In view of the huge variety of fossil shapes it is
not surprising that there are a few
funny looking ones, which offer the opportunity to present little bits
of palaeontological information in a funny way, which may serve as a
diversion from the mere intake of facts.
Far left: Minky,
Rhynie 400 000 000 B.C.,
Inclined section of this less abundant plant in the Rhynie chert,
silicification owing to partial decay of tissue, with twin central
strands as a result of forking, one of the strands seen extending into
the dark cavity.
Far right: Slightly inclined cross-section of the most common
plant in the Lower Devonian Rhynie chert, Aglaophyton,
also known as Rhynia
This specimen had lost part of its tissue while alive, as can be
inferred from the response of the plant seen as the dark line below.
What appears as the second "eye" is a spherical body produced by the
dense agglomeration of fungus hyphae probably grown in the dead
(The typical aspect of symbiotic fungi growing in live Aglaophyton is
Chert News 32.)
Note also the cavities lined with quartz crystals.
Grieved by the financial crisis.
wood of coniferous type,
by selective silicification,
see Fossil Wood
Far left: "Mock Tempskya",
detail from a beautifully patterned fossil coniferous-type
as the Cretaceous fern Tempskya
on several Dutch websites,
width of the picture 6.5mm, see Google: Tempskya
determinatie Hans Kerp .
is a small tree fern whose trunk consists of several very thin stems
of aerial roots, all fused into a composite stem. Hence, its
cross-section shows lots of mm-size roundish sections with concentric
build. The cross-sections in the above pictures may look
concentric but reveal a texture if looked at more closely.
The cell files seen more or less vaguely in the two images
indicate the radial direction of coniferous
of patterned coniferous-type wood by
superficial inspection is a common pitfall.
Right: Coniferous-type fossil wood (Oregon)
with growth zones of distinctly differential aspect and mechanical
properties before silicifcation.
rhombic cross-sections can be understood as being brought about by a
succession of steps involving shrinkage of soft wood, formation of
narrow shrinkage cracks, influx and deposition of silica along the
cracks so that the crack faces become lined* with stiff silica,
compression causing kinking of the crack
linings* while the soft wood is still
soft, further vertical
compression pushing the kinked linings* into rhombic shapes, deposition
of more silica in the cavities and throughout the wood. .
More explanations are given in:
Fossilien 20(2003), 330.
The polished specimen had been provided by R. Henzel,
2013: Closer inspection did not produce evidence for the
kinking of the conspicuous silica lining. As it seems now, the lateral
corners of the cavities were brought about by kinking of the stiff pith
rays in soft wood.
Left: Cross-section of a multiple shoot of an
early land plant of the zosterophyll
family, either Trichopherophyton
In the scientific literature, similar sections
of these plants have been
repeatedly interpreted als new rhizomes incidentally entering decaying
ones and growing along inside. However, there is evidence
that it is a peculiar
growth mode, a veritable invention, apparently by some ancestor of
these Lower Devonian plants, which
enables the young shoots to make use of the old ones as support and
sheaths. The like had been re-invented independently several times and
is now realized, with leaves instead of shoots, with the onions, for
Right: Fluffy tufts of the filamentous cyanobacterium Croftalania
venusta grown on a flooded and partially decayed
shoot of Horneophyton
with divided central strand.
The filaments of about 3Ám thickness had grown on
substrates in the flooded habitat, as
on dead land plants,
upwards towards the light. Considering that the filaments grow
independent of each other or in fluffy bunches, the occasionally
observed stylish trimming of the
"hair" poses a problem to be solved. Evidence has been presented
suggesting that the crustacean Castracollis
may have produced the clear-cut outline by grazing on the
fluffy tufts .
What looks like a wobbly monster with fiery eyes hiding beneath a
shelter is a cross-section of a shoot of Nothia
aphylla (see top), shrunken
and deformed, with forked central strand. Among
hundreds of Nothia
sections, some look like faces but those with yellow
eyes are quite rare. The surface of live Nothia is bumpy but
the coarse shrivelling usually seen on fossil Nothia and often
also on other plants in the Rhynie chert is due to extensive
decay and shrinkage of the tissue inside.
The preceding 8 pictures of shrunken Nothia have
all been taken from one small sample of Rhynie chert.
What is called "emoticons" nowadays has apparently been
there for 400 million years.
faces" may be funny to look at but the one seen here on the right gave
rise to a creepy feeling when suddenly the "owl" began to slowly open
eye. It was an air bubble creeping up from a cavity while the cut half
of the chert sample was being observed with a microscope and a drop of
cedar oil was put on the polished Ventarura
cross-section to conceal scratches left after polishing.
This picture had been shown at the EPPC 2014  and at a related
exhibition in the town hall of Padua, with the caption:
"Be careful! Ventarura
is watching you. This may serve as
an encouragement to the palaeobotanists to work carefully as if they
Such advice is appropriate, judging
from the mistakes, errors, and misinterpretations
encountered in the palaeobotany literature.
Nothia does not always look as funny as above but can make an angry face.
Weiss: Rhynie chert -
Implications of new finds,
European Palaeobotany and
Palynology Conference 2014, Padua.
2012, 2013, 2014, 2018
More funny faces will appear