• Conserved gene signalling and a derived patterning mechanism underlie the development of avian footpad scales

      Cooper, RL; Lloyd, VJ; Di-Pöi, N; Fletcher, AG; Barrett, PM; Fraser, GJ (BioMed Central, 2019-08-13)
      Background: Vertebrates possess a diverse range of integumentary epithelial appendages, including scales, feathers and hair. These structures share extensive early developmental homology, as they mostly originate from a conserved anatomical placode. In the context of avian epithelial appendages, feathers and scutate scales are known to develop from an anatomical placode. However, our understanding of avian reticulate (footpad) scale development remains unclear. Results: Here, we demonstrate that reticulate scales develop from restricted circular domains of thickened epithelium, with localised conserved gene expression in both the epithelium and underlying mesenchyme. These domains constitute either anatomical placodes, or circular initiatory fields (comparable to the avian feather tract). Subsequent patterning of reticulate scales is consistent with reaction–diffusion (RD) simulation, whereby this primary domain subdivides into smaller secondary units, which produce individual scales. In contrast, the footpad scales of a squamate model (the bearded dragon, Pogona vitticeps) develop synchronously across the ventral footpad surface. Conclusions: Widely conserved gene signalling underlies the initial development of avian reticulate scales. However, their subsequent patterning is distinct from the footpad scale patterning of a squamate model, and the feather and scutate scale patterning of birds. Therefore, we suggest reticulate scales are a comparatively derived epithelial appendage, patterned through a modified RD system.
    • Ngwevu intloko: a new early sauropodomorph dinosaur from the Lower Jurassic Elliot Formation of South Africa and comments on cranial ontogeny in Massospondylus carinatus

      Chapelle, KEJ; Barrett, PM; Botha, J; Choiniere, JN (PeerJ Inc., 2019-08-05)
      Our knowledge of Early Jurassic palaeobiodiversity in the upper Elliot Formation of South Africa has increased markedly in recent years with the discovery of new fossils, re-assessments of previously collected material and a better understanding of Stormberg Group stratigraphy. Here, Ngwevu intloko, a new genus of upper Elliot basal sauropodomorph is named on the basis of a complete skull and partial skeleton (BP/1/4779) previously assigned to Massospondylus carinatus. It can be distinguished from all other basal sauropodomorphs by a combination of 16 cranial and six postcranial characters. The new species is compared to a small ontogenetic series of M. carinatus as well as to a range of closely related taxa. Taphonomic deformation, sexual dimorphism and ontogeny are rejected as possible explanations for the morphological differences present between BP/1/4779 and other taxa. Osteohistological examination reveals that BP/1/4779 had nearly reached adult size at the time of its death at a minimum age of 10 years.
    • RELICT FORSTERITE IN UNEQUILIBRATED ENSTATITE CHONDRITES

      Almeida, NV; Schofield, PF; Geraki, K; Russell, Sara (Lunar and Planetary Institute, 2019-08)
    • A Diverse Array of Fluvial Depositional Systems in Arabia Terra: Evidence for mid-Noachian to Early Hesperian Rivers on Mars

      Davis, Joel; Gupta, S; Balme, M; M. Grindrod, P; Fawdon, P; Dickeson, ZI; Williams, RME (Wiley, 2019-07-22)
      Branching to sinuous ridges systems, hundreds of kilometers in length and comprising layered strata, are present across much of Arabia Terra, Mars. These ridges are interpreted as depositional fluvial channels, now preserved as inverted topography. Here we use high‐resolution image and topographic data sets to investigate the morphology of these depositional systems and show key examples of their relationships to associated fluvial landforms. The inverted channel systems likely comprise indurated conglomerate, sandstone, and mudstone bodies, which form a multistory channel stratigraphy. The channel systems intersect local basins and indurated sedimentary mounds, which we interpret as paleolake deposits. Some inverted channels are located within erosional valley networks, which have regional and local catchments. Inverted channels are typically found in downslope sections of valley networks, sometimes at the margins of basins, and numerous different transition morphologies are observed. These relationships indicate a complex history of erosion and deposition, possibly controlled by changes in water or sediment flux, or base‐level variation. Other inverted channel systems have no clear preserved catchment, likely lost due to regional resurfacing of upland areas. Sediment may have been transported through Arabia Terra toward the dichotomy and stored in local and regional‐scale basins. Regional stratigraphic relations suggest these systems were active between the mid‐Noachian and early Hesperian. The morphology of these systems is supportive of an early Mars climate, which was characterized by prolonged precipitation and runoff.
    • Digital dissection of the head of the rock dove (Columba livia) using contrast-enhanced computed tomography.

      Jones, MEH; Button, DJ; Barrett, PM; Porro, LB (Biomed central (BMC), 2019-06-10)
      The rock dove (or common pigeon), Columba livia, is an important model organism in biological studies, including research focusing on head muscle anatomy, feeding kinematics, and cranial kinesis. However, no integrated computer-based biomechanical model of the pigeon head has yet been attempted. As an initial step towards achieving this goal, we present the first three-dimensional digital dissection of the pigeon head based on a contrast-enhanced computed tomographic dataset achieved using iodine potassium iodide as a staining agent. Our datasets enable us to visualize the skeletal and muscular anatomy, brain and cranial nerves, and major sense organs of the pigeon, including very small and fragile features, as well as maintaining the three-dimensional topology of anatomical structures. This work updates and supplements earlier anatomical work on this widely used laboratory organism. We resolve several key points of disagreement arising from previous descriptions of pigeon anatomy, including the precise arrangement of the external adductor muscles and their relationship to the posterior adductor. Examination of the eye muscles highlights differences between avian taxa and shows that pigeon eye muscles are more similar to those of a tinamou than they are to those of a house sparrow. Furthermore, we present our three-dimensional data as publicly accessible files for further research and education purposes. Digital dissection permits exceptional visualisation and will be a valuable resource for further investigations into the head anatomy of other bird species, as well as efforts to reconstruct soft tissues in fossil archosaurs.
    • Mammalian tolerance to humans is predicted by body mass: evidence from long-term archives.

      Crees, JJ; Turvey, ST; Freeman, R; Carbone, C (Ecological Society of America, 2019-06-08)
      Humans are implicated as a major driver of species extinctions from the Late Pleistocene to the present. However, our predictive understanding of human-caused extinction remains poor due to the restricted temporal and spatial scales at which this process is typically assessed, and the risks of bias due to "extinction filters" resulting from a poor understanding of past species declines. We develop a novel continent-wide dataset containing country-level last-occurrence records for 30 European terrestrial mammals across the Holocene (c.11,500 years to present), an epoch of relative climatic stability that captures major transitions in human demography. We analyze regional extirpations against a high-resolution database of human population density (HPD) estimates to identify species-specific tolerances to changing HPD through the Holocene. Mammalian thresholds to HPD scale strongly with body mass, with larger-bodied mammals experiencing regional population losses at lower HPDs than smaller-bodied mammals. Our analysis enables us to identify levels of tolerance to HPD for different species, and therefore has wide applicability for determining biotic vulnerability to human impacts. This ecological pattern is confirmed across wide spatiotemporal scales, providing insights into the dynamics of prehistoric extinctions and the modern biodiversity crisis, and emphasizing the role of long-term archives in understanding human-caused biodiversity loss. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    • Interplinian effusive activity at Popocatépetl volcano, Mexico: New insights into evolution and dynamics of the plumbing system

      Mangler, M; Prytulak, J; Gisbert, G; Delgado-Granados, H; Petrone, CM (Volcanica Team, 2019-05-06)
      Effusive eruptions dominate the eruptive record of many arc volcanoes and may hold crucial information about their plumbing systems, yet they are underrepresented in geochemical and petrological studies. Here, we present whole rock major and trace element data as well as Sr–Nd–Hf isotopic compositions for 14 lava flows and four Plinian eruptions of the Popocatépetl Volcanic Complex (PVC) in the last ~23.5 ka, allowing the first comprehensive geochemical characterisation of the dynamics and evolution of its plumbing system. Lavas and pumices of the PVC are andesites–dacites with a narrow compositional range showing no first-order geochemical trends in the last ~23.5 ka. Trace element and isotope ratios show that PVC magmas are derived from a depleted mantle source with a component of subducted sediments. Assimilation-fractional crystallisation models show that magma compositions are modified to varying degrees by assimilation of lower and upper crust en route to the surface. In the shallow plumbing system, geochemically distinct magmas coexist and undergo extensive mixing and hybridisation, thus buffering erupted whole rock compositions. Only few flank eruptions sample more primitive magmas from deeper reservoirs that circumvented the shallow plumbing system. Some Plinian eruptions caused compositional shifts reflecting reconfigurations of the plumbing system, which also affected subsequent effusive eruptions. Our study thus shows that the geochemical variability of PVC magmas in the last ~23.5 ka is dominated by crustal processes, and magma hybridisation is the primary mechanism to produce the buffered whole rock compositions of the PVC.
    • Anatomy of Rhinochelys pulchriceps (Protostegidae) and marine adaptation during the early evolution of chelonioids

      Evers, SW; Benson, RBJ; Barrett, PM (PeerJ Inc., 2019-05-01)
      Knowledge of the early evolution of sea turtles (Chelonioidea) has been limited by conflicting phylogenetic hypotheses resulting from sparse taxon sampling and a superficial understanding of the morphology of key taxa. This limits our understanding of evolutionary adaptation to marine life in turtles, and in amniotes more broadly. One problematic group are the protostegids, Early–Late Cretaceous marine turtles that have been hypothesised to be either stem-cryptodires, stem-chelonioids, or crown-chelonioids. Different phylogenetic hypotheses for protostegids suggest different answers to key questions, including (1) the number of transitions to marine life in turtles, (2) the age of the chelonioid crown-group, and (3) patterns of skeletal evolution during marine adaptation. We present a detailed anatomical study of one of the earliest protostegids, Rhinochelys pulchriceps from the early Late Cretaceous of Europe, using high-resolution mCT. We synonymise all previously named European species and document the variation seen among them. A phylogeny of turtles with increased chelonioid taxon sampling and revised postcranial characters is provided, recovering protostegids as stem-chelonioids. Our results imply a mid Early Cretaceous origin of total-group chelonioids and an early Late Cretaceous age for crown-chelonioids, which may inform molecular clock analyses in future. Specialisations of the chelonioid flipper evolved in a stepwise-fashion, with innovations clustered into pulses at the origin of total-group chelonioids, and subsequently among dermochelyids, crown-cheloniids, and gigantic protostegids from the Late Cretaceous.
    • The Anatomy of an Alkalic Porphyry Cu-­‐Au System: Geology and Alteration at Northparkes Mines, NSW, Australia

      Pacey, A; Wilkinson, JJ; Owens, J; Priest, D; Cooke, DR; Millar, IL (Society of Economic Geologists, 2019-05-01)
      The Late Ordovician-Early Silurian (~455-435 Ma) Northparkes system is a group of silica-saturated, alkalic porphyry deposits and prospects which developed within the Macquarie Island Arc. The system is host to a spectacular and diverse range of rocks and alteration-mineralization textures that facilitate a detailed understanding of its evolution, in particular into the nature and controls of porphyry-related propylitic alteration. The first intrusive phase at Northparkes is a pre- to early-mineralization pluton that underlies all the deposits and varies in composition from a biotite quartz monzonite (BQM) to alkali feldspar granite (AFG). Prior to total crystallization, this pluton was intruded by a more primitive quartz monzonite (QMZ) that marks the onset of a fertile fractionation series. Towards its upper levels, the QMZ is porphyritic and locally rich in Cu sulfides. Subsequently, a complex series of syn-mineralization quartz monzonite porphyries (QMP) were emplaced. The QMP intrusions have a distinct pipe-like morphology and are ubiquitously K-feldspar altered with a crystal-crowded porphyritic texture. The textures of the QMPs and common occurrence of porphyry-cemented contact breccias indicate they were forcibly emplaced and of relatively low viscosity. The QMPs are therefore interpreted as crystal-bearing, silicate melt-aqueous fluid slurries that represent the conduits through which deep-seated magmatic-derived ore fluid was discharged into the shallow crust (1-2 km depth). Each deposit is centred on a multiphase cluster of QMP intrusions that drove discrete hydrothermal systems. Initial fluid evolution was similar in all the deposits, with three major alteration facies developed as largely concentric zones around the QMP complexes. The innermost zone is host to Cu sulfide ore and dominated by K-feldspar alteration. This transitions outwards through a shell of magnetite ± biotite alteration, with pyrite and minor chalcopyrite, to an outer halo of propylitic alteration. Generally, epidote, chlorite and pyrite are abundant in the most deposit-proximal propylitic zone, with a decrease in the abundance of pyrite, and then epidote, with increasing distance away from deposit centers. Propylitic alteration, particularly within relatively low permeability rocks, is fracture-controlled and a hierarchy of veins is observed. Veins of chlorite-quartz-pyrite ± calcite ± hematite ± epidote ± chalcopyrite (P1) appear to represent the principal fluid conduits. They are surrounded by pervasive and intense alteration halos with a distinct mineralogical zonation from vein-proximal chlorite-sericite (phengite) ± epidote ± pyrite, through hematite-sericite-chlorite ± epidote, ultimately to a vein-distal hematite-albite ± chlorite ± epidote assemblage. These P1 veins are surrounded by regions in which smaller epidote-chlorite ± calcite ± quartz ± pyrite veins (P2) are abundant, again with zoned alteration envelopes: vein-proximal chlorite-sericite (phengite) ± epidote ± pyrite grades out into an epidote-rich zone, which in turn transitions into vein-distal albite-hematite ± chlorite ± epidote. Areas of weakest propylitic alteration, distant from both P1 and P2 veins, are characterised by small epidote-only veinlets (P3) with albite-hematite halos. Mineralogical transitions across the propylitic zone are therefore repeated in the evolution from P1 to P3 veins, as well as in the halos around these veins. It is the overall vein abundance and overlap of associated alteration halos which controls the intensity and appearance of propylitic alteration in most rocks. Such scale-invariance and spatial relationships strongly suggests the transition from P1 to P3 veins reflects a broadly decreasing outward flux of (magmatic-derived?) fluid that passed through the fracture network and progressively reacted with country rocks. Further support for this hypothesis comes from cross cutting relationships and Rb-Sr dating of epidote (returning an age of 450 ± 11 Ma), which demonstrate the bulk of propylitic alteration was coeval with mineralization and potassic alteration. Late-stage fluid evolution at each deposit was unique. Much of the E48 orebody and locally the GRP314 deposit was overprinted by texturally-destructive, white sericite-albite-quartz-alunite ± chlorite alteration. In the E26 deposit, and in regions of the GRP314 deposit, a series of quartz-anhydrite ± pyrite ± Cu sulfide veins with distinctive, vein-proximal, sericite-dominant alteration halos cut the primary, deposit-concentric alteration facies. The vein-distal mineralogy of these alteration halos is controlled by their distance from deposit centers, changing from K-feldspar ± biotite in deposit-proximal veins to chlorite ± epidote-albite in deposit-distal veins. Late-mineralization QMPs at E26 and GRP314 also appear to be related to the generation of anhydrite-quartz ± sphalerite veins and a set of quartz-calcite-pyrite-sphalerite ± chalcopyrite ± galena veins. Post-mineralization magmatic activity produced relatively primitive and barren monzonite porphyries and younger alkali basalt dikes.
    • Postcranial osteology of the neotype specimen of Massospondylus carinatus Owen, 1854 (Dinosauria: Sauropodomorpha) from the upper Elliot formation of South Africa

      Barrett, PM; Chapelle, KJ; Staunton, CK; Botha, J; Choiniere, JN (University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, 2019-04-29)
      Massospondylus carinatus Owen, 1854, from the earliest Jurassic upper Elliot Formation of South Africa, was one of the first dinosaurs to be described from Gondwana. It has been incorporated into numerous phylogenetic, palaeobiological and biostratigraphic analyses, is often viewed as an exemplar for understanding sauropodomorph anatomy and is a key taxon in studies of early dinosaur evolution. Since its initial description, numerous specimens have been referred to this species, ranging from isolated postcranial elements to complete skeletons with three-dimensional skulls. In addition,M. carinatus has been identified in areas outside of the main Karoo Basin. Surprisingly, however, there have been few attempts to define the taxon rigorously, so that the basis for many of these referrals is weak, undermining the utility of this abundant material. Here, we provide the first detailed postcranial description of the neotype specimen of M. carinatus, use it as a basis for diagnosing the species on the basis of cranial, axial and appendicular characters, demonstrate that it represents an adult individual on the basis of osteohistology, and discuss ways in which these data can assist in providing a better understanding of Karoo-aged African dinosaur faunas.
    • A reassessment of the purported ankylosaurian dinosaur Bienosaurus lufengensis from the Lower Lufeng Formation of Yunnan, China

      Raven, TJ; Barrett, PM; Xu, X; Maidment, S (Polish Academy of Sciences, 2019-03-19)
      The earliest definitive ornithischian dinosaurs are from the Early Jurassic and are rare components of early dinosaur faunas. The Lower Lufeng Formation (Hettangian–Sinemurian) of Yunnan Province, China, has yielded a diverse Early Jurassic terrestrial vertebrate fauna. This includes several incomplete specimens have been referred to Ornithischia, including the type specimen of the thyreophoran “Tatisaurus” and other generically indeterminate material. The highly fragmentary Lufeng ornithischian Bienosaurus lufengensis was described briefly in 2001 and identified as an ankylosaurian dinosaur. Recent studies have cast doubt on this hypothesis, however, and given that the referral of Bienosaurus to Ankylosauria would result in an extensive ghost-lineage extending between it and the first definitive eurypodans (ankylosaurs + stegosaurs) in the Middle Jurassic, the holotype specimen is re-examined and re-described. We identify Bienosaurus as a probable thyreophoran dinosaur, although the fragmentary nature of the material and the absence of autapomorphies means that the specimen should be regarded as a nomen dubium.
    • The Lyell Collection at the Earth Sciences Department, Natural History Museum, London (UK)

      Sendino, MCSL (Pensoft Publishers, 2019-02-19)
      This paper provides a quantitative and general description of the Lyell Collection kept in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum of London. This collection started to be built by the eminent British geologist Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1875) in 1846 when the first specimen reached the Museum. The last one entered in 1980 donated by one of Lyell’s heirs. There are more than 1700 specimens, mainly hand specimens with 93% of the fauna and flora from the Cenozoic of the Macaronesian archipelagos of the Canaries and Madeira. Those specimens that belong to the Lyell Collection with certainty have been databased and imaged. Currently they are being geo-referred automatically with the rest of the site geo-references at the NHM. This collection could be increased by a couple of dozen more specimens with those specimens located in the same drawers, but they do not have collector details. The work of data collection of these specimens was implemented over a year from 2016 to 2017, including annelids; brachiopods; bryozoans; echinoderms; scyphozoans; bivalves; gastropods; scaphopods; trilobites; plants; reptiles; fishes; and mammals. Access to the specimen-level data is available through the NHM data portal with the images associated. This is the first time that a description of the Fossil Lyell Collection dataset is available in the literature.
    • “Perspectives in Animal Phylogeny and Evolution”: A decade later

      Giribet, G; Edgecombe, GD; Fusco, G (University of Padova PressPadova, 2019-01-15)
      Refinements in phylogenomic methods and novel data have clarified several controversies in animal phylogeny that were intractable with traditional PCR-based approaches or early Next Gen analyses. An alliance between Placozoa and Cnidaria has recently found support. Data from newly discovered species of Xenoturbella contribute to Xenacoelomorpha being placed as sister group of Nephrozoa rather than within the deuterostomes. Molecular data reinforce the monophyly of Gnathifera and ally the longenigmatic chaetognaths with them. Platyzoa was an artefactual grouping, and deep relationships within Spiralia now depict Rouphozoa (= Gastrotricha + Platyhelminthes) as sister group to Lophotrochozoa, and Gnathifera (plus Chaetognatha) their immediate sister group. A “divide and conquer” strategy of subsampling clades to optimize gene selection may be needed to simultaneously resolve the many disparate clades of the animal tree of life
    • Glastonbury Lake Village Revisited: A Multi-proxy Palaeoenvironmental Investigation of an Iron Age Wetland Settlement

      Hill, T; Hill, G; Brunning, R; Banerjea, R; Fyfe, R; Hogg, A; Jones, J; Perez, M; Smith, D (Taylor & Francis, 2019-01-14)
      Glastonbury Lake Village is one of the most iconic late prehistoric wetland settlements in Europe. A new excavation in the core of Glastonbury Lake Village, for the first time since 1907, provided the opportunity for sampling of deposits associated with occupation of the site and for reconstructing the environmental conditions before the settlement was constructed. The results of a detailed multiproxy study are presented, including palaeoecological proxies (Coleoptera, plant macrofossils, diatoms, pollen, non-pollen palynomorphs), geoarchaeological methods (soil micromorphology), supported by new radiocarbon determinations. The results highlight how the difficult process of creating a settlement in a wetland was achieved, both within structures and in the spaces around them. Evidence for grain storage within the macrofossil assemblages, and the presence of animals on the settlement reflected in coleopteran assemblages and non-pollen palynomorphs has refined our understanding of the interaction between the settlement and the neighbouring dryland.
    • The molecularization of centipede systematics

      Edgecombe, GD; Giribet, G; Fusco, G (Padova University Press, 2019-01)
      The injection of molecular data over the past 20 years has impacted on all facets of centipede systematics. Multi-locus and transcriptomic datasets are the source of a novel hypothesis for how the five living orders of centipedes interrelate but force homoplasy in some widely-accepted phenotypic and behavioural characters. Molecular dating is increasingly used to test biogeographic hypotheses, including examples of ancient vicariance. The longstanding challenge of morphological delimitation of centipede species is complemented by integrative taxonomy using molecular tools, including DNA barcoding and coalescent approaches to quantitative species delimitation. Molecular phylogenetics has revealed numerous instances of cryptic species. “Reduced genomic approaches” have the potential to incorporate historic collections, including type specimens, into centipede molecular systematics.
    • The alteration history of the Jbilet Winselwan CM carbonaceous chondrite: An analog for C-type asteroid sample return

      King, A; Russell, S; Schofield, P; Humphreys-Williams, E; Strekopytov, S (Wiley, 2018-12-13)
      Jbilet Winselwan is one of the largest CM carbonaceous chondrites available for study. Its light, major, and trace elemental compositions are within the range of other CM chondrites. Chondrules are surrounded by dusty rims and set within a matrix of phyllosilicates, oxides, and sulfides. Calcium‐ and aluminum‐rich inclusions (CAIs) are present at ≤1 vol% and at least one contains melilite. Jbilet Winselwan is a breccia containing diverse lithologies that experienced varying degrees of aqueous alteration. In most lithologies, the chondrules and CAIs are partially altered and the metal abundance is low (<1 vol%), consistent with petrologic subtypes 2.7–2.4 on the Rubin et al. (2007) scale. However, chondrules and CAIs in some lithologies are completely altered suggesting more extensive hydration to petrologic subtypes ≤2.3. Following hydration, some lithologies suffered thermal metamorphism at 400–500 °C. Bulk X‐ray diffraction shows that Jbilet Winselwan consists of a highly disordered and/or very fine‐grained phase (73 vol%), which we infer was originally phyllosilicates prior to dehydration during a thermal metamorphic event(s). Some aliquots of Jbilet Winselwan also show significant depletions in volatile elements such as He and Cd. The heating was probably short‐lived and caused by impacts. Jbilet Winselwan samples a mixture of hydrated and dehydrated materials from a primitive water‐rich asteroid. It may therefore be a good analog for the types of materials that will be encountered by the Hayabusa‐2 and OSIRIS‐REx asteroid sample‐return missions.
    • Biesiespoort revisited: a case study on the relationship between tetrapod assemblage zones and Beaufort lithostratigraphy south of Victoria West

      Day, M; Rubidge, BS (University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, 2018-12)
      The relationship between the tetrapod assemblage zones of the South African Karoo Basin and the lithostratigraphic divisions of the Beaufort Group is well-established, and provides an independent means of dating fossil occurrences. However, this relationship may not be consistent across the basin; a discrepancy exists between the historical tetrapod assemblages in the vicinity of Victoria West, Northern Cape Province, and the expected tetrapod assemblage zones based on mapped geology. In order to examine this disconnect, we collected fossils at two localities close to Biesiespoort railway station, a locality that was visited on a number of occasions by Robert Broom. Our fossil samples support the biostratigraphic determinations of Broom and thus confirm that the stratigraphic extent of the biozones at these localities differs from their type areas further south. The reasons for this are unclear but could be related to the northward younging of the lithological units, implying complex depositional processes, or result from difficulties in mapping. Nevertheless, caution should be exercised when using mapped geology near Victoria West as a guide to the age of fossils found there.
    • Assessing Thallium Elemental Systematics and Isotope Ratio Variations in Porphyry Ore Systems: A Case Study of the Bingham Canyon District

      Fitzpayne, A; Prytulak, J; Wilkinson, JJ; Cooke, DR; Baker, MJ; Wilkinson, CC (MDPI AG, 2018-11-26)
      The Bingham Canyon porphyry deposit is one of the world’s largest Cu-Mo-Au resources. Elevated concentrations of thallium (Tl) compared to average continental crust have been found in some brecciated and igneous samples in this area, which likely result from mobilization of Tl by relatively low temperature hydrothermal fluids. The Tl-enrichment at Bingham Canyon therefore provides an opportunity to investigate if Tl isotope ratios reflect hydrothermal enrichment and whether there are systematic Tl isotope fractionations that could provide an exploration tool. We present a reconnaissance study of nineteen samples spanning a range of lithologies from the Bingham district which were analysed for their Tl content and Tl isotope ratios, reported as parts per ten thousand (ε205Tl) relative to the NIST SRM997 international standard. The range of ε205Tl reported in this study (−16.4 to +7.2) is the largest observed in a hydrothermal ore deposit to date. Unbrecciated samples collected relatively proximal to the Bingham Canyon porphyry system have ε205Tl of −4.2 to +0.9, similar to observations in a previous study of porphyry deposits. This relatively narrow range suggests that high-temperature (>300 °C) hydrothermal alteration does not result in significant Tl isotope fractionation. However, two samples ~3–4 km away from Bingham Canyon have higher ε205Tl values (+1.3 and +7.2), and samples from more distal (~7 km) disseminated gold deposits at Melco and Barneys Canyon display an even wider range in ε205Tl (−16.4 to +6.0). The observation of large positive and negative excursions in ε205Tl relative to the mantle value (ε205Tl = −2.0 ± 1.0) contrasts with previous investigations of hydrothermal systems. Samples displaying the most extreme positive and negative ε205Tl values also contain elevated concentrations of Tl-Sb-As. Furthermore, with the exception of one sample, all of the Tl isotopic anomalies occur in hydrothermal breccia samples. This suggests that ε205Tl excursions are most extreme during the migration of low-temperature hydrothermal fluids potentially related to sediment-hosted gold mineralization. Future investigation to determine the host phase(s) for Tl in breccias displaying both chalcophile element enrichment and ε205Tl excursions can potentially provide new information about hydrothermal fluid composition and could be used to locate sites for future porphyry exploration.
    • 'Ava’: a Beaker-associated woman from a cist at Achavanich, Highland, and the story of her (re-) discovery and subsequent study

      Hoole, M; Sheridan, JA; Boyle, A; Booth, T; Brace, S; Diekmann, Y; Olalde, I; Thomas, M; Barnes, I; Evans, J; et al. (Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 2018-11-21)
      This contribution describes the discovery and subsequent investigation of a cist in a rock-cut pit at Achavanich, Highland. Discovered and excavated in 1987, the cist was found to contain the tightly contracted skeletal remains of a young woman, accompanied by a Beaker, three flint artefacts and a cattle scapula. Initial post excavation work established a date for the skeleton together with details of her age and sex, and preliminary pollen analysis of sediments attaching to the Beaker was undertaken. The findings were never fully published and, upon the death of the excavator, Robert Gourlay, the documentary archive was left in the Highland Council Archaeology Unit. Fresh research in 2014–17, initiated and co-ordinated by the first-named author and funded by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland with assistance from National Museums Scotland, the Natural History Museum and Harvard Medical School, has produced a significant amount of new information on the individual and on some of the items with which she was buried. This new information includes two further radiocarbon dates, a more detailed osteological report, isotopic information pertaining to the place where she had been raised and to her diet, histological information on the decomposition of her body, and genetic information that sheds light on her ancestry, her hair, eye and skin colour and her intolerance of lactose. (This is the first time that an ancient DNA report has been published in the Proceedings.) Moreover, a facial reconstruction adds virtual flesh to her bones. The significance of this discovery within the Chalcolithic to Early Bronze Age of this part of Scotland is discussed, along with the many and innovative ways in which information on this individual, dubbed ‘Ava’, has been disseminated around the world.