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Palaeontology Seminar


Opening a can of worms from the Cambrian sea


Dr. Xiaoya Ma,

Department of Palaeontology, NHM



THURSDAY 8th December
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC2 LG16)

16:00 - 17:00


The Early Cambrian Chengjiang Lagerstätte (~525 Ma) in southwest China is one of the oldest fossil assemblages in the world and yields a great diversity of exceptionally preserved soft-bodied fossils, including many worms or worm-like animals preserved in exquisite detail. This biota provides a unique window into the origin and early evolution of different vermiform phyla, which is significant for our understanding of deep phylogeny. This talk briefly reviews research progress on Chengjiang vermiform animals and then introduces some of my research work on different vermiform groups. Lobopodians are a group of worms with legs, which are suggested to have a close affinity with the origin of arthropods. With newly collected material, we re-described Paucipodia, Luolishania and Diania to provide more accurate morphological information for phylogenetic analysis. Priapulida is a small phylum today, but much more abundant in Cambrian seas. A new priapulid species was discovered recently and its exquisitely preserved morphological details allow direct comparison with extant taxa. Evidence indicates that this animal already developed a double-anchor locomotion strategy. Three new worm species may represent new vermiform phyla found in the Chengjiang Lagerstätte, and their functional morphology indicates a possible parasitic lifestyle.





For additional details on attending this seminar see


Tropical periwinkles

Posted by John Jackson Nov 29, 2011

David Reid (Zoology) has published the fourth and final monograph of the worldwide tropical periwinkle genus Echinolittorina which concludes a taxonomic review of all 60 species of this littoral gastropod mollusc.


This completes a 20-year project, which has required  collection of anatomical and molecular samples from across the globe,  study of all major museum collections and a 3-year NERC-funded molecular  programme (by PDRA Suzanne Williams, now also a Researcher in Zoology).  The recognized species diversity has been increased by about 50% and 14  new species have been described.



A scanning electron micrograph of a portion (3 tooth rows from a lotal length of 5 mm) of the long radula ribbon of Echinolittorina placida.



As a result the group is now among the most comprehensively known of all marine invertebrates, with taxonomy, morphology, development, distribution and molecular phylogeny all described in detail. It has become a model system for the study of the evolution of tropical marine invertebrates in shallow water, and has been used, for example, to demonstrate the prevalence of allopatric speciation (speciation following geographical separation of populations), the Miocene origin of many extant species, the influence of tectonic activity on diversification, and evolution of mating signals by reinforcement.


More information on an example of the group, Echinolittorina placida, is found on the NHM species of the day pages.

Reid, D.G. (2011) The genus Echinolittorina Habe, 1956 (Gastropoda: Littorinidae) in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Zootaxa 2974 1–65


To give an indication of what our scientists and Associates produce, a list of research publications for the 4 Weeks to 15th Nov.  More information on individual scientists and their work is in the staff directory.


(Search on the basis of ‘Nat SAME Hist SAME Mus* SAME Lon* Web of Science)


ELLIS, L.T., Asthana, A.K., Sahu, V., Srivastava, A., Bednarek-Ochyra, H., Ochyra, R., Chlachula, J., Colotti, M.T., Schiavone, M.M., Hradilek, Z., Jimenez, M.S., Klama, H., Lebouvier, M., Natcheva, R., Pocs, T., Porley, R.D., Sergio, C., Sim-Sim, M., Smith, V.R., Soderstrom, L., Stefanut, S., Suarez, G.M. & Vana, J. 2011. New national and regional bryophyte records, 28. Journal of Bryology, 33: 237-247. (Core funded)

GUEIDAN, C., Ruibal, C., De Hoog, G.S. & SCHNEIDER, H. 2011. Rock-inhabiting fungi originated during periods of dry climate in the late Devonian and middle Triassic. Fungal Biology, 115(10): 987-996. (Core funded)

KNAPP, S., McNeill, J. & Turland, N.J. 2011. Changes to publication requirements made at the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne - what does e-publication mean for you? Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 167(2): 133-136. (Core funded)

Machouart, M., GUEIDAN, C., Khemisti, A., Dulongcourty, R., Sudhadham, M. & De Hoog, G.S. 2011. Use of ribosomal introns as new markers of genetic diversity in Exophiala dermatitidis. Fungal Biology, 115(10): 1038-1050. (Core funded)

Rivers, M.C., Taylor, L., BRUMMITT, N.A., Meagher, T.R., Roberts, D.L. & Lughadha, E.N. 2011. How many herbarium specimens are needed to detect threatened species? Biological Conservation, 144(10): 2541-2547. (Core funded)

Sutherland, J.E., Lindstrom, S.C., Nelson, W.A., BRODIE, J., Lynch, M.D.J., Hwang, M.S., Choi, H.G., Miyata, M., Kikuchi, N., Oliveira, M.C., Farr, T., Neefus, C., Mols-Mortensen, A., Milstein, D. & Muller, K.M. 2011. A new look at an ancient order: generic revision of the bangiales (rhodophyta). Journal of Phycology, 47(5): 1131-1151. (Core funded)

WANG, L., Wu, Z.Q., BYSTRIAKOVA, N., ANSELL, S.W., Xiang, Q.P., Heinrichs, J., SCHNEIDER, H. & Zhang, X.C. 2011. Phylogeography of the Sino-Himalayan Fern Lepisorus clathratus on "The Roof of the World". PLoS ONE, 6(9). (PhD Student, Core funded)


Fikacek, M., Prokin, A. & ANGUS, R.B. 2011. A long-living species of the hydrophiloid beetles: Helophorus sibiricus from the early Miocene deposits of Kartashevo (Siberia, Russia). Zookeys(130): 239-254. (Scientific Associate)

Gouveia, A.R., Pearce-Kelly, P., QUICKE, D.L.J. & Leather, S.R. 2011. Effects of different calcium concentrations supplemented on the diet of Partula gibba on their morphometric growth parameters, weight and reproduction success. Malacologia, 54(1-2): 139-146. (Core funded (jointly with IC))

GUERRIERI, E., Gitau, C.W., Fletcher, M.J., NOYES, J.S., Dewhurst, C.F. & Gurr, G.M. 2011. Description and biological parameters of Ooencyrtus isabellae Guerrieri and Noyes sp nov (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea: Encyrtidae), a potential biocontrol agent of Zophiuma butawengi (Heller) (Hemiptera: Fulgoromorpha: Lophopidae) in Papua New Guinea. Journal of Natural History, 45(43-44): 2747-2755. (Scientific Associate)

HARBACH, R.E. 2011. Classification within the cosmopolitan genus Culex (Diptera: Culicidae): The foundation for molecular systematics and phylogenetic research. Acta Tropica, 120(1-2): 1-14. (Core funded)

KUHLMANN, M. & Proshchalykin, M.Y. 2011. Bees of the genus Colletes Latreille 1802 of the Asian part of Russia, with keys to species (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Colletidae). Zootaxa(3068): 1-48. (Core funded)

PAPADOPOULOU, A., Anastasiou, I., Spagopoulou, F., Stalimerou, M., Terzopoulou, S., Legakis, A. & VOGLER, A.P. 2011. Testing the species-genetic diversity correlation in the Aegean archipelago: toward a haplotype-based macroecology? (vol 178, pg 241, 2011) [Correction]. American Naturalist, 178(4): 560-560. (Other (??), Core funded (jointly with IC))

Pham, N.T., BROAD, G.R., Matsumoto, R. & Wagele, W.J. 2011. Revision of the genus Xanthopimpla Saussure (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Pimplinae) in Vietnam, with descriptions of fourteen new species. Zootaxa(3056): 1-67. (Core funded)

Santos, A.M.C. & QUICKE, D.L.J. 2011. Large-scale diversity patterns of parasitoid insects. Entomological Science, 14(4): 371-382. (Core funded (jointly with IC))

THOMPSON, M.J., VANE-WRIGHT, R.I. & TIMMERMANS, M. 2011. Hybrid origins: dna techniques confirm that papilio nandina is a species hybrid (papilionidae). Journal of the Lepidopterists Society, 65(3): 199-201. (PhD student, Scientific Associate, Other (Academic Visitor))

Wu, L.W., LEES, D.C., Yen, S.H., Lu, C.C. & Hsu, Y.F. 2011. The complete mitochondrial genome of the near-threatened swallowtail, agehana maraho (lepidoptera: papilionidae): evaluating sequence variability and suitable markers for conservation genetic studies. Entomological News, 121(3): 267-280. (Scientific Associate)


Davison, T.M., Collins, G.S., Elbeshausen, D., Wunnemann, K. & KEARSLEY, A. 2011. Numerical modeling of oblique hypervelocity impacts on strong ductile targets. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 46(10): 1510-1524. (Core funded)

Gutierrez-Alonso, G., Fernandez-Suarez, J., JEFFRIES, T.E., Johnston, S.T., Pastor-Galan, D., Murphy, J.B., Franco, M.P. & Gonzalo, J.C. 2011. Diachronous post-orogenic magmatism within a developing orocline in Iberia, European Variscides. Tectonics, 30. (Core funded)

HOWARD, K.T. 2011. Volatile enhanced dispersal of high velocity impact melts and the origin of tektites. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 122(3): 363-382. (Externally funded)

VITA-FINZI, C. 2011. Misattributed tsunami: Chile, Sumatra and the subduction model. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 122(3): 343-346. (Scientific Associate)


Bates, M.R., Corke, B., Parfitt, K. & WHITTAKER, J.E. 2011. A geoarchaeological approach to the evolution of the town and port  of Dover: Prehistoric to Saxon periods (vol 122, pg 157, 2011). Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 122(3): 506-507. (Scientific Associate)

DE GROOTE, I. 2011. The Neanderthal lower arm. Journal of Human Evolution, 61(4): 396-410. (Externally Funded)

Demirel, A., ANDREWS, P., Yalcinkaya, I. & Ersoy, A. 2011. The taphonomy and palaeoenvironmental implications of the small mammals from Karain Cave, Turkey. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38(11): 3048-3059. (Scientific Associate)

Hagino, K., Bendif, E., YOUNG, J.R., Kogame, K., Probert, I., Takano, Y., Horiguchi, T., de Vargas, C. & Okada, H. 2011. New evidence for morphological and genetic variation in the cosmopolitan coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (prymnesiophyceae) from the COX1b-ATP4 genes. Journal of Phycology, 47(5): 1164-1176. (Core funded)

Higham, T., JACOBI, R., Basell, L., Ramsey, C.B., Chiotti, L. & Nespoulet, R. 2011. Precision dating of the Palaeolithic: A new radiocarbon chronology for the Abri Pataud (France), a key Aurignacian sequence. Journal of Human Evolution, 61(5): 549-563. (other - AHOB Researcher)

HUNTER, A.W., BARRAS, C.G. & Thuy, B. 2011. Online field-guide to fossils: British Middle Jurassic echinoderms. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 122(3): 501-503. (Other - contract curator and ??)

Jadwiszczak, P. &  CHAPMAN, S.D. 2011. The earliest fossil record of a medium-sized penguin. Polish Polar Research, 32(3): 269-277. (Core funded)

Rae, T.C., Koppe, T. & STRINGER, C.B. 2011. Hyperpneumatized Neanderthals? Reply to Holton et al. (2011). Journal of Human Evolution, 61(5): 628-629. (Core funded)

SENDINO, C., Zagorsek, K. & Vyhlasova, Z. 2011. The aperture and its closure in an Ordovician conulariid. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 56(3): 659-663. (Core funded)

TAYLOR, P.D. & SENDINO, C. 2011. A new hypothesis for the origin of the supposed giant snail Dinocochlea from the Wealden of Sussex, England. Proceedings of the Geologists Association, 122(3): 492-500. (Core funded)

ZAMORA, S., Mayoral, E., Esteve, J., Vintaned, J.A.G. & Santos, A. 2011. Exoskeletal abnormalities in paradoxidid trilobites from the Cambrian of Spain, and a new type of bite trace. Bulletin of Geosciences, 86(3): 665-673. (Scientific Associate)


Bendall, R.P., Barlow, M., BETSON, M., STOTHARD, J.R. & Nejsum, P. 2011. Zoonotic Ascariasis, United Kingdom. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17(10): 1964-1966. (Externally funded, Core funded)

Chen, R.M., Lin, X.F. & WARREN, A. 2011. A new pleurostomatid ciliate, Amphileptus salignus n. sp (Protozoa, Ciliophora), from mangrove wetlands in southern China. Zootaxa(3048): 62-68. (Core funded)

Chen, Y., Gu, J.J., Zhang, D., Zhu, S.M., Su, H.L., Hu, X.B., Feng, C.L., Zhang, W., Liu, Q.L. & PARKER, A.R. 2011. Tunable three-dimensional ZrO(2) photonic crystals replicated from single butterfly wing scales. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 21(39): 15237-15243. (Core funded)

CLAREMONT, M., REID, D.G. & WILLIAMS, S.T. 2011. Evolution of corallivory in the gastropod genus Drupella. Coral Reefs, 30(4): 977-990. (PhD student, Core funded)

Conlan, J.V., Sripa, B., ATTWOOD, S. & Newton, P.N. 2011. A review of parasitic zoonoses in a changing Southeast Asia. Veterinary Parasitology, 182(1): 22-40. (Scientific Associate)

Crainey, J.L., Hurst, J., Basanez, M.G., Lamberton, P., GRIFFIN, C., Cheke, R., Wilson, M. & Post, R. 2011. Simulium damnosum wolbachia (Wsdam) genomes harbor WOcauB2/B3-like bacteriophage. Tropical Medicine & International Health, 16: 202-202. (Core funded)

Kim, K., Lee, W. & HUYS, R. 2011. A new species of Sentiropsis (Copepoda: Harpacticoida: Pseudotachidiidae) from the upper sublittoral zone off Hyeopjae beach, Jeju Island, Korea, and a key to genera of the subfamily Danielsseniinae. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 124(3): 179-197. (Core funded)

RAINBOW, P.S., LUOMA, S.N. & Wang, W.X. 2011. Trophically available metal - A variable feast. Environmental Pollution, 159(10): 2347-2349. (Core funded, Scientific Associate)

RESSURREICAO, M., ROLLINSON, D., EMERY, A.M. & Walker, A.J. 2011. A role for p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase in early post-embryonic development of Schistosoma mansoni. Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology, 180(1): 51-55. (PhD student, Core funded)



Collection Management Seminar


Making the Insect World: What historical entomology texts can tell us about the cultural dimensions of insect-human relations


Dr. Adam Dodd,

Postdoctoral Research Fellow,

Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages,

University of Oslo


THURSDAY 24th November 2011,

Flett Lecture Theatre, NHM, South Kensington

14:30 -16:00


Dr Dodd will outline his postdoctoral research work undertaken in collaboration with the NHM Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) #and the Library and Archives of the Natural History Museum. Incorporating numerous examples from a range of entomological texts,  dating from the early seventeenth century onward, he will outline his investigation of what these texts can tell us about the historical role of media and culture in the establishment and reinforcement of what might be called an ‘insect-human rapport’. In line with the broader research questions of the Oslo-based animal studies project,  Dr Dodd will discuss the extent to which insects have been historically figured as ‘objects’ and ‘signs’. On the one hand, this involves engagement with insect specimen collections, and on the other, with the analysis of the representational conventions of entomological illustrations. In the middle, perhaps, are some of the volumes found in the Sloane herbaria – which include insect bodies, arranged into rudimentary scenes with plant specimens, pressed and preserved between the pages of books.


The talk will provide an example of the ways in which the NHM Library collection may inform and facilitate new interdisciplinary work in the humanities, and in particular, historically-oriented work undertaken from a media and cultural studies perspective.



Tea and coffee will be available in the seminar room lobby area after the talk.


Suggestions for seminar speakers are always most welcome. Please contact the organiser Clare Valentine (



For additional details on attending this seminar see


Palaeontology Seminar


Deciphering the early evolution of echinoderms using Cambrian taxa


Dr. Samuel Zamora,

Department of Palaeontology, NHM



THURSDAY 10th November
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC2 LG16)

16:00 - 17:00



Echinoderms (e.g., sea urchins and starfishes) are a major component of the modern seas and have an impressive fossil record that goes back to the lower Cambrian (520 Mya). Despite this well documented history, the earliest steps in their evolution remain poorly documented. Although both ontogeny and sister-group relationships indicate that echinoderms must have had passed through a bilateral stage in their ancestry, there has been no fossil record to provide the empirical proof that this stage existed. Indeed, the earliest fossil echinoderms are all radial or asymmetric forms. However, there are significant problems concerning the completeness of the Cambrian record of fossil echinoderms. Newly discovered fossils from Gondwana are bilaterally symmetrical echinoderms and represent the most primitive members of the group. Thus all three lines of evidence (ontogeny, sister-group relationships and palaeontology) are in agreement and show that the most primitive echinoderms were bilateral rather than radial.



For additional details on attending this seminar see


Birds of South and Middle America – recent advances in knowledge


Joint British  Ornithologists’ Club/Neotropical BirdClub/Natural History Museum free one-day  symposium


29 October  2011, 10.30-17.00, Flett Lecture  Theatre, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD


Key contact:  Robert Prys-Jones ( - if you wish to attend, please email in advance: places are limited.




10.30-11.00   Coffee/tea


11.00-11.45    Nathalie Seddon (Edward Grey Institute, Oxford University)  Why birds sing at dawn


Communal displays of acoustically and visually  signalling  animals include some of the great spectacles of the living world.  Many  of these spectacles involve large communities of different species   signalling in concert, often just before sunrise. Though perhaps best   documented in birds, dawn choruses occur in a wide diversity of other  animals,  from primates and frogs, to lizards and insects. These  signalling events have  long fascinated humans, but despite a century of  speculation, there is little  consensus as to their adaptive  significance. Drawing on a recent study of the  largest dawn chorus of  all, that of the singing birds of Upper   Amazonia, to discuss how  ecology, social interactions and  evolutionary history drive birds to  synchronise their songs at daybreak.


11.45-12.30     Huw Lloyd (Manchester Metropolitan   University) Conservation of High Andean forest birds in Peru

The  loss and degradation of high-Andean Polylepis woodlands is of particular international concern because of its highly   fragmented distribution, the inadequacy of its protection within  national  reserves, and the high levels of habitat-restricted endemism  amongst its  threatened bird communities. This talk will discuss some of  the most  recent ornithological findings from southern Peru, that could  lead to the  development of effective and realistic habitat restoration  strategies for  populations of these severely threatened bird species.


12.30-13.15    James Lowen (Bradt Travel Guides) Wildlife of the Pantanal, South   America’s Serengeti

The world's largest wetland and the aquatic heart of South  America showcases some of the most breathtaking  gatherings of birds,  mammals and reptiles you could ever hope to see. The  author of a new  book to Pantanal wildlife and travel treats us to a visual  celebration  of the region's wildlife spectacles, with a particular focus on the   region's avian specialities and their conservation.


13.15-14.15    Lunch (not provided)


14.15-15.00    Cristina Banks-Leite (Imperial College  London) * Understorey bird responses to deforestation in  the Atlantic Forest of Brazil

The  Atlantic Forest has been reduced to only 15 per cent of   its original area, whilst much of the extant forest is degraded and  fragmented.  Such altered conditions pose a great threat to the  persistence of a highly  endemic and diverse avifauna; however, our  ability to build effective  conservation measures is impaired by an  imperfect understanding of how  communities respond to deforestation.  Through the analysis of a dataset consisting  of over 7000 birds from  140 species captured in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil,  the speaker will  show how the understory bird community responds to habitat loss,   fragmentation and degradation at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

15.00-15.45    Robert Prys-Jones (Natural History   Museum) Project BioMap: documenting the global museum  resource of Colombian birds for research and conservation

Project BioMap, a tri-national initiative between  British,  Colombian and United    States institutions, began in late 2001. The   project aim was to digitise and verify all Colombian bird specimens  deposited  in natural history museums around the world. A total of  217,802 Colombian bird  specimens in 88 museums were databased and  georeferenced (whenever possible)  and made available online.  My talk will present a  temporal and spatial breakdown of the  information available, highlighting  strengths and weaknesses, and  discuss its use in research and conservation.


15.45-16.15                Coffee/tea


16.15-17.00    Thomas Donegan (ProAves) Exploring, studying and protecting  the world's most diverse national avifauna

The publication in 2010 of a new field guide  for Colombia is  a  good point to take stock of recent advances in knowledge in the   world's most diverse country for birds. Explorations and discoveries   facilitated by the improving security situation and the increasing  capacity  of national researchers and institutions have resulted in  significant recent  findings (new species, splits, lumps,  new records, etc.), many of  which will be discussed.  An illustrated  discussion of some of the steps  being taken to conserve Colombia's   birds and their habitats will also be presented.



Collection Management Seminar



Integrated Pest Management on the other side of The Pond


Rachael Perkins Arenstein, A.M. Art Conservation, LLC
Laura Smyk, Canadian Museum of Nature
Patrick Kelley, Insects Limited
Christopher Norris, Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural HistoryWhere?

Wednesday 26th October 2011

Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC. LG16),


The Natural History Museum, London has been a leader in making Integrated Pest Management a priority in collections care and NHM staff have participated in the ongoing work of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group (IPM-WG), a group of collection managers, conservators, entomologists and other professionals who have worked since 2002 to facilitate development and implementation of IPM programs in the broader museum/cultural heritage community.  Today, three North American members of the IPM-WG will present short talks on their work in the field.


Rachael Perkins Arenstein is a conservator in private practice and Co-Chair of the IPM-WG.  She will discuss the development of the group, the progress made to date on promoting and facilitating good IPM practices through the on-line distribution of standards, resources and ideas, and how this working model can be seen as a way to tackle other difficult preventive care issues.  Mention will be made of how NHM staff have participated in this effort and ways in which the IPM-WG can continue collaborating with colleagues in the UK.


Laura Smyk, Conservation Technician at the Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN), will evaluate the efficacy of the IPM features that were incorporated into the CMN’s Natural Heritage Building when it was designed and built 12 years ago to house the institution’s collections, research labs and administrative offices in one central location.  She will share experience on which features worked and how the IPM program has changed since the facility’s opening.

Patrick Kelley is Vice President of Insects Limited, Inc. which develops pheromones and trapping systems for insect pests as well as provides IPM consultation and training for cultural heritage institutions. He will present a case study based on his experience working with U.S. institutions.

After the presentations the three speakers will be joined by Christopher Norris another leader of the group and all four individuals will be available for questions on their work with the IPM-WG and IPM in their home institutions.



Tea and coffee will be available in the seminar room lobby area after the talk.

Suggestions for seminar speakers are always most welcome. Please contact the organiser Clare Valentine (



For additional details on attending see


Zoology Seminars

Diversification of Carnivorous Marine Snails


Department of Zoology, NHM


TUESDAY 25th October

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)

12:00 -13:00



Diversification in the marine realm is thought to be driven primarily by the allopatric processes of vicariance and dispersal. However, there is
increasing evidence that ecological specialization may also play a role generating observed patterns of phylogeography. To test the relative
importance of these processes, I construct the first comprehensive molecular phylogenies of two cosmopolitan, ecologically important but taxonomically
complex subfamilies of carnivorous neogastropods including complete or near-complete species-level phylogenies of three genera. Despite unusually
wide dispersal and presumably high gene flow, speciation in these groups appears to have been primarily allopatric, as has been shown in many other
marine taxa. Many species in these subfamilies are highly specialized predators (prey includes corals, polychaetes, sipunculans, even fish). Thus,
dietary specialization has been predicted to be an important ecological influence on diversification. However, I find no evidence that dietary
specialization has played a role in speciation in these groups. Instead, I suggest that the important ecological dimension of speciation in these
subfamilies is habitat, rather than diet.



For additional details on attending this seminar see


Palaeontology Seminar


How to interpret the Schöningen Palaeolithic archaeozoological record – facts and speculations

Thijs van Kolfschoten
Faculty of Archaeology,Leiden University
The Netherlands


Monday 17th October
Dorothea Bate Room, Palaeontology Department,
11:00 - 12:00


In the past two decades a number of Palaeolithic sites and horizons in the Schöningen lignite mining area (Germany) have been excavated. Spectacular finds include a number of 300-400,000 year old wooden hunting spears associated with butchered large mammal bones. During the past 2-3 years most of the excavated finds (e.g. > 20.000 large mammal remains) have been identified and recorded. It is now time to work on the interpretation and to unravel the complex history of the sites. This talk summarizes the preliminary results and presents interpretations of early human behaviour at the sites.


For additional details see


Palaeontology Seminar


The origin of sponges and the Cambrian explosion


Dr. Jonathan Antcliffe

Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol


Thursday 13th October
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room (DC2, LG16)

16:00- 17:00



Sponges are widely considered to be the animal group most likely to have evolved in the Precambrian. However reanalysis of all fossil candidates for Precambrian sponges shows that the oldest hitherto accepted specimens, Mongolian silica hexacts from c.545Ma, are abiogenic arsenopyrite crystals while all older candidates are abiogenic artefacts, microbialites, or variants of the Ediacaran biota. There are reliable sponge remains from the basal Cambrian represented by spicules from the Soltanieh Formation, Iran, reported in detail for the first time. Deep Precambrian divergences of Metazoa and particularly sponges have however been predicted based on molecular data. Yet the Ediacaran fossil record is abundant in soft bodied remains and does not yield any convincing evidence for sponges. Further geological data shows that chemically precipitated cherts and crystal fan fabrics are common and therefore the Ediacaran ocean is actively precipitating silica, and sponge spicules are not absent because of an unsuitable taphonomy as some have suggested. Sponges are complex organisms that require interactions with other animals in order to survive, a result of 540Ma of complex co-evolution with other animals. There is no reason why they should be thought more likely to be able to live outside of this context at a time before these ecosystems evolved that any other animal group. Sponges probably evolved at approximately the base of the Cambrian Period. Studying such problems can teach us general principles about how to analyse and thereby correctly interpret enigmatic fossils upon which so much macroevolutionary weight can be placed.


see for additional information


Dr Anne Jungblut works in the Antarctic on cyanobacteria - a summary of her recent work is taken from the Botany annual report


The Antarctic is characterized by extreme cold and aquatic ecosystems that are dominated by microbes. Cyanobacteria can be found in polar lakes, ponds and streams, and often dominate total ecosystem biomass and productivity by forming benthic mats and films. These organisms are highly tolerant of the harsh polar conditions and overcome nutrient limitation by recycling and scavenging inorganic and organic nutrients.


In the ice-covered lakes of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, cyanobacteria-dominated microbial mats form pinnacle structures that are potential analogues to microbialites found in fossil records. However, despite the importance of cyanobacteria to Antarctic ecosystems, ecology and geo-biology, their diversity, community structure and ecology have been little studied.


Two field events took place during the austral summer 2010-2011. The first project aims to evaluate the diversity of Antarctic cyanobacteria along spatial and temporal scales. During the field trip to Antarctica in collaboration with Dr Ian Hawes, Dr Jenny Webster-Brown and Hannah Christenson, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand), collection sites were targeted on Ross Island and McMurdo Ice Shelf that were visited by the British National Antarctic Expedition (Discovery Expedition 1901–04), the British Antarctic Expedition (Terra Nova Expedition 1910-13) led by R.F. Scott and the British Antarctic Expedition (Nimrod Expedition 1907-09) led by E. H. Shackleton in order to test how present-day diversity compares with cyanobacterial mat specimens from 100 years ago. The fieldwork was supported by Antarctica, New Zealand and the project “Antarctic Aquatic Inland Ecosystems: Icebased ecosystems” (Project Leader: Dr Ian Hawes).


The second project is in collaboration with Dr Dale Anderson (Principal Investigator, SETI Institute, CA, USA), Dr Dawn Sumner and Tyler Mackey (US Davis, CA, USA) and Dr Ian Hawes (University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand). The objective is to gain a better understanding of pinnacle formations in cyanobacteria-dominated microbial mats in the perennial ice-covered Lakes Joyce, Vanda and Hoare in the Antarctic Dry
Valley, which will help to interpret ancient microbialite morphology in fossil records. A field event was carried out as part of the US Antarctic Program and supported by research grant from NASA. As part of the fieldwork in the Dry Valleys, pinnacle morphologies were characterized, photosynthesis capabilities examined and cyanobacterial diversity assessed by way of microscopic analysis. Ongoing research in the NHM Botany Department will determine community structure of cyanobacteria within microbialite structures to evaluate the role of cyanobacteria in the formation of microbialite structures, and to study the phylogenetics of cyanobacteria from these unique Antarctic cryo-ecosystems.


Anne wrote a blog on her experiences in the Antarctic - a day-by-day account from the early part of 2011.



Mary Anning remains one of the most famous characters in the history of Palaeontology. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the specimen that started her career. To mark this anniversary this specimen—comprising the skull and some post cranial elements of Temnodontosaurus platydon—has been loaned to the Lyme Regis Museum. The specimen was the first discovery of a complete Ichthyosaur and was made by Mary Anning and her brother Joseph in 1811 in the 205 million year old Jurassic Blue Lias from cliffs nearby. Now after 200 years the gigantic skull has returned to Lyme Regis to the museum built on the site of Mary’s childhood home, on loan from The Natural History Museum (London).

Soon after it was found in the Anning family sold the ichthyosaur to Henry Hoste Henley of Colway Manor in Lyme for £23. From there it was sent to London, probably by sea where it was exhibited at William Bullock’s Museum of Natural Curiosities. In 1819 the specimen was purchased by the British Museum (at the time the British Museum was made up of what is now the Natural History Museum, the current British Museum and the British Library).  It is in the Natural History Museum that it is normally exhibited alongside a host of other marine reptile remains. The skull’s return to Lyme Regis for the first time in 200 years was overseen by Palaeontology staff Drs Martin Munt and Tim Ewin.


SiS ichthyo 8 2.jpg

Martin Munt, Tim Ewin, Chris Andrews and Paddy Howe

Carrying the heavy, two metre-long specimen up the curved staircase to the geology gallery at Lyme Regis Museum proved to be too difficult. So with concern for the specimen’s safety, not to mention the backs of the local geologists including Paddy Howe and Chris Andrews who had turned out to help with the installation, the decision was taken to place the specimen in the Social History Gallery on the Ground Floor. where it will be on display until the end of September 2011. The loan has been made possible due to a grant of £1,000 from Natural England and the financial support of The Natural History Museum.

As Dr Martin Munt noted “it has been a privilege to help Lyme Regis Museum achieve their dream of bringing home this iconic fossil specimen to mark the 200th anniversary of its discovery. This loan has been the outcome of over a year’s planning and was supported by former Director of Science Dr Richard Lane, Keeper of Palaeontology Prof. Norm MacLeod, with technical assistance provided by the Head of the Palaeontology Conservation Unit, Chris Collins.”


Adrian Pont from Entomology spent two weeks on fieldwork in Armenia, 16-29 July. This was the second of three projected visits to Armenia, within the framework of the International Science and Technology Center project “Molecular genetic monitoring of blood-sucking flies (Diptera) as a basis for biological control of vectors of dangerous infectious diseases and precautions against the acts of biological terrorism”


The 2010 fieldwork was in June and the projected 2012 fieldwork will be in May. In this way, the seasonal succession from spring, summer and high summer will have been covered. Samples were collected at 52 sites. 14 of these were during day-trips out from Yerevan to localities previously investigated in 2010, such as Tsakhkadzor at over 2300 m and Lake Kari at nearly 3200 m.  Adrian also spent a morning investigating the polluted River Hrazdan that runs through the centre of Yerevan. The other 40 sites were in the south-east of Armenia.


From 22 to 28 July inclusive, Adrian and his team drove to Meghri on the border with Iran and worked their way slowly back to Yerevan. His companions were a mosquito specialist and two blackfly specialists, and consequently the sites visited were sometimes in villages (for adult mosquitoes in cow sheds) but more usually on the banks of rivers and streams (for blackfly larvae and pupae). As it happened, the riverine habitats were the only ones to produce any Diptera as the open grassland was dry and baked in the summer sun. Day temperatures were in the upper 30s, and it was only at the high-altitude localities that Diptera were more abundant. Early morning and evening were the best times of day to collect Diptera.


Some 1350 specimens were collected and pinned. Over the next few months those on minutien pins will be mounted, and data labels will be printed and attached to all specimens, which will then be sorted to families.  Adrian will continue sorting and identifying the Muscidae, and Michael Ackland will continue his work with the Anthomyiidae.


Among other families, there were few Brachycera and few Acalyptrates. Dolichopodidae were very abundant around the streams, but the season for Empididae was clearly over and very few specimens were found. Sarcophagidae were abundant, but there were few Calliphoridae and only a moderate number of Tachinidae. In the Muscidae, genera such as Thricops, Drymeia, Phaonia, Helina, Mydaea, Coenosia, were also notably scarce or absent. One species (undescribed) of Spilogona was common at Lake Kari. Lispe species and some Limnophora were present at almost all rivers and streams and, as in 2010, Lispe tentaculata was the most abundant and widespread predaceous species of Muscidae and was observed taking adult chironomid midges as prey.


In a paper in 2005 (Pont, A.C., Werner, D., and Kachvoryan, E.A., A preliminary list of the Fanniidae and Muscidae (Diptera) of Armenia,  Zoology in the Middle East, 36: 73-86) Adrian noted that only 20 species of Muscidae had previously been recorded from Armenia. The list now stands at well over 100 species, and grows with each field trip.


This article was taken from Entom news - thanks to Adrian and Esther for content.


Zoology Seminar

Stories about Polychaetes from Deception Island (South Shetland Islands, Antarctica)


Sergi Taboada MORENO
University of Barcelona


Monday 19th September,

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)

12:00 - 13:00


The Antarctic Polychaeta fauna has a relatively very good background. However, very little is known about the polychaetes that thrive in whale bones implanted in the sea floor. During this talk I will be presenting some of the results obtained after studying experimentally deployed whale bones at Deception Island, a very peculiar Antarctic volcanic island from the South Shetland Islands archipelago.


Contact: Ronald Jenner, Zoology ( or see see


Entomology Seminar


Alfred Russel Wallace in the New World: Wallace's US-Canada Lecture Tour of 1886-87


Charles H. Smith

Western Kentucky   University, USA


Wednesday September 14th

Neil Chalmers Science Seminar Room (DC.LG16)


2 pm - 3 pm


Alfred Russel Wallace is best known for events that took place relatively early in his life, in connection with his natural history collecting expeditions to South America and Indonesia in 1848-52 and 1854-62, respectively. But after returning the second time to England he lived another fifty-one yearsto the age of ninety in 1913. This later portion of his life was also filled with activity, and even included another lengthy period of time spent out of the country. Over a ten month period in 1886-87 he toured some ten thousand miles across Canada and the United States, along the way observing, lecturing, botanizing, attending séances, and meeting and befriending a couple of hundred leading figures from American science, politics, and academia, right up to President Grover Cleveland. He left a journal of his tour which is most enlightening, and currently under transcription for publication. In this presentation, focussing on the journal, we attempt a return to this late-Nineteenth Century world.


Contact: Dr Vladimir Blagoderov, Entomology (

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