ICHTHYOLITES OF THE OLD RED SANDSTONE
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Climatius reticulatus (Turin Hill, LORS)
I have been an ‘Icthyolithophile’ for about 18 years. My interest was spawned with the acquisition of a rather unimpressive partial Osteolepis and the gravity of that pathology is now evident in the pages contained in this website.
Firstly, for the the unitiated, 'Ichthyolite' is archaic(1820/30) English for 'fossil fish'. The 'Old Red Sandstone (ORS)' refers to rocks of non-marine origin deposited from the Late, Middle Silurian (Homerian stage of the Wenlock Series) until the Tournaisian of the very lowest Carboniferous. Not to be confused with the Permo-Triassic 'New Red Sandstone (150 Million years younger) which at least has the decency to be mostly red, unlike its older brother (ORS) being often grey and only occasionally sandstone! The ORS is generally subdivided into the Lower Old Red Sandstone (LORS), Middle Old Red Sandstone (MORS) and Upper Old red Sandstone.
There is a polarizing debate about the place of amateurs in Paleontology. There have certainly been abuses of over-collecting and damage to sites by the layman, but also many significant discoveries made. Indeed, Hugh Miller and Robert Dick, Stonemason and Baker were the founding fathers of Paleoichthology. Given three of the five ORS basins exist in Scotland it is more than pleasing that Scotland leads the world with its pragmatic, detailed, yet accessible 'fossil collecting code (can be found at the link below) which benefits both the amateur and academic communities.
The depth of my interest in these early vertebrates has been fuelled by Prof. Nigel Trewin of Aberdeen University, (he has a rare ability to make these ancient environments seem real), and after whom the iconic Osteostracan Trewinia magnifica is named. One of his books, Fossils Alive or New Walks in an Old Field (a pun on the seminal work by Hugh Miller), takes one on a Paleozoic safari, to these ancient lands teeming with primitive 'Scottish' life. Where (for those old enough to remember) Carl Sagan used a dandelion seed to tour the Cosmos in his 'spaceship of the imagination', Nigel uses a time traveling bus, possibly less poetic but undoubtedly more spacious! 'Scottish Fossils' also by Professor Trewin is another excellent book containing over one hundred of the most scientifically important fossils from Scotland (a few of which came from this collection)
All the specimens on the following pages are from my own collection, the vast majority coming from the Silurian and Devonian of Scotland. Some of this material has come from old collections and in most cases the specimens retain their original labels (Some around 150 years old). Material that has been self collected is meticulously prepared by those with far more skill and patience than me!
Very little of the self collected material would be in these pages but for a group of friends (aka 'The old red fish filiters') with whom, I am very fortunate to visit some of the classic, as well as little known sites of Scotland. They have taught me the art of collecting with 'expanding gas capsules' , 'Hymac diggers' and the most effective by far, 'a Paddy'.
For those interested in reading more about the broader subject of Paleozoic fish I would recommend EARLY VERTEBRATES by Philippe Janvier and THE RISE OF FISHES by John A.Long.
The best web resource for the Middle Old Red Sandstone (MORS) http://www.landforms.eu/orkney/Fossils/index.htm
Page 1 The first fish
Page 2 What is the Old Red Sandstone
Page 3 Heterostraci
Page 4 Anaspids
Page 5 Osteostraci
8 Placodermi – Arthrodira
9 Placodermi - Antiarcha, Rhenanida, Ptyctodontida and Petalichthyida
11 Chondrichthyes Page
12 Actinopterygii Page
Sarcopterygii – Dipnomorpha, Actinistia
Sarcopterygii – Osteolepiformes
Page 7 Thelodonti
Page 8 Placodermi – Arthrodira
Page 9 Placodermi - Antiarcha, Rhenanida, Ptyctodontida and Petalichthyida
Page 10 Acanthodii
Page 11 Chondrichthyes
Page 12 Actinopterygii
Page 13 Sarcopterygii – Dipnomorpha, Actinistia
Page 14 Sarcopterygii – Osteolepiformes
Page 15 Tetrapoda
Page 16 List of the known Scottish Silurian & Old Red Sandstone Fishes
Page 17 Chronological account of the discovery fossil fishes in Scotland from 1697 (incomplete)
IMAGES OF PLATES FROM DECADE X (HUXLEY/EGERTON) (incomplete)