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Palaeontology Department Seminar


Thursday 21st July
Neil Chalmers Seminar Room, DC2, 16:00




Whale skeletons as ecological reefs in the shallow marine Eocene of Egypt .


Dr. Charles Underwood, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck College, Univerisity of London


The Late Eocene shallow marine sediments of Wadi Al-Hitan, Egypt are famous for their fossil whales. Many of the whale skeletons are present in shallow marine sandstones that also contain common teeth of sharks and rays. The assemblages of sharks and rays in the sandstones away from the whale skeletons are similar to those that would be expected in shallow marine sandy environments today, dominated by stingrays (Dasyatidae) and Lemon sharks (Negaprion). Teeth collected from amongst whale bones are different, with higher diversity faunas including taxa that are otherwise only common in deeper marine facies. These are sometimes associated with possible chemosymthetic bivalves (Lucinidae). It is therefore likely that the whale skeletons acted as reefs, giving cover to shark and ray species that were otherwise rare or absent in shallow water.



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