• A New Method for the Restoration of Palaeontological Specimens Mounted in Canada balsam

      Allington-Jones, L (Natural Sciences Collections Association (NatSCA ), 2008)
      Many museums contain slides mounted with Canada balsam. If this resin is poorly prepared, it can become crazed. Examples can be found within the British Type Graptolite Collection at the Natural History Museum, London. These are delicate dendroids prepared using the transfer technique. A search of the available literature and communication with museum workers highlighted suggestions for methods to rescue the cracked slides. These methods were tested, and the most suitable method proved to be a double transfer technique utilising carbowax. This technique may be used to rescue any specimen which is mounted in Canada balsam and which possesses an exposed surface. It is particularly important for the conservation of fragile specimens.
    • A new metriorhynchid crocodylomorph from the Oxford Clay Formation (Middle Jurassic) of England, with implications for the origin and diversification of Geosaurini

      Foffa, Davide; Young, Mark T; Brusatte, Stephen L; Graham, M; Steel, Lorna (Taylor and Francis, 2017-10-02)
      Metriorhynchids are an extinct group of Jurassic–Cretaceous crocodylomorphs secondarily adapted to a marine lifestyle. A new metriorhynchid crocodylomorph from the Oxford Clay Formation (Callovian, Middle Jurassic) of England is described. The specimen is a large, fragmentary skull and associated single ramus of a lower jaw uniquely preserved in a septarian concretion. The description of the specimen reveals a series of autapomorphies (apicobasal flutings on the middle labial surface of the tooth crowns, greatly enlarged basoccipital tuberosities) and a unique combination of characters that warrant the creation of a new genus and species: Ieldraan melkshamensis gen. et sp. nov. This taxon shares numerous characters with the Late Jurassic–Early Cretaceous genus Geosaurus: tooth crowns that have three apicobasal facets on their labial surface, subtly ornamented skull and lower jaws elements, and reception pits along the lateral margin of the dentary (maxillary overbite). Phylogenetic analysis places this new species as the sister taxon to Geosaurus. The new taxon adds valuable information on the time of origin of the macrophagous subclade Geosaurini, which was initially thought to have evolved and radiated during the Late Jurassic. The presence of Ieldraan melkshamensis, the phylogenetic re-evaluation of Suchodus durobrivensis as a Plesiosuchus sister taxon and recently identified Callovian Dakosaurus-like specimens in the Oxford Clay Formation, indicate that all major Geosaurini lineages originated earlier than previously supposed. This has major implications for the evolution of macropredation in the group. Specifically, we can now demonstrate that the four different forms of true ziphodonty observed in derived geosaurins independently evolved from a single non-functional microziphodont common ancestor.
    • Next-Generation Mitogenomics: A Comparison of Approaches Applied to Caecilian Amphibian Phylogeny

      Maddock, ST; Briscoe, AG; Wilkinson, M; Waeschenbach, A; San Mauro, D; Day, JJ; Littlewood, T; Foster, PG; Nussbaum, RA; Gower, DJ; et al. (2016-06-09)
    • No specimen left behind: industrial scale digitization of natural history collections

      Blagoderov, V; Kitching, I; Livermore, L; Simonsen, TJ; Smith, V (2012-07-20)
    • The origin of secondary heavy rare earth element enrichment in carbonatites: Constraints from the evolution of the Huanglongpu district, China

      Smith, M; Kynicky, J; Chen, X; Wenlei, S; Spratt, J; Jeffries, T; Brnicky, M; Kopriva, A; Cangeloosi, D (2018-03-04)
    • An overlooked contributor to palaeontology—the preparator Richard Hall (b. 1839) and his work on an armoured dinosaur and a giant sea dragon

      Graham, M; Radley, Jonathan; Lomax, Dean; Brewer, Pip (Geological Curator, 2020-11-12)
      The work of Richard Hall, a fossil preparator at the British Museum (Natural History) in the late 19th century, has been largely unrecorded. It included the excavation, preparation and restoration of two important specimens: the dinosaur Polacanthus foxii and the ichthyosaur Temnodontosaurus platyodon. The painstaking reconstruction of the dorsal shield of Polacanthus took seven years to complete and enabled a supplemental note redescribing the specimen to be published in 1887. The significance of the discovery in 1898 of the Temnodontosaurus to the town of Stockton in Warwickshire was such that it featured in an article in Nature. It has entered the local folklore and remains celebrated on the town’s road signage and features as the logo of Stockton Primary School.
    • Perforocycloides nathalieae new genus and species, an unusual Silurian cyclocystoid (Echinodermata) from Anticosti Island, Québec, Canada

      Graham, M; Ewin, TAM; Reich, Mike; Cournoyer, ME; Klug, C (Springer, 2019-08-22)
      Cyclocystoids are a poorly known, rare, extinct class of bi-facially flattened, disc shaped echinoderms, ranging from the Middle Ordovician to the Early Carboniferous. Articulated cyclocystoids are relatively common in the Ordovician but are rarer in younger strata. Here we describe Perforocycloides nathaliae new genus and species, from the early Silurian of Anticosti Island, Québec, Canada, the first articulated cyclocystoid from the Silurian of North America. This taxon is distinguished from other cyclocystoids by the number of variably sized marginal ossicles, the lack of interseptal plates, and the novelty of pores located in the distal part of the sutures between adjacent marginals on the dorsal surface. These dorsal intermarginal sutural pores led to canals which penetrated the contiguous area of the lateral surface of the marginals and emerged on the ventral surface between the cupules of adjacent marginals. These dorsal intermarginal sutural pores/canals appear to be unique to Perforocycloides and whilst their function is speculative, they provided some form of communication between the dorsal disc and the distal side of the ventral marginals/cupules. Perforocycloides most closely resembles the Ordovician–Silurian genus Zygocycloides, suggesting that this genus may have diversified more widely during the Silurian than previously reported. A review of global Silurian cyclocystoid distribution suggests taxa were geographically confined and that greatest diversity appears to have been located within Baltica. However, it also demonstrates our current limited knowledge. No specimens have been recorded from Gondwana (e.g. Africa, Australia, South America), Siberia, and North and South China, nor are any specimens known confidently anywhere from Přidolí strata.
    • Petrographic and chemical studies of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary sequence at El Guayal, Tabasco, Mexico: Implications for ejecta plume evolution from the Chicxulub impact crater

      Salge, T; Tagle, Roald; Schmitt, Ralf-Thomas; Hecht, Lutz; Wolf Uwe, Reimold; Chris, Koeberl (Geological Society of America, 2021-06-30)
      A combined petrographic and chemical study of ejecta particles from the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary sequence of El Guayal, Tabasco, Mexico (520 km SW of Chicxulub crater), was carried out to assess their formation conditions and genetic relation during the impact process. The reaction of silicate ejecta particles with hot volatiles during atmospheric transport may have induced alteration processes, e.g., silicification and cementation, observed in the ejecta deposits. The various microstructures of calcite ejecta particles are interpreted to reflect different thermal histories at postshock conditions. Spherulitic calcite particles may represent carbonate melts that were quenched during ejection. A recrystallized microstructure may indicate short, intense thermal stress. Various aggregates document particle-particle interactions and intermixing of components from lower silicate and upper sedimentary target lithologies. Aggregates of recrystallized calcite with silicate melt indicate the consolidation of a hot suevitic component with sediments at ≳750 °C. Accretionary lapilli formed in a turbulent, steam-condensing environment at ~100 °C by aggregation of solid, ash-sized particles. Concentric zones with smaller grain sizes of accreted particles indicate a recurring exchange with a hotter environment. Our results suggest that during partial ejecta plume collapse, hot silicate components were mixed with the fine fraction of local surface-derived sediments, the latter of which were displaced by the preceding ejecta curtain. These processes sustained a hot, gas-driven, lateral basal transport that was accompanied by a turbulent plume at a higher level. The exothermic back-reaction of CaO from decomposed carbonates and sulfates with CO2 to form CaCO3 may have been responsible for a prolonged release of thermal energy at a late stage of plume evolution.
    • Petrological and geochemical characterisation of the sarsen stones at Stonehenge

      Nash, David J; Ciborowski, T Jake R; Darvill, Timothy; Parker Pearson, Mike; Ullyott, J Stewart; Damaschke, Magret; Evans, Jane A; Goderis, Steven; Greaney, Susan; Huggett, Jennifer M; et al. (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2021-08-04)
      Little is known of the properties of the sarsen stones (or silcretes) that comprise the main architecture of Stonehenge. The only studies of rock struck from the monument date from the 19th century, while 20th century investigations have focussed on excavated debris without demonstrating a link to specific megaliths. Here, we present the first comprehensive analysis of sarsen samples taken directly from a Stonehenge megalith (Stone 58, in the centrally placed trilithon horseshoe). We apply state-of-the-art petrographic, mineralogical and geochemical techniques to two cores drilled from the stone during conservation work in 1958. Petrographic analyses demonstrate that Stone 58 is a highly indurated, grain-supported, structureless and texturally mature groundwater silcrete, comprising fine-to-medium grained quartz sand cemented by optically-continuous syntaxial quartz overgrowths. In addition to detrital quartz, trace quantities of silica-rich rock fragments, Fe-oxides/hydroxides and other minerals are present. Cathodoluminescence analyses show that the quartz cement developed as an initial <10 μm thick zone of non-luminescing quartz followed by ~16 separate quartz cement growth zones. Late-stage Fe-oxides/hydroxides and Ti-oxides line and/or infill some pores. Automated mineralogical analyses indicate that the sarsen preserves 7.2 to 9.2 area % porosity as a moderately-connected intergranular network. Geochemical data show that the sarsen is chemically pure, comprising 99.7 wt. % SiO2. The major and trace element chemistry is highly consistent within the stone, with the only magnitude variations being observed in Fe content. Non-quartz accessory minerals within the silcrete host sediments impart a trace element signature distinct from standard sedimentary and other crustal materials. 143Nd/144Nd isotope analyses suggest that these host sediments were likely derived from eroded Mesozoic rocks, and that these Mesozoic rocks incorporated much older Mesoproterozoic material. The chemistry of Stone 58 has been identified recently as representative of 50 of the 52 remaining sarsens at Stonehenge. These results are therefore representative of the main stone type used to build what is arguably the most important Late Neolithic monument in Europe.
    • The Phoenix: The Role of Conservation Ethics in the Development of St Pancras Railway Station (London, UK)

      Allington-Jones, L (Ubiquity Press Ltd., 2013-09-02)
      St Pancras Railway Station, London (UK), has recently undergone alterations that have variously been described as conservation, restoration, refurbishment and rejuvenation, to become the new terminal for Eurostar. This article aims to evaluate the recent changes and relate them to current conservation ethics. Observations were made on site, derived from research in published literature and were assessed according to principles of conservation. The article concludes that, in the recent developments, conservation ethics have been drawn upon in an inconsistent fashion, and that the best description for the rebirth of the station is ‘recycling’. Investigation of the ‘conservation’ of significant items of national heritage, like St Pancras, is essential for formulating future standards and evaluating our own perceptions and the diversity of possible interpretations of conservation terminology.
    • A Polychaete’s Powerful Punch: Venom Gland Transcriptomics of Glycera Reveals a Complex Cocktail of Toxin Homologs

      von Reumont, BM; Campbell, LI; Richter, S; Hering, L; Sykes, D; Hetmank, J; Jenner, RA; Bleidorn, C (2014-09)
    • Porphyry Cu(Mo) deposits of the Urals: insights from molybdenite trace element geochemistry

      Plotinskya, OP; Abramova, VD; Bondar, D; Seltmann, Reimar; Spratt, J (The Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits, 2019-10-01)
      The first data on EMPA and LA-ICPMS study of molybdenite from four porphyry deposits of the South and Middle Urals (Tomino, Mikheevskoe and Benkala porphyry Cu and Talitsa porphyry Mo deposits) are presented. It is shown that most trace elements form mineral inclusions within molybdenite in all the deposits studied; only Re and W are most likely to be incorporated into the molybdenite lattice. Porphyry Cu deposits (Tomino and Mikheevskoe) formed within oceanic arc settings are featured by high contents of Re (mostly over 400 ppm) and low contents of W (<10 ppm) in molybdenite; porphyry Cu deposits from Andean-type geotectonic environment (Benkala) are featured by lower Re content (hundreds ppm) and high contents of W (tens ppm) in molybdenite. Molybdenite from porphyry deposits from collisional setting (Talitsa) has low content of Re and elevated W contents (tens ppm). It is demonstrated that trace element geochemistry of molybdenite is a useful tool to define the source of metal components and the geotectonic environment for porphyry Cu(Mo) deposits.
    • Preparing detailed morphological features of fossil brittle stars (Ophiuroidea, Echinodermata) for scanning electron microscopy using a combination of mechanical preparation techniques.

      Graham, M; Ewin, Timothy; Brewer, P (Geological Curators Group, 2020-01-27)
      In order to facilitate detailed SEM analysis of recently available, undescribed fossil ophiuroid material from the Aptian, Lower Cretaceous, Atherfield Clay Formation of the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, UK a combination of careful mechanical preparation techniques was employed to great effect. Specimens were initially exposed using standard air abrasive techniques, but the final few millimetres of matrix were removed using pins. To get individual arm pieces exceptionally clear of matrix, they were removed from the blocks using a mini pedestalling technique and then further cleaned using an ultrasonic pen. This combination of techniques fully exposed all the elements required for full taxonomic study without causing severe damage to the plate surfaces and greatly improved the overall aesthetic of the specimens. These techniques could be more widely applied in fossil preparation.
    • Professional fossil preparators at the British Museum (Natural History), 1843-1990*

      Graham, M; Reichenbach, H (Edinburgh University Press, 2019-10-01)
      Since the inception of the British Museum (Natural History) in 1881 (now the Natural History Museum, London), the collection, development and mounting of fossils for scientific study and public exhibition have been undertaken by fossil preparators. Originally known as masons, because of their rock-working skills, their roles expanded in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when, at the forefront of the developing science of palaeontology, the Museum was actively obtaining fossil material from the UK and abroad to build the collections. As greater numbers of more impressive specimens were put on public display, these preparators developed new and better methods to recover and transport fossils from the field, and technical improvements, in the form of powered tools, enabled more detailed mechanical preparation to be undertaken. A recurring theme in the history of palaeontological preparation has been that sons often followed in their fathers’ footsteps in earth sciences. William and Thomas Davies, Caleb and Frank Barlow, and Louis and Robert Parsons were all father-and-son geologists and preparators.
    • Rare earth elements (REE)—Minerals in the Silius fluorite vein system (Sardinia, Italy)

      Mondillo, N; Boni, M; Balassone, G; Spoleto, S; Stellato, F; Marino, A; Santoro, L; Spratt, J (2016-04)
    • Rare earth elements in phoscorites and carbonatites of the Devonian Kola Alkaline Province, Russia: Examples from Kovdor, Khibina, Vuoriyarvi and Turiy Mys complexes

      Zaitsev, AN; Terry Williams, C; Jeffries, T; Strekopytov, S; Moutte, J; Ivashchenkova, OV; Spratt, J; Petrov, SV; Wall, F; Seltmann, Reimar; et al. (Elsevier, 2014-09)
      he Devonian (ca. 385–360 Ma) Kola Alkaline Province includes 22 plutonic ultrabasic–alkaline complexes, some of which also contain carbonatites and rarely phoscorites. The latter are composite silicate–oxide–phosphate–carbonate rocks, occurring in close space-time genetic relations with various carbonatites. Several carbonatites types are recognized at Kola, including abundant calcite carbonatites (early- and late-stage), with subordinate amounts of late-stage dolomite carbonatites, and rarely magnesite, siderite and rhodochrosite carbonatites. In phoscorites and early-stage carbonatites the rare earth elements (REE) are distributed among the major minerals including calcite (up to 490 ppm), apatite (up to 4400 ppm in Kovdor and 3.5 wt.% REE2O3 in Khibina), and dolomite (up to 77 ppm), as well as accessory pyrochlore (up to 9.1 wt.% REE2O3) and zirconolite (up to 17.8 wt.% REE2O3). Late-stage carbonatites, at some localities, are strongly enriched in REE (up to 5.2 wt.% REE2O3 in Khibina) and the REE are major components in diverse major and minor minerals such as burbankite, carbocernaite, Ca- and Ba-fluocarbonates, ancylite and others. The rare earth minerals form two distinct mineral assemblages: primary (crystallized from a melt or carbohydrothermal fluid) and secondary (formed during metasomatic replacement). Stable (C–O) and radiogenic (Sr–Nd) isotopes data indicate that the REE minerals and their host calcite and/or dolomite have crystallized from a melt derived from the same mantle source and are co-genetic.
    • The remedial conservation and support jacketing of the Massospondylus carinatus neotype

      Graham, M; Choiniere, JN; Jirah, S; Barrett, PM (Palaeontologia africana, 2018-03-27)
      Massopondylus carinatus Owen, 1854 is a non-sauropodan sauropodomorph (‘prosauropod’) dinosaur whose remains are abundant in the Upper Karoo Supergroup sediments of southern Africa (e.g. Owen, 1854; Seeley, 1895; Cooper, 1981; Gow, 1990; Gow et al., 1990; Sues et al., 2004; Barrett and Yates, 2006; Reisz et al., 2005). It occurs at numerous localities in the Upper Elliot and Clarens formations of South Africa and Lesotho, as well as in the Forest Sandstone Formation of Zimbabwe (Haughton, 1924; Cooper, 1981; Kitching and Raath, 1984). Several almost complete skeletons are known, including skulls, and as a result Massospondylus has featured heavily in discussions of early dinosaur ecology, phylogeny and palaeobiology (e.g. Cooper, 1981; Barrett, 2000; Zelenitsky and Modesto, 2002; Reisz et al., 2005, 2012, Apaldetti et al., 2011, among many others). However, the original syntype series of Massospondylus carinatus was destroyed during World War II and shown to be taxonomically indeterminate, undermining the nomenclatural stability of this important taxon (Sues et al. 2004; Yates and Barrett, 2010). In order to rectify this problem, a complete skeleton representing an adult individual, BP/1/4934 (nicknamed ‘Big Momma’), was designated as the neotype (Yates and Barrett, 2010). BP/1/4934 was collected from the Upper Elliot Formation of Bormansdrift Farm, in the Clocholan District of the Free State, by Lucas Huma and James Kitching in 1980 (see Kitching and Raath, 1984, for locality details). This farm is also the type locality of the early turtle Australochelys (Gaffney and Kitching, 1994) and has yielded other Upper Elliot formation tetrapod material including the cynodont Pachygenelus and other sauropodomorph remains (Kitching and Raath, 1984). BP/1/4934 is the most complete specimen of a non-sauropodan sauropodomorph dinosaur known from the entire African continent and is therefore of major regional and international significance. In addition, since 1990 it has formed part of a permanent public exhibit showcasing African palaeontological discoveries in the J. W. Kitching Gallery of the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) of the University of the Witwatersrand. During recent research work on BP/1/4934, as part of an on-going collaboration on early dinosaurs between the ESI and Natural History Museum, London (NHMUK), it was noted that its condition had deteriorated and that urgent remedial conservation work was required in order to preserve it for future generations. As a result, the specimen was temporarily removed from public display to facilitate this work, which is described in detail below (see also Graham, 2017). The primary purpose of the conservation project was to assess the condition of the specimen, undertake conservation in order to stabilise it and to manufacture ‘clam-shell’ type support mounts/jackets for each of the blocks to enable the specimen to be displayed in an articulated posture within a purpose-built display case. An important consideration was that the blocks should be readily accessible from both left and right sides to researchers whilst securing the fossil safely. Finally, this project also provided an opportunity to facilitate knowledge exchange between the conservation staff at the ESI and NHMUK, in order to share and extend technical expertise.
    • The remedial conservation and support jacketing of the neotype specimen of the dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus

      Graham, M (PeerJ, 2017-08-09)
      The remedial conservation and support jacketing of the neotype specimen of the dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus