Box Tetrapods Of The Volcanic Springs

The Midland Valley of Scotland, around Edinburgh and Glasgow, was an important coal-producing area. The coal is associated with richly fossiliferous Carboniferous rocks, and East Kirkton, near Edinburgh, has become one of the most famous sites (Milner et al., 1986; Clarkson et al., 1994). Fossils were first found there in the 1830s, and include abundant plants and rare eurypterids, i.e. large aquatic arthropods. The rocks consist of volcanic tuffs associated with limestones and unusual layered silica deposits, interpreted as the products of hot springs that were heated by nearby volcanoes.

In 1984, Stan Wood, a professional collector, found tetrapod remains in a dry-stone wall that had been built from rocks taken out of an old quarry at East Kirkton. He bought the walls and leased the quarry and re-opened it. After a few years of excavation, he had amassed a huge collection of plants, arthropods (eurypterids, a spider, scorpions, millepedes), fishes (sharks, acanthodians, actinopterygians, a rhizodontid) and tetrapods (see illustration). The tetrapods include a broad-skulled temnospondyl, Balanerpeton(Figure 4.5(e)), and the baphetid Eucritta, both of which may have fed on arthropods, a limbless

East Kirkton Fossils

Reconstructed scene at East Kirkton, Scotland, 340 million years ago, during the Early Carboniferous. The reptiliomorph Westlothianasits on a rock contemplating the active volcanos in the distance, and the steaming hot springs closer by. Fragments of a dead millepede lie at bottom right, and a scorpion fragment is wedged in front of Westlothiana. Two eurypterids are testing the water temperature in the middle distance. (Courtesy of Mike Coates.)

Reconstructed scene at East Kirkton, Scotland, 340 million years ago, during the Early Carboniferous. The reptiliomorph Westlothianasits on a rock contemplating the active volcanos in the distance, and the steaming hot springs closer by. Fragments of a dead millepede lie at bottom right, and a scorpion fragment is wedged in front of Westlothiana. Two eurypterids are testing the water temperature in the middle distance. (Courtesy of Mike Coates.)

aistopod, and some anthracosaurs, Eldeceeon, Silvanerpetonand Westlothiana. Westlothianais close to the ancestry of am-niotes and, indeed, was hailed for a time as the world's oldest amniote. The East Kirkton locality is fascinating because of the unusual environmental conditions represented, but it also documents the earliest example of a probable terrestrial vertebrate community. The extraordinary diversity of tetrapods contrasts with the very different Late Devonian tetrapod faunas.

Read more about the East Kirkton site and its tetrapod fossils at http://www.mwfossils.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/Ekirk.htm and http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/sci_tech/highlights/001219_blacklagoon.shtml

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