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Seabed secrets in English clay

ts a broad-strokes picture of what organisms may have lived in a given epoch of time. Kenig's samples included seemingly incompatible creatures living together. The standard interpretation of the fossil record needed some refinement.

"The animal fossils and bacteria organic matter, though contained in the same packet of rock, were not deposited at the same time," he said. "There was the deposition of organic matter and clay during one set of environmental conditions, then when conditions changed and became favorable, different organisms colonized the environment and left their remains, some as a result of a mass kill by the next anoxic -- or complete lack of oxygen -- event."

"There are indications that conditions in the Oxford Clay-sea were extremely dynamic at the time, probably in response to climatic changes," said Kenig.

The finding suggests that use of fossils to reconstruct environmental records of the past needs to be interpreted with greater care because details from sedimentary deposits, as Kenig and his colleagues found, suggest that these fossils may only represent end-member environments.


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Contact: Paul Francuch
francuch@uic.edu
312-996-3457
University of Illinois at Chicago
23-Apr-2004


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