Faculty Members Generate Interest in Manitoba Fossils

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posted January 25, 2012

BRANDON, MB — Two members of the Brandon University geology department recently had some of their research published in the latest issue of Palaeoworld, a peer-reviewed international journal. This article has renewed worldwide interest in Manitoba fossils.

The paper is entitled “Drilling Predation on Scaphopods and other Molluscs from the Upper Cretaceous of Manitoba, Canada” and was authored by Drs. Rong-Yu Li and Harvey Young. It draws attention to the drilling predation recorded on several groups of molluscs that existed in the southwestern Manitoba part of Cretaceous Interior Seaway about 75 million years ago.

“The fossil evidence of predation, only rarely preserved, can provide a unique window to investigate the direct biotic interactions among once-living organisms. This in turn may allow paleobiologists to better understand the evolutionary arms race between prey and predator,” said Associate Professor Dr. Li, a researcher whose focus is on fossil invertebrates and their paleoecology.

Li and Young examined more than 900 fossil specimens discovered from shale samples found in the Russell area, They discovered that about one-fifth of them have drilling holes made by predators, in scaphopods (“tusk shells”), bivalves, and gastropods.

“While there have been some studies of drilling in bivalves and gastropods, our paper is the first comprehensive study of predatory drilling in scaphopods” added Li.

“What makes the Manitoba fossils unique is that we were also able to identify the specific species of predator that was responsible for the killing based on the exceptional preservation. This is a rare scenario in the study of predation,” commented Dr. Young, a BU professor emeritus and an expert on Cretaceous sedimentology and stratigraphy.

As one of the referees who reviewed the paper put in her comments: “…this is a rather interesting paper because, as the authors pointed out correctly, there have been very few reports of drilling predation in living, let alone fossil scaphopods. So this should be a welcome addition to the literature on drilling predation.”

In fact, immediately following its publication online, the paper attracted countless downloads, showing broad interest in the study.

“I am pleased to see the publication of Drs. Li and Young’s paper in this prestigious international journal. This further demonstrates that many of our faculty members’ research is recognized internationally, and I feel proud of them,” said Dr. Phillip Goernert, the acting Dean of Science.

Li and Young’s research was supported by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and a grant from the Brandon University Research Committee.

For more information, please contact:

Joanne F. Villeneuve
Brandon University
270 – 18th Street
Brandon, MB R7A 6A9
Tel. 204-727-9762



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