2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM

Body Fossil Vs. Ichnofossil: Oldhamia Recta Revisited

TACKER, R. Christopher, Geology Unit, Research & Collections, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601-1029, MARTIN, Anthony J., Department of Environmental Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, WEAVER, Patricia G., Geology/Paleontology, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601-1029, LAWVER, Daniel, R., Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, P.O. Box 173480, Bozeman, MT 59717-3480 and WILLIAMS, Lise, Durham Academy, 3601 Ridge Road, Durham, NC 27705-5599, christopher.tacker@naturalsciences.org

Discoveries in North Carolina's Neoproterozoic Carolina Terrane, combined with re-examination of the holotype of Oldhmia recta and other material from the Yale Peabody Museum (YPM), strongly suggest it is a body fossil of a tubular organism. These fossils were initially interpreted as burrows, identified as Syringomorpha nilsonni?, then later as Oldhamia recta. The assignation of Oldhamia recta was predicated on the observation that burrows were limited to bedding planes and did not cross one another. However, the original description of Syringomorpha nilsonni? noted that crossovers are common.

A slab from the Floyd Church Formation in Stanley County (North Carolina) shows a wrinkled microbial mat, meandering trails with levees, grape-like clusters, and abundant rod-shaped fossils, 0.7-2.7 mm wide and 1.7-20.5 mm long (n = 249). Fossils originally identified as Oldhamia recta lack: levees; internal structures indicating backfilling or fecal material; scratch marks (denoting a recumbent lifestyle); and evidence of peristaltic movement. Crossovers are not uncommon, indicating some rigidity to the rod-shaped fossils; these also show alignment, interpreted as a result of currents. Similarly, YPM specimens lack evidence favoring origins from undermat burrowers or mat grazers. YPM specimens also show preferred alignments, with rose diagrams having consistency ratios of 0.92-0.96. This ratio is lower in Floyd Church specimens (0.74), but a bimodal grouping is also consistent with one group flattened by currents and another group fragmented and transported.

Oldhamia was described as “bunches of fine rills, radiating from joints of sympodial axis, representing a grazing pattern.” In contrast, tubes of the Floyd Church “Oldhamia recta” seldom join at the base, differing from other species of the ichnogenus. We thus conclude that the evidence favors a body fossil origin for these specimens, behavioral inferences are unwarranted, and its body fossil identity requires more study.