This gallery contains 6 photos.
The alternating dark and light rock layers of the Belemnite Marls (belonging to the Lower Lias division of the Jurassic Period) at Seatown in Dorset, England, are riddled with small trace fossil burrows. These are mostly tunnels that were dug into the soft seabed sediments by marine organisms such as marine worms and crabs before the sediments became lithified or converted to hard stone. The patterns of these trace or ichno fossils in the cliffs show a wide range of sizes in the burrows with cross-section and longitudinal section views. Some of the tunnels are branched, some are u-shaped, and many are irregular. The shape and size of the burrows, and the particular location of the stratum in which they appear, provide clues to the identity of the creatures responsible. The burrows include Rhizocorallium, Thalassinoides, and Chondrites (Woods 2011). Most of the burrows shown in the photographs here are easy to see because of their contrasting colour – they have been excavated in layers of the darker sediment and have at a later stage been in-filled with the lighter coloured sediments from the layer above. The opposite can also happen, with burrows in lighter sediment being infilled with darker material from above, as seen in a couple of the pictures. Not all the trace fossils are burrows. Some traces appear to be a breaking up of the semi-solidified surface deposits with inter-mixing of sediment from the deposit above.
Woods, M. A. (compiler) (2011) Geology of south Dorset and south-east Devon and its World Heritage Coast: Special Memoir for 1:50,000 geological sheets 328 Dorchester, 341/342 West Fleet and Weymouth, and 342/343 Swanage, and parts of sheets 326/340 Sidmouth, 327 Bridport, 329 Bournemouth and 339 Newton Abbot. British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham. ISBN 978-085272654-9, pp 28-33.
The river flowing down to the seashore meets with waves from the sea at Charmouth in Dorset, England. This somewhat abstract image of the natural patterns generated from the meeting of the two forces shows the freshwater continuing to flow smoothly seawards on the left of the channel (top left) while on the right it rebounds from the curving bank with the ripples moving upstream and towards the middle of the channel. The blue and white are reflected sky, and the yellow is reflection from the shingle beach.
Beach stones with holes in them excite the curiosity of most people. How did the holes get into the rock? There is no single answer but in many cases the holes in pebbles and beach stones have been made by various seashore creatures including several types of bivalve molluscs, marine worms, and sponges. The same creatures can also make holes in thick old seashells. There are several earlier posts on Jessica’s Nature Blog describing how the holes are made, by piddocks, for example Pholas dactylus, sponges such as Cliona celata, and polychaete worms like Polydora ciliata and Polydora hoplura. Frequently, there is evidence for more than one type of organism occupying the same stone.
One of the bivalve molluscs that creates holes in stones and thick oyster shells is the Wrinkled Rock Borer Hiatella arctica (Linnaeus). Like the piddock, this species can actively excavate a burrow in soft stone for shelter and protection although unlike the piddock it can attach itself by byssus threads to the outside of solid objects or in cracks and crevices. However, once embedded in the stone it can no longer exit the burrow but obtains all it needs for sustaining life via the tunnel connecting it to the outside world. Wrinkled Rock Borers are smaller than piddocks, measuring no more than 3.8 cms in length when mature. The valves of the shell are thick and robust with distinct furrows, and the leading edges exposed to view in the burrow are rough and straight edged (truncate). Tebble (1966) says that it is not possible to distinguish between the different species of Hiatella in British waters but the descriptions apply to all the species ever recorded here. Hiatella arctica is common around the British Isles from the lower regions of the shore to considerable depths…… It has a wide geographical distribution in the northern hemisphere from the Arctic south through the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific, but the particular limits of its occurrence are not known. It is almost impossible to remove empty Hiatella shells from the excavated holes without breaking them.
Hiatella holes in rock can be secondarily occupied by a similar but smaller bivalved mollusc called Irus irus (Linnaeus). This grows to about 2.5 cms in length. The protruding frill-like concentric ridges on the shell can be very distorted in shape if the shell is occupying a burrow that is too small to allow normal growth. I am not able to discount the possibility that it is Irus shells occupying Hiatella burrows in some of the beach stones illustrated here. Irus (also known as Notirus irus) occurs from low in the littoral zone to a few fathoms.
Tebble, N (1966) British Bivalve Shells: A Handbook for Identification, published for the Royal Scottish Museum by HMSO, Second Edition 1976, [Hiatella p172-173 & Plate 7h; Notirus p124-125 & Plate 7g].
Hunter, W. R. (1949), The Structure and Behaviour of ‘Hiatella gallicana@ (lamarrck) and ‘H. arctica’ (L.), with special reference to the Boring Habit. Proc. Roy. Soc. Edin. B, 63 III (19): 271-289, 12 figs.
The further you walk along Weymouth pier the deeper and bluer the water – turquoise tinted. In the shallows, the sand on the sea bed makes the water appear more yellow. On this calm day, the water surface was riffled by the wind to produce patterned textures where the transient ridges were delineated by the light they caught.
The weather was very changeable but it was still a lovely spring afternoon for a walk up the hill to the barn. It is a good viewpoint up on Charlton Down, looking over the gentle rolling hills of arable farmland. I haven’t been along that path for some time and it was amazing to see the difference in the surrounding fields. The young oil-seed rape plants that I had seen as raindrop-covered seedlings last December were now hip-high and covered in clusters of faintly scented yellow flowers. The grey skies broke with the brisk breeze and clouds scudded across the blue sky, making fast-moving shadows over the rural scene. The agricultural machinery parked by the barn remain a constant while everything around changes by the moment, with the weather, and through the seasons.