 435-448.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to the field, yeehaa

Recently, I have been busy to finish a poster for the meeting of the german palaeontological association (see the german website here). Furthermore, I just finished a manuscript, which is suggested to be submitted as soon as I am back from the field.

I am going to the see Lower Triassic of panthalassian shallow marine environments involving the Thaynes Formation and the Dinwoody Formation in the "Confusion Range" of western Utah. There are localities like "disappointment hills" and "cowboy pass". Sounds pretty "amazing", does'nt it, haha! I will join a team of French and American researchers. For the last 10 days, I will be on my own down in southwest Utah to see the Virgin Limestone (sounds better). I Hope to be back on 13th of october.

I will listen to this one constantly, all the time, no kidding!

Monday, August 10, 2009

South Tyrol/ Italy II (July/ August, 2009)

I am just back from a short 9 day field session again in the Dolomites. We completed the documentation of the Werfen Formation at the San Pellegrino and started to log and sample an additional section at the Rosengarten/ Catinaccio with some surprising results. I will get back to it later when I have a sound database. Just for the record: trace fossils are awesome. Haha.

The Rosengarten/Catinaccio section exposing the lower Werfen Formation (click to enlarge). Not to scale due to perspective distortion in the upper part. Whole outcrop represents approximately 90 metres of exposed strata. Oh, I forgot to indicate that the extinction level roughly represents the Permian-Triassic boundary.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trace fossil of the second III: Asteriacites lumbricalis

The Tfots today is Asteriacites lumbricalis von Schlotheim, 1820, a resting trace produced by the (in)activity of ophiuroid echinoderms or brittle stars (Twitchett & Wignall 1996). I took these photographs from material found on the slopes of Costabella mountain in the Dolomites. These slabs are float from an outcrop exposing the Campil Member of the middle Werfen Formation (Lower Triassic, Early Olenekian). These trace are quite widespread in this member and known for more than a hundred years although they were erroneously recognised as body fossils in the first place (e.g. Wittenburg 1908). They come from more or less storm-dominated shoreface deposits composed of micaceous fine-grained sandstones and siltstones.

Thanks to a comment by David, I hoped to see some decent specimens during the recent field session and finally I was really lucky finding these well-preserved traces at the last day of the campaign. I never saw better ones at least in the literature so far.

Fig. 1: Asteriacites lumbricalis preserved as convex hyporelief (positive structure on a lower bedding plane). Black bar represents 5 mm.

Fig. 2: Asteriacites lumbricalis preserved as concave epirelief (negative structure on an upper bedding plane). Black bar represents 5 mm. Note the ripple-marks.


Schlothheim, E.F. von, 1820: Petrefactenkunde auf ihrem jetzigen Standpunktedes Thier- und Pflanzenreichs der Vorwelt. Gotha, Becker, 437 p. durch die Beschreibung seiner Sammlung versteinerter und fossiler überreste.

Twitchett, R.J., Wignall, P.B., 1996: Trace fossils and the aftermath of the Permo-Triassic mass extinction: evidence from northern Italy. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 124, 137–152.

Wittenburg, P. von, 1908: Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Werfener Schichten Südtirols. Geologische und Palaeontologische Abhandlungen 8, 251–289.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Christian nonsens

Please excuse me for lowering the level of this blog (it's almost on sea bottom anyway) but the following story teased me.

Recently, I attended a christian presentation showing a little movie "Die Millionen fehlen" (the millions are missing). For those who speak/understand German may follow the YouTube-links below.

Such creationists/young earth-"scientist" documentaries are widespread and I usually ignore them or watch them just for amusement. The whole presentation was more a sermon than a movie with subsequent discussion. I was really disappointed in almost every aspect.

In the first place the announced coffee buffet was not as rewarding as expected, which essentially is a mistake on my part. The movie and the arguments to support a young earth were pretty bad and it was one of the worst creationist movie I had ever seen. After the presentation there was a preacher talking about the usual Christian stuff and I do not dislike it a priori. But one thing really annoyed me: He said that even every child is a sinner and will only find redemption in the acceptance of Jesus. Holy Crap! Although I know about protestant Religion (I am baptised and confirmed but I don't give a crap) I never expected such a harsh statement. It really came obvious to me (for the first time) how sick this stuff is. I already read Dawkins "the God Delusion" but I felt quite distraught to experience from first hand how serious people are about that.

After the show, I strolled around, enjoyed the coffee and one guy (same age as me) approached me and asked me who I am and what I felt during the ceremony. I am a very polite guy and I didn't start a religion-is-stupid-discussion. I really wanted to know what he thinks about the movie because I know plenty of religious people who are convinced that creationism is just weird drivel, so I was interested in his position. He was that kind of "every word in the bible is true"-guy accordingly the earth can't be as old as scientists say. I replied, well, you may be right but I can easily disprove the hypotheses supported in the movie with simple considerations that students learn in their first year. So my central question was why do you think those “scientists” are right although every evidence points against those hypotheses. The main pitfall and most hypocritical statement of the movie was the following: The bible doesn’t provide answers for every aspect of the world. But this doesn’t means automatically that it (the bible) is wrong. However, this is exactly the reproach of creationists to scientists. Something like: Science is not able to explain everything, accordingly science is wrong because religion does so.

Fig. 1: The proof that Jesus doesn't know anything.

My reply to such stupid "arguments" is that this is (to quote Dawkins) the beauty of science. If everything would be solved no further research is needed. So shut down all universities and go home. Furthermore the bible or God doesn't explain how evolution works. How the first cell evolved or how it "has been built" (see fig. 1). None of the big questions is answered with God. The guy said ok but my "considerations" are biased because I attended non-religious schools and I didn't experience the truth as offered by Jesus blablabla. Paradoxically, he admitted that the world is constrained by the laws of nature. But when it comes to evolution he just don't believe in what science found out. Here I wondered why, why, why, creationists always exclude evolution, palaeontology and biological research from natural science?

After 90 minutes or so we came to an end and he said that I may be right but if God doesn't exists and the bible is just a nice book like any others what justifies his moral behaviour? So he can start killing and plundering because it doesn't matters at all. How fucked-up is this opinion? I mean (its so trivial, I know!) do we need an ancient book filled to its half with blood and punishment to know how to behave in the modern world? The next point is that he believes (as the protestant followers in general do) from his heart and soul that Jesus was sent to our world to suffer for our sins in advance. If Jesus took all the burden of humanity’s sins so all what you have to do is to confess your sins to god and you will be saved? This is the point where you can just go and kill people isn’t it?. Jesus was a very nice guy and took the load already. Just confess it and everything will be fine. This really is beyond any logic.

To come to and end. I never felt more dismayed about people that should know better.


Friday, July 10, 2009

South Tyrol/ Italy I (May, 2009)

Here are some rather touristic impressions from the field campaign (click on the pcitures to enlarge). The task of the first session was to find appropriate sections...

The Peitlerkofel (Sas de Pütia) as seen from "Würzjoch". As you see there is still plenty of snow in May. We were'nt able to document a section here. The reddish/grey slope in the foreground is Grödner Sandstein Formation (Permian). Terrestrial plain and river sediments. The Permian Bellerophon Formation and the Permotriassic Werfen Formation is well-covered with snow.

The Permian Grödner Sandstein of the Bletterbachschlucht. Supervisor for scale in the lower left. This is a spectacular gorge. Unfortunately the upper part of the canyon was not accessible due to floods earlier this year. So we did'nt see the P/T boundary below the Weisshorn.

The Werfen Formation below Cimon della Pala at Passo di Rolle. In fact a nice outcrop but very risky when it comes to sampling and documenting the section.

Me on the way to Cima dell Uomo above Passo San Pellegrino. Snow everywere.

The Bellerophon Formation at the slopes of the Aferer Geisler seen from the Günther Messner Steig.

Me for scale at the Val Badia Member (Werfen Fm.), Val a Averta

Packing samples after 5 days of work at the Aferer Geisler section.

The upper 30 metres or so of the Aferer Geisler section (Seis Member). Supervisor (black something) for scale somewhere in the lower left.

The lower Werfen (from lower right to upper left): Mazzin Member, Andraz Horizon Member, Seis Member, ?Gastropod Oolith Member and Campil Member (red). The photo is taken from the slopes between Cima dell Oumo and Costabella (Passo San Pellegrino).

The upper Werfen below Costabella. It does'nt look spectacular but it is the best outcrop seen so far to see the complete upper Werfen Formation without breaking my neck. It is just too far to identify the members from this perspective.

These dudes saved my life several times i guess.

There it is: The End-Permian Extinction level at Rosengarten/Catinaccio. The lower bed is full of shelly fossils whilst the upper bed is devoid of life. Certainly, you can see such contrasts in other settings as well merely due to facies change or something but the following beds yield almost no fossils. Some authors refer to the "End Permian Death Zone".


Cimon della Pala seen from Val Venegia.

I won't take this way.

San Pellegrino seen from Costabella.

A similar view 13 days earlier.

A typical Dolomite landscape in Val Badia near Misci and Seres. The mountain in the background should be Kreuzkofel (Sasso Croce).

Latemar seen from Rosengarten/Catinaccio.

A Bob Ross painting: Karer See with Latemar.

Cimon della Pala from Val Venegia

Thursday, July 9, 2009

There and back again

Since the end of May, I am back from the first fieldsession and it was pretty nice. Although we had still plenty of snow at several localities. I didn't post anyhing recently because of being busy with sample preparation, cleaning, fossil identification, drawing sections and so on. As soon as possible I will add some pictures from field work.

I just finished an abstract for a meeting in September and I planned the next field trips already. In August I will head back to Tyrol together with a Master student for one week to complete field observations. In September and October I will fly to Utah to see the Panthalassa seaworld of the lower Triassic.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I am off...

...for fieldwork.

Although i did'nt post too much on nologic recently anyway, i have to anounce a little blogging-hiatus. Within the next 3 weeks I will be in the southern Alps for documenting lower Triassic sections. I hope for good material.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Trace fossil of the second II: Brutalichnus brutalis Mikuláš et. al 2006

Today I picked this one because of its adorable name. Brutalichnus has been erected by Mikuláš et. al 2006 with a bunch of other neat traces like Nihilichnus and Machichnus from bone material found in Miocene Sediments near Chomutov (Czech Republic). All of these structures represent biting and gnawing traces on bones. Brutalichnus brutalis is interpreted by the authors as breakage due to bites of animals in order to feed on cancellous bones which are rich in organic material. Evidence for this hypothesis is provided by small radial patterns at the points where the bone is broken. It proves that the bones did not simply collapse as a result of compaction.
Fig. 1: Brutalichnus brutalis on a mandible (Mikuláš et al. 2007).

Fig. 2: The suggested trace maker action being responsible for the observed morphology (Mikuláš et al. 2007)

Mikuláš R., Kadlecová E., Fejfar O., Dvořák Z. (2007): Three New Ichnogenera of Biting and Gnawing Traces on Reptilian and Mammalian Bones: A Case Study from the Miocene of the Czech Republic. Ichnos, 13, p. 113–127. link

To close this post you may enjoy the audio version of Brutalichnus brutalis: Converge's Fault and Fracture.