Mittwoch, 17. Dezember 2008

Fieldwork Photo of the Week

Excursion group 2008 and Madygen badlands, close to the boundary between "Variegated Member" (T3) and "Upper Graycolored Member" (T4) of the Madygen Formation (subdivision of Dobruskina 1995).
The transitional zone includes sandstone horizons with large-scale x beds.

Dienstag, 9. Dezember 2008

Madygen: Recent contributions to symposia

12th International Palynological Congress, Bonn 2008:

Philippe Moisan, Hans Kerp, Sebastian Voigt, Benjamin Bomfleur: The fossil flora of the Madygen Formation from the Middle to Upper Triassic, Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia. Terra Nostra 2008/2: 194

Abstract. The Middle to Late Triassic Madygen Formation (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia) is a unique fossil lagerstaette for Early Mesozoic insect remains and small reptiles with soft-tissue preservation. Plant fossils from these deposits from are known since the 1930s and constitute one of the richest and most diverse Triassic floras of Eurasia. However, they received very little attention to date and their studies have to date been based on macromorphological features only. We present the first record of epidermal features of this diverse Triassic flora based on recently recovered fossil plant material. Many of the Madygen plant fossils show a highly remarkable preservation. Due to its very fine grain-size, the embedding sediment has often formed a natural cast of the epidermal cell pattern. Such epidermal features allow detailed systematic descriptions as well as palaeoecological interpretations. This fossil flora is dominated by pteridosperms, ginkgophytes, and sphenophytes. In addition, algae, mosses, lycophytes and ferns occur and many are new for this fossil flora. The high abundance of fructifications is of particular interest. Another important aspect of the Madygen flora is that many gymnosperm leaves show evidence for plant-insect interactions (e.g. margin feeding, oviposition, mining traces). The supposed Middle to Late Triassic age of the flora coincides with one of the most important herbivore expansions in the fossil record. However, while this phenomenon has been recognised in the Middle and Upper Triassic of the USA, Western Europe, and South Africa, no data are available from coeval Central Asian sequences. The on-going study aims to provide a revised systematic description of the plants, including epidermal features to characterise the palaeoecosystem of the Madygen lagerstaette in more detail, and to contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of plant-animal interactions during the Early Mesozoic.

Ichnia, Cracow 2008:

Voigt, S., Buchwitz, M.: On the Mermia ichnofacies in a Triassic overfilled lake-basin of Southern Fergana (Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia). Ichnia 2008, Cracow (Poland), September 1- 5

Fluvio-lacustrine deposits of the Madygen Formation on the northern rim of the Turkestan Mountains in southwestern Kyrgyzstan are one of the few occurrences of Triassic continental strata in Central Asia. During the 1960s Russian palaeobiologists successfully explored the stratum typicum area of the Madygen Formation for macrofossils, unearthing a remarkably rich Early Mesozoic flora, thousands of insect remains, and unusual reptiles with soft-tissue preservation (Dobruskina, 1995). Considering the number, diversity and preservation of the finds, the locality represents a lagerstaette. Lacking investigations on the geological and palaeoecological background of the findings, however, its particular importance for the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems has not yet been revealed. Thus, a comprehensive approach on the Madygen ecosystem including a detailed facial analysis of the fossil-bearing strata is currently carried out.
The Madygen Formation is an up to 500 m thick series of predominantly siliciclastic rocks, which formed in an intermontane basin under humid to semi-humid climatic conditions. Sedimentary successions are composed of alluvial fan conglomerates, channel sandstones and overbank fines with intercalated coal seams of a highly-vegetated alluvial plain, as well as deltaic sandstones and laminated lacustrine mudstones of basin centre. Shallowing upward sequences and various other features, e.g. dense vegetation, wet soils, and the lack of desiccation cracks, typify the depositional environment of the Madygen Formation as an overfilled lake-basin sensu Bohacs et al. (2000).
Though they were never mentioned in earlier palaeontological reports, trace fossils of the Mermia ichnofacies belong to the most common phenomena of the Madygen fossil assemblage. Networks of tiny, irregularly branched burrows with high bedding-parallel extension are ubiquitous in the laminated mudstones of the lake deposits. Architecture and size of the burrows indicate deposit-feeding, worm-like trace makers such as the extant oligochaetes and aquatic insect larvae. The bioturbation maximum is recorded in mudstones of the transitional sublittoral to profundal lake zone which probably included a chemocline as in some modern stratified lakes. More shallow but clearly submerged parts of the lake were occupied by benthic ostracods and kazacharthra - triopsid-like branchiopods which are thought to be endemic to the Mesozoic of Central Asia (Chen et al., 1996). Body imprints of the kazacharthra occur spatially close to ribbon- and sickle-shaped trace fossils. We are attributing these traces to different types of kazachartran feeding activity: (1) grazing if the ground water layer is well aerated and (2) short-term mud-diving under oxygen-depleted conditions. All ichnia – the shallow penetrative traces and the presumable kazacharthran traces – were produced in the permanently subaquatic environment of a sizeable lake with a minimum length of 1.7 km. The restriction of trace types to a certain ground level relative to the chemocline may yield a basic approach for the subdivision of the Mermia ichnofacies.

German Paleontological Society Meeting, Erlangen 2008:

Voigt, S., Buchwitz, M., Fischer, J., Krause, D.: Longisquama's dorsal skin appendages: new finds from the type locality. Erlanger Geologische Abhandlungen, Sonderband 6: 117

Abstract. During the 1960s Russian palaeobiologists discovered two incomplete diapsid skeletons with skin impressions in lacustrine shales of the Triassic Madygen Formation, a continental sedimentary succession in southwest Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia. Described by A.G. Sharov in 1970 and 1971 the two finds became known for the uniqueness of the species they represent: While Sharovipteryx mirabilis was an early limb-supported reptilian glider with an exceptionally large uropatagium and probably an archosauromorph, Longisquama insignis, whose systematic position is still controversial, displays a series of elongate hockey-stick-shaped skin projections, rooting along the dorsal midline of the body. The appendages are structurally complex and some morphological features, e.g. the presence of a middle axis and the assumed branching, have motivated their comparison with avian feathers. Apart from four Longisquama paratype specimens with isolated skin appendages no further material belonging to one of the two diapsid species has ever been documented.
Here we report three new finds of the Longisquama appendages which have been recovered from the type locality in the northwestern Madygen outcrop area (Urochishche Dzhaylyau-Cho) during fieldwork in 2007: The single exemplar FG 596/V/1 has a length of 28.9 cm, exceeding all other known specimens by at least 100%. Comparable to the appendages of the holotype it comprises a narrow and relatively long proximal section with a tripartite appearance and a relatively short and wide distal section whose two corrugated longitudinal lobes are separated by a prominent middle axis. The apical end and the basal end are not preserved. FG 596/V/2 and FG 596/V/3 represent 3.6 and 3.7 cm long fragments of the distal section. In FG 596/V/1 and FG 596/V/3 the imprints on the left slab and right slab enclose a thin continuous sedimentary core, a feature which has been regarded as indicative for the overall membranous constitution of the appendages.
Especially the very long specimen FG 596/V/1 has some importance for the developmental and functional interpretation of Longisquama’s skin structures: Exceeding the proximal width of other dorsal appendages by only a small amount its length/ basal width ratio is conspicuously high (>50). This can be interpreted as a consequence of uniaxial growth with the constricted proximal and the extended distal section representing two distinct phases of a developmental cycle. Considering the shape and dimensions of FG 596/V/1 we find no easy explanation how the appendages could have formed a closed and stable airfoil, let alone one which produces enough lift to support gliding flight as assumed by the exponents of the hypothesis of a two-wing airborne Longisquama.

Buchwitz, M., Voigt S.: Dermal plates of a Triassic chroniosuchian with unique articulation mechanism. Erlanger Geologische Abhandlungen, Sonderband 6: 24

Montag, 8. Dezember 2008

Fieldwork Photo of the Week

Northern Alay Chain, Batken District, SW Kyrgyzstan.

Standing on massive Devonian limestones we are looking to the NNW. On the right you can see the greenish Madygen river oasis bearing a few farms and fruit plantations. On the left: the badlands represent the SW outcrop area of the Triassic Madygen Formation.

To the north and northwest reddish strata and ribs of Cretaceous conglomerate follow which overlie a narrow stripe of Jurassic. Than there is a succession of mostly Cenozoic rocks forming the core of a syncline.

In the distance you can see larger massifs of mostly Paleozoic schists, limestones and conglomerates. And then there is the greenish plain to the northwest marking another outcrop of fineclastic sediments.

This is Dzhaylyau-Cho ("good meadow"), the NW outcrop area of the Madygen Fm, including "Sharov Quarry" as the most famous locality for insects and tetrapods.

Can you see the artificial band-like wall to the west of the Madygen oasis - this is some relic from ancient times (built under Alexander the Great according to a myth).

Montag, 1. Dezember 2008

Fieldwork Photo of the Week

Two pix from the field camp:

The clubroom buildung, now fully erect and in use. In green: Our cook Ludmilla from Osh.

The penultimate act of packing and repacking one day before the end of the expedition.