Research activities concerning the chert have increased lately, with
results being made known through publications in scientific journals
and via Internet [1,2]. A special issue of the Proceedings of the
Royal Society Edinburgh  is the largest compilation of recent work
on Rhynie chert in one volume, with ample lists of references to
earlier work. Research was taken up recently at the Museum of Natural
History, London, based on large amounts of chert from early excavations
stored there. A kind of summary with the main focus on latest results,
with 72 colour
pictures, can be regarded as the most beautiful and informative
publication on the
subject  (in Dutch).
Photograph: Upward bend of Aglaophyton. The up-direction is indicated by several level bands
in former cavities of gas bubbles (big one below right) later
filled with water. The slightly differing orientations indicate motions
during silicification of the mud.
Nowadays, progress in palaeobotany is sometimes hindered by
procedure of publication: Usually a submitted paper has to be quite
substantial and professional to get a chance of being accepted for
publication. This precludes a quick exchange of information and ideas.
The procedure of reviewing by experts does not always preclude
erroneous publications. Quite a number of disturbing examples are
presented under the heading Misconceptions, and there will be
more of them, judging from experience.
Luckily, the Internet provides the means to overcome such
obstacles. R. Kretzschmar, then lay fossil collector but now at Naturkunde-Museum Chemnitz, Germany, had established his "kieseltorf" website , which
verbally means "silicified peat". This had been a welcome
opportunity for the present writer to offer news based on own finds of
Rhynie chert on that website since 2003, and an encouragement to launch this "chertnews" website, with Rhynie chert
as a main subject, in 2010. ( Spotting various errors in the work of R. Rößler (Naturkunde-Museum Chemnitz) caused the irrational response of refusing discussions and sullenly deleting the Rhynie chert pages at "kieseltorf"
in 2011.) Every one of the numbered issues of Rhynie Chert News
is based on own finds and is meant to offer something new. Most of the
observations are only small pieces in the big puzzle of palaeontology
but some are of greater relevance.
little sphere Pachytheca,
to be an alga but now listed among the "Enigmatic Organisms" , had
been described as a fossil well preserved in chert. Hence, the sample
Rhynie is useful for comparison with the coalified samples abundantly
found elsewhere. The discovery of a few more "Enigmatic Organisms"
called nematophytes provides answers to long-standing questions but also raise new ones, or help to refute erroneous
views. It has been found out that the nematophyte Nematoplexus unexpectedly has much more to offer than its regular screw-like tubes.
The curled-up tip of the
rarest "Higher Plant" in the chert, Ventarura,
only one found
its existence will have to be taken into account in any reconstruction
of the plant. A conspicuous coaxial tube inside the upper parts of Ventarura, thought to consist of sclerenchyma and to serve as a stiffening component, is shown to be no such. The alleged "giant cells" in the epidermis of Nothia
are rather tube-like cavities brought about by controlled removal of
numerous cell walls in the epidermis. They probably serve as vessels
for a liquid deterrent protecting the plant against herbivores. Even the most abundant plant in the
chert, former Rhynia
major re-named Aglaophyton
major, has provided new facts: The undulating growth
does not result, as previously assumed, from a succession of upward
growth and falling over but from the ability of the upright shoot to
actively turn downward, then upward again as in the above picture. (The
justification for the questionable change of name has been strongly doubted .)
The unquestioned highlight among the own discoveries described in Rhynie Chert News is
unexpected dramatic scene, a snapshot of aquatic life
in the shallow pools fed by hot springs at Rhynie
400 million years ago, featuring the most ancient rotifer ever seen, at
the instant of being trapped by quick silica gel formation while
attacking a spherical cyanobacteria (?) colony. The filamentous cyanobacterium Croftalania has proved surprisingly versatile as it offers shapes of a complexity never expected from the lowly microbes. Recently a delicate cm-size plant has been discovered which does not seem to fit in anywhere. One of the
latest discoveries (2014) concerns mm-size vesicles, apparently either
filled with large numbers of nuclei or empty, thus strikingly
resembling some extant xanthophyte before or after the release of the vesicle content as zoospores or gametes. The charophyte
clade, already well established in the Devonian, has provided a
surprise in 2015, based on a sample found in 2013: It may well be an
archetype dating back to times when the charophytes had not yet
developed the well-known gyrogonites. The series of Rhynie Chert News will be successively extended.
 N.H. Trewin,
C.M. Rice (eds.): The Rhynie Hot
Spring System, Trans. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh, Earth Sci.
94(2004 for 2003), Part 4.
Kerp, H. Hass: De Onder-Devonische Rhynie Chert, Grondboor & Hamer 58(2004), 33-51.
, English version.
E.L.Taylor, M. Krings: Paleobotany, Elsevier 2009.
Edwards : A review of the sporophytes of embryophytes
in the cherts at Rhynie,
Trans. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh, Earth
Sciences 94(2004 for 2003), 397-410.