Echinoderm Paleobiology, William I. Ausich and Gary D. Webster, eds. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2008, $59.95, hard-cover; 456 pp. Seven Appendices covering some thirty-six pages, a three page list of contributors and their associations, and a seventeen page Index are included.
Echinoderm Paleobiology is dedicated to the late N. Gary Lane (1930 - 2006), an important paleontologist in the field of fossil echinoderms and their paleobiology. Lane is a coauthor of Chapter 16 as the editors note, but he passed away prior to its completion and the final publication of Echinoderm Paleobiology.
Echinoderm Paleobiology is a collection of seventeen professional level papers organized into five parts: 1) Functional morphology, paleoecology, and taphonomy; 2) Evolutionary paleoecology; 3) Morphology for refined phylogenetic studies; 4) Mississippian impacts and biomarkers; and 5) Echinoderm faunal studies. From the standpoint of interested amateurs, some chapters are more understandable than others. Some of the presentations are of a broader interest while others will be of more interest to specialists in the particular area being discussed. Many of the authors will be familiar to local readers in the Cincinnati area as they are or have been associated with the University of Cincinnati or the Cincinnati Museum Center.
"Taphonomy as an Indicator of Behavior Among Fossil Crinoids" by Baumiller, Gahn, Hess, and Messing begins the book. The authors report on the physical response of modern Comatulid and Isocrinid crinoids to increases in current flow. This study is a logical test against the fossil record as high flow rates are likely to have accompanied rapid burial events in geologic history. The observations can be compared to fossil assemblages to infer the flow rates at burial. The Comatulids are un-stalked crinoids while the Isocrinids are stalked and attached to the substrate. Under high flow conditions, both of these crinoids tended to fold their arms into what the authors termed a "shaving brush posture." In this position the arms are folded together extending away from the calyx. This reduces the frictional drag. Both of these crinoids also have the ability to relocate by crawling and when doing so they maintain a mouth up orientation. The preservation of similar fossil forms favor these two positions - either with arms folded into the shaving brush posture laying parallel to the sediment or in a starburst mouth up orientation. When looking at stalked Paleozoic crinoids, the authors found something different. These older crinoids tended to be preserved in a starburst attitude but with the mouth oriented downwards. The differences between modern and Paleozoic crinoids provide the explanation: Paleozoic crinoids did not have muscular arm articulation and did not have the ability to move their arms rapidly for crawling or folding. The authors suggest that a Paleozoic crinoid in a feeding posture would be subject to high frictional drag such that the current would force it mouth down into the sediment. Numerous photographs and drawings illustrate the points made in the text.
Brett, Deline and McLaughlin studied Cincinnatian crinoids and presented their findings in, "Attachment, Facies Distribution, and Life History Strategies in Crinoids from the Upper Ordovician of Kentucky". This chapter has the strongest local interest. The research and discussion focuses on the Kope - Maysville crinoid fauna. I found the inclusion of Table 2.1 (26) to be fascinating in itself. This table lists twenty-three Cincinnatian crinoid species with their method of attachment and column lengths. There are a number of species where some of this information is not known definitively since a complete specimen from holdfast to crown has not been found. The bulk of the chapter discusses more specifics about Cincinnaticrinus varibrachialus, Ectenocrinus simplex, Merocrinus curtus, Iocrinus subcrassus, Anomalocrinus incurvus, and Glyptocrinus decadactylus. This chapter is well illustrated with photographs of specimens in support of the text discussions. Cincinnati Dry Dredgers members Ron Fine and Dan Cooper were both acknowledged for their contribution of fossil material used in this study.
The latest thoughts on the enigmatic Uintacrinus are presented in "New Observations on Taphonomy and Paleoecology of Uintacrinus Socialus Grinnell (Crinoidea; Upper Cretaceous)", Webber, Meyer and Milson. Uintacrinus is an unusual crinoid that has perplexed paleontologists for many years. It is unstalked without basal cirri and has exceedingly long arms of up to more than 1 meter in length. While some researchers have favored a floating lifestyle, the authors seem to prefer a mode of life with the calyx on the bottom with the arms upward. This is based upon morphologic features that are not suited to a floating or swimming habit. An interesting phenomenon was observed in the studied fossil assemblages of Uintacrinus - the calyxes had a tendency to be arranged such that the arms were directed radially toward a center point almost like the spokes of a wheel. The authors believe this to be a result of swirling currents at the time of burial. Photographs and charts accompany this paper.
"Evolution and Extinction of a Paleozoic Crinoid Clade: Phylogenetics, paleogeography, and Environmental Distribution of the Periechocrinids", Ausich and Kammer, is extensive in scope. The length of this chapter mirrors the complexity. This is a technical treatment and cladistic analysis of the Silurian to Carboniferous periechocrinids. The intended audience of Echinoderm Paleobiology is professional paleontologists. This chapter will be more difficult for the non-specialist. At the end of the analysis, the authors are able to erect two new genera and a new species of crinoid. Illustrations in this chapter are primarily cladistic diagrams, one photograph and two calyx plate diagrams.
Webster and Maples offer an interesting chapter, "Cladid Crinoid Radial Arm Facets, Brachials, and Arm Appendages: A Terminology Solution for Studies of Lineage, Classification, and Paleoenvironment". Webster and Maples maintain that evolution and morphology of crinoid brachials ("arms") is understudied and underappreciated as their form has implications on crinoid lineages. The authors acknowledge that the brachial features are not always exposed and available for study on fossil crinoids causing part of this problem. Nomenclatural standards for brachial terminology, notably for ramules, pinnules and armlets whose definitions tend to blur into one another are proposed in this chapter. Illustrations are limited to drawings and tables. Twenty-three of the thirty-six pages in the Appendix are associated with this chapter alone.
Colin Sumrall has contributed the chapter, "The Origin of Lovén's law in Glyptocystitoid Rhombiferans and Its Bearing on the Plate Homology and Heterochronic Evolution of the Hemicosmitoid Peristomial Border". This short chapter is illustrated with plate diagrams of the oral areas of rhombiferan cystoids. A portion of this chapter discusses plate arrangement and development in the Cincinnatian rhombiferan Lepadocystis moorei. This is a lengthy analysis of the oral area of glyptocystid rhombiferans and the hemicosmitoid rhombiferan Hemicosmites. The former have a pentaradiate ambulacral configuration while the latter is triradiate. Sumrall purposes plate homologies and a developmental process for the evolution of Hemicosmites.
In an interesting geological twist, echinoderms and other fossils are used to affirm and assist in dating an impact structure of Missippian age in Missouri. "Mixed-Age Echinoderms, Conodonts, and Other Fossils Used to Date a Meteorite Impact, and Implications for Missing Strata in the type Osagean (Missippian) in Missouri, USA," by Miller, Evans, Ausich, Bolyard, Davis, Ethington, Rovey II, Sandberg, Thompson and Waters is one of the longest contributions in Echinoderm Paleobiology and quite interesting in its application of fossils to this particular geologic problem. There are a few photographs but most of the illustrations are charts and data tables.
One of the most fascinating contributions from O'Malley, Ausich and Chin is, "Crinoid Biomarkers (Borden group, Mississippian): Implications for Phylogeny." The authors were able to extract organic molecules from Mississippian crinoids through a multi-step chemical process that they describe in the paper. These organic compounds termed "fringelites" were originally described by Blumer in the 1950's (291). The chemical structure of the fringelites is remarkably similar to color producing organic compounds called hydroxynaothoquinones in modern crinoids. The authors offer that the fringelites are indeed slightly altered forms of these compounds and that further they may be used in phylogenetic studies in fossil crinoids, "Fossil echinoderms, specifically crinoids, possess chromophoric organic molecules - fringelites and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - that are resistant to diagenetic leaching, are chemically stable over geologic time, and are species specific" (303 - 304) And further that, "Fringelites and fossil polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons are ideal candidates to function as this proxy for phylogenetic reconstruction in echinoderm fossils" (303 - 304).
Sprinkle, Guensburg and Gahn discuss early Ordovician crinoids in their work, "Overview of Early Ordovician Crinoid Diversity From the Western and Southwestern United States." The fauna discussed compares the subject crinoids to their Cambrian predecessors and their Late Ordovician descendants. Through recent collecting the authors have been able to amass the largest collection of crinoids from the western United States than had previously been available. Notable acknowledged contributors to the building of this collection were both commercial and amateur collectors along with a number of students and professional paleontologists. Sprinkle, Guensburg and Gahn state that, "Laurentia [roughly the North American continent] was clearly a center for the major initial diversification on Ordovician crinoids" (325). It is interesting to note the described morphology of these earlier Ordovician crinoids and contrast that with the Late Ordovician fauna. This chapter is sparsely illustrated with two drawn figures.
Donovan, Lewis, Widdison and Fearnhead have contributed a chapter on the diverse Silurian crinoids of the British Isles in, "Ever Since Ramsbottom: Silurian Crinoids of the British Isles Since 1954." Much early work on the Silurian crinoids of the British Isles was done by W. H. C. Ramsbottom in the 1950's but, as the authors point out, much of his work has not been published in an extensive monographic form. This paper is not that monograph but is intended ". . . to introduce a wider audience to the full array of British Silurian crinoids and to highlight the importance of Ramsbottom's doctoral research" (331). Included are three photographs of a number of the Silurian crinoids that at least in appearance, if not also in genera, will be familiar to North American collectors.
Echinoderm Paleobiology includes seventeen chapters, many of which are not included in this review. Most papers concentrate on crinoid fauna but at least three involve echinoids. The concentration is also heavily North American. Chapter 15 by Donovan, et. al., described above and Chapter 16 "Overview of Paleozoic Stemmed Echinoderms from China" by Waters, Marcus, Maples, Lane, Hou, Liao, Wang and Liu are the exceptions.
This is a book by professionals for professionals in the field of echinoderm studies. There are many well-read amateurs who have become serious students of the echinoderms that will find Echinoderm Paleobiology to be a useful reference. I recommend this book to any collector wishing to gain more knowledge about fossil echinoderms.
Readability - For professionals and very serious amateurs.
On the Upside - Presents some of the latest information on a wide range of echinoderms. Includes taphonomic studies of modern echinoderms that can be related to paleontological research. Illustrates how paleontological studies can infer the life habits of long extinct creatures.
On the Downside - The technical nature of some of the presentations is beyond most casual readers.
Overall Rating - Recommended for professional level readers and the well studied amateur enthusiasts interested in fossil echinoderms.