Project proposal details

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Project title
Investigating the morphology and taphonomy of catshark egg capsules from fossil methane seeps
Contact name
Crispin Little
Contact email
Project based at
Natural History Museum
Imperial contact email
Project description
The egg capsules of cartilaginous fish (chondrichthyians) are rare in the fossil record. They include Palaeozoic and Mesozoic spirally coiled capsules of the Palaeoxyris group found mainly in freshwater deposits, occasional occurrences of chimaeroid egg capsules (Chimaerotheca) ranging back to the Triassic, and rare skate egg capsule specimens (Rajitheca) from the Oligocene of central Europe. All these records represent mostly flattened internal or external moulds. Recent work has reported catshark egg capsules from deep-water methane seeps from the modern Eastern Mediterranean and the Late Eocene of Washington State, USA (Scyliorhinotheca goederti). All the specimens are closely associated with tube worm bushes. The fossil capsules are preserved three−dimensionally and some show mineralized remnants of capsule walls, now replaced by carbonates resulting from the anaerobic oxidation of methane biogeochemical process. Together with colleagues the project supervisor has collected around 20 catshark egg capsule specimens from a Miocene aged seep deposit from New Zealand, also closely associated with worm tubes. These new catshark egg capsule are undescribed and their taphonomy has not been investigated. The project aims to make a formal taxonomic description of the specimens, and using petrographic thin sections and stable carbon isotopic analysis to describe the way the capsules were preserved and compare this to published work.

The student work will comprise: 1) using the microscopes in the to investigate a number of new petrographic thin sections of the Miocene catshark egg capsules and surrounding matrix to establish the nature of the matrix, the type of preservation of the egg capsules shells, and carbonate cement phases; 2) making optical photomicrographs of the above using the digital cameras; 3) drilling powders of the matrix, capsules and cements for stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis, which will be sent to the a relevant laboratory for analysis.
Date uploaded

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Suitable for
Taxonomy and Biodiversity [NHM MSc], Biosystematics [NHM MRes]