Navigation Links
New discoveries in North America's Great Plains bring ammonites to life

Although ammonites have been extinct for 65 million years, newly published data based on 35 years of field work and analysis is providing invaluable insights into their paleobiology. Ammonites, shelled mollusks closely related to modern day nautilus and squids, inhabited the oceans for nearly 350 million years. Specimens found in the rock record of the ancient seaway that covered North America during the Cretaceous Period demonstrate that these animals thrived at cold methane seeps at the bottom of the sea, consumed small prey, and often survived predation attempts.

"Our field work has resulted in the discovery of exceptionally well preserved ammonites at ancient methane seeps, which permit new insights into the mode of life and habitat of these organisms," says Neil Landman, curator in the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. "The picture that emerges is that these ammonites had little in common ecologically with either modern nautilus or most modern coleoids. This forces us to reexamine our thinking about the ecology of ancient marine systems and how the extinction of ammonites ultimately impacted the modern marine biota."

About 70 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the continents, the Atlantic Ocean was much narrower than today, and what is now North America was divided in half by a broad inland sea that covered much of the continent. This epicontinental sea was, according to new discoveries, partly covered by cold methane seeps of gas bubbling up from sediments below. These seeps were like underwater oases that attracted a host of organismsbacteria, sponges, gastropods, bivalves, sea urchins, and even sea lilies that attached to the veneer of calcite that formed on the bottom at the seep sites. Ammonites were also abundant at the seeps.

"What astonishes me is that I have walked over these fossil deposits for years without ever realizing that they were the sites of cold methane seeps," says Landman.

At one locality in South Dakota, the fossilized methane seeps are exposed on the side of a steep cliff of black rock. Landman and his team criss-crossed the cliff with bright white ropes, forming a grid-like pattern onto which the team mapped the distribution of fossils.

"The result looked like an enormous Christo installation," says Landman. "You have to imagine the underwater scene 70 million years ago: a cloud of zooplankton, with ammonites flocking to the vents, forming isolated communities surrounded by the muddy sea floor. Because the sedimentation rates in the seaway were so rapid, the ammonites and other organisms were buried quickly after death, preserving exquisite details of their morphology."

The new research, published in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, redescribes the type specimens (holotypes) of two of the most common ammonite species that lived at the time: Hoploscaphites nodosus and H. brevis. The original specimens were collected over 150 years ago from what is probably South Dakota. Hoploscaphites nodosus, previously Jeletzkytes nodosus, is reassigned to Hoploscaphites because new, large fossil collections show that the traditional separation of robust, coarsely ornamented specimens from more slender, finely ornamented specimens is arbitrary. The paper also helps reconstruct the paleogeography of the epicontinetal sea that covered North America at the time as well as other seaways that covered parts of Europe.

Landman and colleagues argue that these ammonites were probably not fast swimmers. They lacked strong muscles which would have been required for strong propulsion. In addition, their jaws could only accommodate small prey and, as a result, they were probably sluggish filter feeders. Many of the ammonites also show injuries. Some of the injuries were healed during life but others resulted in death. Landman argues that the predators were probably fish, reptiles, crustaceans, and other cephalopods.

"There were probably millions of individuals in the seaway, which gives you an idea of the importance of ammonites in the marine ecosystem," says Landman.


Contact: Kristin Elise Phillips
American Museum of Natural History

Related biology news :

1. Nanoparticle scientist speaks on new discoveries at Goldschmidt Conference
2. Charles Drew University researcher will be honored for discoveries
3. Society of Interventional Radiology highlights medical advances, new discoveries
4. New discoveries could improve climate projections
5. UCR plant scientists research spawns new discoveries showing how crops survive drought
6. Partnership to accelerate Trudeau Institute discoveries to patient care
7. MSU discoveries upend traditional thinking about how plants make certain compounds
8. Field stations foster serendipitous discoveries in environmental, biological sciences
9. UC and partners awarded $23 million to transform discoveries into real-world health solutions
10. Industry to Demonstrate Off-the-Shelf Integrated Force Protection and Counter-Terrorism Solutions at Northern Virginia Site
11. TERMIS-North America announces speakers for annual event
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
New discoveries in North America's Great Plains bring ammonites to life
(Date:11/19/2015)... , Nov. 19, 2015  Based on its ... & Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the 2015 Global Frost ... year, Frost & Sullivan presents this award to the ... catering to the needs of the market it serves. ... line meets and expands on customer base demands, the ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , November 17, 2015 Paris ...   --> Paris from 17 th ... DERMALOG, the biometrics innovation leader, has invented the first combined ... on the same scanning surface. Until now two different scanners ... one scanner can capture both on the same surface. ...
(Date:11/16/2015)... 16, 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ... today announced expansion of its TDDI product portfolio ... controller and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions designed ... new TDDI products add to the previously-announced ... (WQHD resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. All ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software ... events in five states to develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health ... state are competing for votes to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 SHPG ) announced today that ... Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in ... at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> SHPG ... will participate in the Piper Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare ... Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015  Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today announced that its Annual ... 11:00 a.m. Israel time, at the law offices ... Street, 36 th Floor, Tel Aviv, Israel . ... and Izhak Tamir to the Board of Directors; , ... , approval of an amendment to certain terms of options granted ...
(Date:11/24/2015)...  Twist Bioscience, a company focused on synthetic ... Bioscience chief executive officer, will present at the ... 2015 at 3:10 p.m. Eastern Time at The Lotte New ... --> --> About Twist ... on Twitter. Sign up to follow our Twitter ...
Breaking Biology Technology: