Trace fossils Lockeia siliquaria James, Ophiomorpha nodosa Lundgren, Parataenidium seymourensis isp. n., Protovirgularia rugosa (Miller and Dyer) and Rhizocorallium jenense Zenker have been described for the first time from the Eocene La Meseta Formation of Seymour (Marambio) Island, Antarctic Peninsula . Determinations of some trace fossils formerly described from this formation have been revised. The whole trace fossils association from the La Meseta Formation points to foreshore-offshore environment as indicated by presence of the Skolithos and Cruziana ichnofacies, and to at least temporal normal salinity.
Remains referred to Phorusrhacidae from the Cretaceous and Paleogene of the Antarctic Peninsula, and mainly known through informal and succinct descriptions, are reassigned here to other bird lineages recorded in the Antarctic continent. New records of ratites, pelagornithid birds, and penguins are added to the Upper Eocene avifauna of Seymour Island. Moreover, the original allocation for an alleged cursorial seriema−like bird from the Maastrichtian of Vega Island is refuted, and its affinities with foot−propelled diving birds are indicated. The indeterminate Pelagornithidae specimen represents the largest pseudo−toothed bird known so far. It is concluded that there is no empirical evidence for the presence of terror birds in Antarctica.
Early Palaeocene through early Eocene silicoflagellate assemblages were examined from five southern subtropical through subpolar deep-sea sites: DSDP Holes 208 and 524, and ODP Holes 700B, 752A, and 1121B. For each site, the taxonomic composition of the silicoflagellate assemblage is documented in detail; Pseudonaviculopsis gen. nov., Dictyocha castellum sp. nov. and Stephanocha? fulbrightii sp. nov. are proposed, along with several new combinations. More importantly, however, these observations enable a considerable refinement to the existing Palaeocene–Eocene silicoflagellate biostratigraphic zonation that for the first time uses datums calibrated to the Geomagnetic Polarity Timescale. The Corbisema aspera Interval Zone occurs immediately above the K/Pg boundary and is here described from Seymour Island. The Corbisema hastata Partial Range Zone extends from near the K/Pg boundary to late early Palaeocene and has been observed in Hole 208. The Pseudonaviculopsis disymmetrica Acme Zone occurs in Holes 208 and 700B. The Dictyocha precarentis Partial Range Zone, observed in Holes 208, 700B, 752A and 1121B, is subdivided into D. precarentis, Naviculopsis primativa, N. cruciata and Pseudonaviculopsis constricta subzones. The Naviculopsis constricta Partial Range Zone occurs in Holes 524, 700B, 752A and 1121B. This study is also the first to consider syn- and/or diachroneity in Palaeogene silicoflagellate biostratigraphy.
The tarsometatarsus, a compound bone from the lower leg in birds, is the most important skeletal element in fossil penguin taxonomy, especially in the case of early members of this group. However, any attempt to go beyond the problem of mere classification obviously requires the better understanding of osteological traits under consideration. This in turn touches on the issue of interplay between bone and concomitant soft−tissue structures, such as muscles, tendons and vessels. This paper focuses on the more holistic comprehension of the tarsometatarsal section of the Eocene penguin foot, based on the analysis of the myology and the vascular system of its modern counterparts. A number of graphical reconstructions are provided with a discussion of the role of the hypotarsus and inter− metatarsal foramina.
Body size is an important measure in biology and especially in paleobiology. With respect to fossil penguins from the Eocene La Meseta Formation of Seymour Island (West Antarctica) the overall size has to be judged from the dimensions of single bones. The analysis based on selected measurements of hind limb bones from the Polish collection of Eocene Antarctic penguins yielded results supporting predictions published formerly. Estimated body masses and lengths indicate that mean interspecific body size of extinct Antarctic Spheniscidae exceeded that of Recent species.
One of the most significant global climatic events in the Cenozoic was the transition from greenhouse to icehouse conditions in Antarctica. Tectonic evolution of the region and gradual cooling at the end of Eocene led to the first appearance of ice sheets at the Eocene/Oligocene boundary (ca. 34 Ma). Here we report geological record of mountain glaciers that preceded major ice sheet formation in Antarctica. A terrestrial, valley-type tillite up to 65 metres thick was revealed between two basaltic lava sequences in the Eocene– Oligocene Point Thomas Formation at Hervé Cove – Breccia Crag in Admiralty Bay, King George Island, South Shetland Islands. K-Ar dating of the lavas suggests the age of the glaciation at 45–41 Ma (Middle Eocene). It is the oldest Cenozoic record of alpine glaciers in West Antarctica, providing insight into the onset of glaciation of the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.
The loose, small zooecia of the cheilostome bryozoans have been discovered in the lowermost part of the La Meseta Formation on Seymour (Marambio) Island. They systematically include the representatives of Beanidae Canu et Bassler, Catenicellidae Busk, Savignyellidae Levinsen, and Calwelliidae MacGillivra y. The bryozoan assemblage is comprised of separate, small−sized internal moulds dominated by distinct, boat−shaped zooecia belonging to Beania , scarce, unizooidal internodes tentatively included into a ditaxiporine catenicellid ? Vasignyella , and representative of the family Savignyellidae. A few branched segments composed of multiserial zooecia arranged back to back were tentatively incorporated into ? Malakosaria . Beania , marks the oldest fossil record, whereas representatives of Savignyellidae along with ditaxiporine catenicellid and ? Malakosaria are for the first time reported from Antarctica. The relationship between the taxonomic composition, colony growth−patterns rep− resented by membraniporiform/petraliform, catenicelliform and cellariform, along with associated biota and sedimentary structures of the La Meseta Formation implies nearshore environment, with considerable wave action, and warm climatic conditions.
The only record of the Paleogene Antarctic Sphenisciformes comes from the Eocene La Meseta Formation (Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula). The analysis of tarso− metatarsi attributed to the genus Anthropornis (“giant” penguins) from the Argentine, Polish and Swedish collections revealed an intriguing heterogeneity within these taxonomically important elements of the skeleton. The unique hypotarsal morphology challenges the current systematics of large−bodied penguins and sheds new light on their evolution.
Isolated and fragmented jaws, a single basioccipitale and vertebrae of the Gadiformes, indeterminate family and genus, are described from Eocene sediments of the La Meseta Formation, Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Based on the dentition and other characters of both jaws they are assigned an informal name of „Mesetaichthys". The remaining isolated bones belong probably to the same form.
Skeletal remains of penguins from the Eocene La Meseta Formation (Seymour Island, Antarctica) constitute the only extensive fossil record of Antarctic Sphenisciformes. No articulated skeletons are known, and almost all fossils occur as single isolated elements. Most of the named species are based on tarsometatarsi (for which the taxonomy was revised in 2002). Here, 694 bones (from the Polish collection) other than tarsometatarsi are reviewed, and allocated to species. They confirm previous conclusions and suggest that ten species grouped in six genera are a minimal reliable estimate of the Eocene Antarctic penguin diversity. The species are: Anthropornis grandis, A. nordenskjoeldi, Archaeospheniscus wimani, Delphinornis arctowskii, D. gracilis, D. larseni, Marambiornis exilis, Mesetaornis polaris, Palaeeudyptes gunnari and P. klekowskii. Moreover, diagnoses of four genera (Anthropornis, Archaeospheniscus, Delphinornis and Palaeeudyptes) and two species (P. gunnari and P. klekowskii) are supplemented with additional, non-tarsometatarsal features. Four species of the smallest penguins from the La Meseta Formation (D. arctowskii, D. gracilis, M. exilis and M. polaris) seem to be the youngest taxa within the studied assemblage - their remains come exclusively from the uppermost unit of the formation. All ten recognized species may have co-existed in the Antarctic Peninsula region during the Late Eocene epoch.
Penguin bones from the La Meseta Formation (Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula) are the only record of Eocene Antarctic Sphenisciformes. Being an abundant component of the youngest unit of the formation (Telm7), they are not so common in earlier strata. Here, I present the oldest penguin remains from the La Meseta Formation (Telm1-Telm2), often bearing close resemblance to their counterparts from younger units. Addressing the recent findings in fossil penguin systematics, I suggest there is too weak a basis for erecting new Eocene Antarctic taxa based on non-tarsometatarsal elements of penguin skeletons, and considering Oligocene species part of the studied assemblage. Finally, I conclude if the common ancestor of extant Sphenisciformes lived in the Eocene Antarctic (as suggested recently), penguins referred to Delphinornis seem to be prime candidates to that position.
Eocene penguin remains from Seymour Island (Antarctica) are so far the oldest−known record of extinct Sphenisciformes. Rich Argentineand Polish collections of penguin bones from the La Meseta Formation are taxonomically revised on tarsometatarsal morphology. Two genera and four species are erected: Mesetaornis polarisgen. et sp. n., Marambiornis exilisgen. et sp. n., Delphinornis arctowskiisp. n. and D. gracilissp. n. Moreover, the diagnoses of already described species: Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi, A. grandis, Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, P. gunnari, Archaeospheniscus wimani and Delphinornis larseniare revised as well. Gradual cooling of climate, changes of environment andtrophic relationships, that lasted several millions years, were most probably responsible forthe intense speciation and taxonomic diversification of the Middle–Late Eocene La Meseta penguins.
A few specimens of a macroporid bryozoan were collected, from the Eocene La Meseta Formation from Seymour (Marambio) Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Based on the morphology of the studied specimens Macropora antarctica sp.n. has been erected. This is the stratigraphically oldest species of the genus which exhibits a number of similarities with the Tertiary fossils and some Recent macroporids reported from the Southern Hemisphere i.e., Australia, New Zealand and South America.
The fossil record of Antarctic Sphenisciformes dates as early as the late Palaeocene Cross Valley Formation, Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. However, the best known Antarctic locality for early penguin remains (mainly isolated bones) is the Eocene La Meseta Formation that outcrops in the northeast of Seymour Island. The analysis of an unstudied set of specimens collected there by members of the British Antarctic Survey in 1989 has resulted in identification of a distal humerus from the unit Telm3 (early Eocene) of the formation that is the oldest known bone attributable to a medium−sized (in the context of the entire Cainozoic era) penguin. This find suggests that the origin of these birds, in con− junction with an increase in taxonomic diversity of the Eocene Sphenisciformes, was related to the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO) or, more probably, the early phase of subsequent cooling.
The fossil record of the Antarctic penguins is dated to the late Paleocene of Seymour (Marambio) Island, but the largest sphenisciforms, genera Anthropornis and Palaeeudyptes , originate from the Eocene La Meseta Formation. Here, the most complete large−scale reconstruction of a limb skeleton (a whole wing and a partial hind leg) of a Paleogene Antarctic penguin is reported. All bones are attributable to a single individual identified as Anthropornis sp. The comparative and functional analyses of the material indicate that this bird was most probably well−adapted to land and sea while having a number of intriguing features. The modern−grade carpometacarpal morphology is unique among known Eocene Antarctic species and all but one more northerly taxa.
Radiometric and geochemical studies were carried out at Red Hill in the southern part of King George Island (South Shetland Islands, northern Antarctic Peninsula) on the Bransfield Strait coast. The rock succession at Red Hill has been determined to represent the Baranowski Glacier Group that was previously assigned a Late Cretaceous age. Two formations were distinguished within this succession: the lower Llano Point Formation and the upper Zamek Formation. These formations have stratotypes defined further to the north on the western coast of Admiralty Bay. On Red Hill the Llano Point Formation consists of terrestrial lavas and pyroclastic breccia; the Zamek Formation consist predominantly of fine to coarse tuff, pyroclastic breccia, lavas, tuffaceous mud− , silt−, and sandstone, locally conglomeratic. The lower part of the Zamek Formation contains plant detritus (Nothofagus , dicotyledonous, thermophilous ferns) and numerous coal seams (vitrinitic composition) that confirm the abundance of vegetation on stratovolcanic slopes and surrounding lowlands at that time. Selected basic to intermediate igneous rocks from the succession have been analysed for the whole−rock K−Ar age determination. The obtained results indicate that the Red Hill succession was formed in two stages: (1) from about 51–50 Ma; and (2) 46–42 Ma, i.e. during the Early to Middle Eocene. This, in combination with other data obtained from other Baranowski Glacier Group exposures on western coast of Admiralty Bay, confirms the recently defined position of the volcano−clastic succession in the stratigraphic scheme of King George Island. The new stratigraphic position and lithofacies development of the Red Hill succession strongly suggest its correlation with other Eocene formations containing fossil plants and coal seams that commonly occur on King George Island.
New evidence of Eocene preglacial environments has been found on the southern coast of Ezcurra Inlet on King George Island, South Shetland Islands, West Antarctica. Plant remains (trunks, leaves, detritus) and carbonaceous seams and beds occur in sedimentary strata in a 4 km long Cytadela outcrop of the Point Thomas Formation. They are an evidence for the presence and diversity of terrestrial vegetation in the northern Antarctic Peninsula region. The forests were composed mostly of Podocarpaceae– Araucaria – Nothofagus , with an undergrowth of hygrophilous and thermophilous ferns, and grew on volcanic slopes and surrounding lowland areas of King George Island during breaks in volcanic activity. The succession that crops out at Cytadela provides a record of changing climatic conditions from a warm and wet climate with extensive vegetation to a much drier climate with limited vegetation and ubiquitous weathering of volcanic bedrock. The geochemical indices of weathering (CIA, PIA and CIW) have narrow and relatively high value ranges (76–88), suggesting moderate to high chemical weathering under warm and humid climate conditions. The decrease in humidity and the decline in plant life through the succession can be related to the gradually cooling climate preceding development of the Oligocene ice cover across the Antarctic continent.
Pyrite framboids occur in loose blocks of plant−bearing clastic rocks related to volcano−sedimentary succession of the Mount Wawel Formation (Eocene) in the Dragon and Wanda glaciers area at Admiralty Bay, King George Island, West Antarctica. They were investigated by means of optical and scanning electron microscopy, energy−dispersive spectroscopy, X−ray diffraction, and isotopic analysis of pyritic sulphur. The results suggest that the pyrite formed as a result of production of hydrogen sulphide by sulphate reducing bacteria in near surface sedimentary environments. Strongly negative #2;34SVCDT values of pyrite (−30 – −25 ‰) support its bacterial origin. Perfect shapes of framboids resulted from their growth in the open pore space of clastic sediments. The abundance of framboids at cer− tain sedimentary levels and the lack or negligible content of euhedral pyrite suggest pulses of high supersaturation with respect to iron monosulphides. The dominance of framboids of small sizes (8–16 μm) and their homogeneous distribution at these levels point to recurrent development of a laterally continuous anoxic sulphidic zone below the sediment surface. Sedimentary environments of the Mount Wawel Formation developed on islands of the young magmatic arc in the northern Antarctic Peninsula region. They embraced stagnant and flowing water masses and swamps located in valleys, depressions, and coastal areas that were covered by dense vegetation. Extensive deposition and diagenesis of plant detritus in these environments promoted anoxic conditions in the sediments, and a supply of marine and/or volcanogenic sulphate enabled its bacterial reduction, precipitation of iron mono− sulphides, and their transformation to pyrite framboids.
An isolated, deciduous incisor of an archaic whale found in the upper part of the La Meseta Formation (Telm7) is tentatively assigned to the Archaeoceti. The strata from which the tooth was recovered are of Late Eocene (Priabonian) age, and previous reports indicate that they contain the remains of Dorudontinae (Archaeoceti) and Llanocetidae (Mysticeti). The tooth is similar in shape, size and ornamentation to the milk teeth of Zygorhiza. The enamel is mostly prismatic, with prism sheats generally open, except for the outermost layer, which is aprismatic. The Schmelzmuster consists of radial and decussating enamel types. The decussating zone has distinct Hunter-Schreger bands (HSB), usually consisting of 1012 prisms. It is bordered by an external zone built of radial enamel extending for 22% of the enamel thickness and an internal, starting zone, with less developed HSB, occupying 9% of the enamel thickness. The interprismatic matrix is parallel to the prism direction. An archaeocete origin of the tooth is suggested by its enamel features, typical for the group. However, additional study of the Llanocetidae enamel structure is needed for final identification.
Until now Eocene chimeroid holocephalians of Antarctica have been known from only a few specimens attributed to two species from the Eocene of Seymour Island. New material collected by Polish and English field parties includes numerous tooth plates and fin spine fragments from the Eocene La Meseta Formation. We describe a new species, Callorhinchus stahli, based on two mandibular and a single fragmentary palatine tooth plate. In addition, the stratigraphic distribution and diversity of Eocene Antarctic chimeroids is discussed. The chimeroid Ischyodus shows the greatest stratigraphic distribution with its greatest abundance in the middle parts of the La Meseta Formation while Chimaera and Callorhinchus are restricted to the lower ones. Changes in the environment and habitat availability most probably triggered the distributional pattern and the disappearance of chimeroids.