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.