Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ferron Sandstone revisited...

...with google street view!

One of my todays main achievements is that I figured out how to get google earth working on my linux system. After several months without playing with this nice little tool, I really enjoyed to take a tour. I discovered the street view mode and played around a little bit. It is a fancy feature and it is not only suitable for spotting girls in central park. Even better, it is perfect for exploring road side geology. For instance, I found my beloved little fluvial channel of the Ferron sandstone on which I reported earlier.

Cool, isn't it?!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Coprolite Street located in Ipswitch, Suffolk (UK):

This occurrence made it into the international Journal Ichnos:

Pickerill, R.K. 2006: Ichnologic picture. Ichnos, vol. 13,#2, p. 95.

"Yes this is for real and who would like to live there. Coporolite Street is located in Ipswich, Suffolk, U.K. in its dock area. Mark Jay at Ipswich Building Control informs that the name relates to the coprolite that was shipped into the area to be processed by a nearby fertilizer plant. Thanks to him, W. Remena and S.K. Donovan for providing this remarkable occurrence."

Coprolites are pieces of (extruded) fecal matter that became fossilised. Me and my student fellow Moritz investigated more than 100 specimens in order to learn something about the palaeoecology of Permian fresh water deposits of the Planitz Formation (Zwickau, Saxony).

Fig. 1: A nice co(pro)llection of specimens recovered from lake sediments in Zwickau/Saxony.

Fig. 2: A pretty decent specimen showing the heterpolar coiling typical for Heteropolacopros, for instance. So we peeled this shit off and explored the interior with binocular microscopes.

Fig. 3: A ganoid scale probably related to palaeoniscid fish.

Although being a very interesting project, this study revealed nothing in particular. First, different sizes of coprolites didn't show any significant trend or a favoured lenght/width ratio. The problem is that a single organism may produce fecal matter with various forms and, vice versa, numerous organisms may produce the same general form and size-range (Aldridge et al. 2006, Baxendale 1979). Accordingly, it is hard to tell whether these coprolites were produced by one single species or if they are the result of teamwork of a multitude of phyla.
The majority of the investigated coprolite material was anisopalar-coiled and resembled (not as delicious though) wraps or crêpes. According to Jain (1983) such a morphology is expected being produced by organisms possessing a scroll valve. None of the predators that are recorded by body fossils in these lake sediments match this criterion. Xenacanth Sharks which are accused by Kogan (2006) to have left this mess are not in charge anymore because they had a spiral valve which would rather produce a coiled fecal ribbon rather than such 'coprocrêpes'. All what we can say with confidence is that the producer was a fish feeding predator preferring actinopterygian fish like Paramblypertus, Amblypterus and Igornichtys (Kogan, 2006).


Aldridge, R., Gabbott, S., Siveter, L. and Theron, J.: 2006, Bromalites from the Soom Shale Lagerstätte (Upper Ordovician) of South Africa: palaeoecological and palaeobiological implications, Palaeontology 49(4), 857–871.

Baxendale, R.: 1979, Plant-bearing coprolites from North American Pennsylvanian coal balls, Palaeontology 22(3), 537–548.

Jain, S.: 1983, Spirally coiled coprolites from he Upper Triassic Maleri Formation, India, Palaeontology 26(4), 813–829.

Kogan, I.: 2006, Paläontologie, Sedimentologie und Paläoökologie des Unterrotliegend Planitz-Sees im Erzgebirge-Becken, unpublished Master thesis, TU Bergakademie Freiberg.

Countries visited!

Animated by the latest post on clastic detritus I went to this site and checked all countries that I visited already. This is what i got:

visited 22 states (9.77%)

Pretty lame for a geologist but I am young and just about to start my serious live. Furthermore, I must admit that I should have to exclude most of the checked countries if the Band I played in hasn't been on tour so much.
It is somewhat embarrassing that I made it (except Jordan) to the "Western Countries" only. I definitely have to go to Asia and Southern America. Suggestions where to go next are welcome!

However, by whining about not having been out so much, something came into my mind. As much as I traveled by the age 25, I probably belong to the uppermost 2 % or even less of all people. So we are pretty privileged and complaining about it would turn us to assholes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ichnology and Sequence Stratigraphy. Part A: The Ferron Sandstone

In May 2007, I got the chance to attend a very small meeting held in Price/Utah, USA “Ichnological Applications to Sedimentological and Sequence Stratigraphic Problems” organised by the SEPM.

In the first place, I gave my first scientific talk there and, more important, I gained precious experience in ichnology and sequence stratigraphy of siliclastic shallow marine systems. I do not really know where the word “gorgeous” is derived from but “gorge” might be a good guess and Utah is a excellent place to prove it. For me, geologically grown up in well covered, un-exposed Europe, the southwestern U.S. are somewhat my “promised land”. Nearly everything is visible and I really don't know where to go first. Awesome!

The succession visited at several localities during the congress fieldtrips included the Ferron Sandstone and the Panther Tongue Member. Both successions represent marginal to shallow marine sand wedges that prograded into Western Interior Seaway during the Cretaceous.

The well exposed Ferron Sandstone member gave textbook-like insights into shallow marine system dynamics and the feedback of organisms as recorded by trace fossils. However, the fieldtrip was predominantly focused on sedimentology. I learned a lot there and I really improved my skills in siliclastics just by sharing these three days in an inspiring landscape. It is not up to me telling the sedimentary evolution of the Ferron and Panther tongue sandstones but I would like to show some field pictures including some suggestions what you are expected to see there. The excursion was very well guided by Janok Bhattacharya from the University of Houston.

Ivie Creek Section

A general look on the Ferron Sandstone. This is a clinoform set comprising a whole prodelta to deltaplain succession. The slope, covered by float represents mudstones of the shelf. The lower part of the cliff face introduces the deltaic succession with heterolithic prodelta deposits. The bright sandy portion in the middle of the cliff face represents stacked delta front sandstones (Ivie Creek, N' of I-70).

Sandstone showing Hummocky Cross Stratification and low angle truncation Trace fossils are rare and include Thalassinoides, Ophiomorpha and Planolites. This low-diverse suite is typical for sediments generated by events such as storms. These sediments are interpreted as deposits of proximal, storm-domianted and wave-influenced prodelta (Ivie Creek Section ,near I-70).

Sandstone in lower bedding plane view with Thalassinoides, a dwelling/?feeding burrow produced by crustaceans. Such mass occurrences are probable related to short-term colonisation after storm events when floculated muds provide an excellent food resource (Ivie Creek Section near I-70).

This is a beautifully exposed fluvial point bar embedded in coal-deposits of the floodplain (Mr. Charles Howell for scale).

Willow Springs Wash

A more proximal facies of the Ferron is exposed at Willow Springs Wash. In the middle of this picture you can see a thick multistorey channel representing the distributary system for highly river-dominated delta lobes. Although there is some float covering the underlying deposits, you may notice that this channel incised underlying strata. I am somewhat confusing my field notes here; I am not sure if this channel is interpreted as a highly entrenched distributary or as regressional valley incision. Sorry, I will come back to this one. Suggestions welcome.

Probably my first real Dinosaur bone. This is just a fragment found at the base of the channel deposits from the picture above

A large specimen of Arenicolites within river-dominated prodelta to delta-front facies.