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Authors: Simon J. Knell

The Great Fossil Enigma

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LIFE OF THE PAST

James O. Farlow, editor

THE GREAT
FOSSIL ENIGMA

The Search for the Conodont Animal

SIMON J. KNELL

INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS
    
Bloomington
&
Indianapolis

Illus., p. vi: Pinhead fossils.
This scanning electron microscope image of conodont fossils on a dressmaking pin became an iconic image in those years after the animal had been discovered. Photo: Mark Purnell, University of Leicester.

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© 2013 by Simon J. Knell

 

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No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses' Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.

 

The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences – Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials,
ANSI
Z39.48–1992.

Manufactured in the
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Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 

Knell, Simon J.

    The great fossil enigma : the search for the conodont animal / Simon J. Knell.
pages cm – (Life of the past)

Includes bibliographical references and
index.

ISBN
978-0-253-00604-2 (cloth : alk. paper)

ISBN
978-0-253-00606-6 (ebook)

    1. Conodonts. 2. Science – Social aspects. I. Title.

 

QE
899.2.C65K59 2012

562′.2 – dc23

2012016799

 

 

 

 

 

1  2  3  4  5  18  17  16  15  14  13

 

 

 

FOR THE
HARBINGERS OF SPRING
AND
ALL WHO WONDERED

Contents

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PREFACE & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

PRELUDE: THE IMPOSSIBLE ANIMAL

1 ·
THE ROAD TO EL DORADO

The fossil is found – the search begins – Pander's chicks – a friend of Murchison – Pander sees teeth and imagines fishes – others see trilobites, sea cucumbers – Owen sees anything but fish – Harley sees crustaceans – Moore in paleontological ecstasy – the fossil arrives in Cincinnati – Newberry sees fish – Grinnell misses Custer's Last Stand – Ulrich denies the fish and sees a worm – Hinde proves the fish – Smith's surprise – Huxley's encouragement – Zittel and Rohon murder the fish and see a worm.

2 ·
A BEACON IN THE BLACKNESS

Oil enters the American soul – fossils take on economic importance – microfossils take center stage – scientific worth of conodonts recognized – the black shales problem – godlike Ulrich vs. Kindle – Bryant's fishes – Hibbard's washing machine – Ulrich and Bassler's proof of method – Stauffer's chance discovery – Gunnell's vision of the future – Chalmer Cooper the disciple – Branson and Mehl's big campaign – Huddle's accidental beginnings – an index discovered –
Icriodus
the ideal – Cooper's cellophane fossils – contamination – Ellison's logic.

3 ·
THE ANIMAL WITH THREE HEADS

The fight for biological paleontology begins – Croneis's influence – the geography of thinking – Macfarlane's conodont oil theory – giant conodonts – Kirk finds bone – Gunnell's imaginings – Eichenberg's novel idea – Schmidt's assemblage – Stadtmüller's influence – Scott finds oil, earthquake and assemblage, and worm – Jones finds assemblages and Denham thinks of sex – Ulrich and Bassler in denial – Loomis and Pilsbry see snails – Demanet finds the fish – Cullison's remarkable jaw.

4.
ANOTHER FINE MESS

Looking inside the fossil – chemistry like bone – Stauffer loses his teeth – Hass sees extraordinary detail – knowing the animal becomes impossible – more Ellison logic – Scott attempts to convince skeptics – Du Bois sees flesh – Germany plays catch up – Beckmann adopts German fish – Schmidt stuck in the past – Rhodes makes the assemblage a reality – a fine mess.

5.
OUTLAWS

A chaos of names – the rights of nuts and bolts – Croneis's military order – the problematic Commission – Rhodes's duel with Sinclair – Lange's revolutionary worm teeth – Sylvester Bradley and Moore's parataxa – the solution to illegality is to change the law – the
Treatise
– Moore spells trouble – Arkell's ammonites join the cause – arguments get political – the plan is thrown out – Moore explains how to ignore the problem.

6.
SPRING

Postwar optimism and the fifties generation – Rhodes's overview of the problem and the future – Müller's war – Gross's influence – Cooper pioneers acids – acids take hold and the conodont world is turned on its head – Beckmann's technique – Gross finishes off the dying fish – Schindewolf rises to power – the magic mountain – Müller in the Devonian – Beckmann reveals the German future – the rush for glory begins – Ziegler starts his meteoric rise – Müller escapes to the Carnic Alps – Walliser's energy – Lindström the schoolboy geologist – Sweet changes track and meets Bergström.

7.
DIARY OF A FOSSIL FRUIT FLY

A fossil's evolution – Simpson's evolution – naive evolution – Haldane and Dobzhansky – New Paleontology – the problem of species – Müller's evolving fossils – Helms's evolutionary details – fruit flies – Ziegler's universal timescale – Ziegler begins global campaign – a little setback – the conodont becomes mainstream – the Pander Society formed – Müller's Cambrian exotica – Youngquist's Triassic proofs – the Cretaceous seems possible – Japanese Jurassic fossils – Mosher reveals fantasies – Gould and Eldridge deny conodonts' evolutionary journey – Klapper and Johnson enter the fray – conodont workers march on regardless.

8.
FEARS OF CIVIL WAR

Ziegler's mountain – Rhodes begins to construct the skeleton – Huckreide and Walliser do the same – Bergström and Sweet see skeletons too – Lindström's symmetry transitions – Rexroad and Nicoll's fused fossils – Bergström and Sweet take a stand – Schopf and Webers join them – Ziegler's world explodes – Lange's critical fossils – Pollock's clusters – Lane's symmetry – Kohut's numbers – arguing with Ziegler in Ohio – fears of fractricide – the Marburg peace accord – learning to speak a new language – Parataxa reappear – the “troublesome” Melville – Aldridge's diplomacy – Sweet's magnificent letter – Melville's astonishment – the turncoats.

9.
THE PROMISED LAND

The promise of ecology – conodonts are like God – Rexroad's provinces – Lindström's honeymoon and Rosetta Stone – Sweet's great campaign – Bergström's Swedish American fossils – Bergström and Sweet's animal migrations – Schopf's models – Glenister and Klapper's Canning Basin – Druce in the field – Seddon's reef ecology – Seddon and Sweet's arrow worms – Druce's modifications – more problems for Ziegler – Merrill's changing ecology – the disruption of tectonic plates – Valentine's influence – Barnes and company put theory into practice – Waterloo – Jeppsson's seasonal migrations – rising doubts about ecology.

10.
THE WITNESS

Catastrophism and color – Epstein acquires color vision – Alvarez and the asteroid – Schindewolf's extraterrestrial causes – Walliser's global events – Golden Spikes – MacLaren's asteroid – Clark's index of evolution – Fåhræus's ballet – Walliser joins a club – Kellwasser – Ziegler, Sandberg, and Dreesen imagine another world – Jeppsson's island and his big idea.

11.
THE BEAST OF BEAR GULCH

Man lands on the moon and the animal is found – the false dawn of Scott's blebs – Lange's mistake – Melton and Horner's fish – strange fossils – the Chicago sensation – the rumor of Scott's kidnap of Melton – Scott and Melton's friendship – getting funds – the truth of Melton – trouble brews – Huddle's doubts – closing ranks – publicity – writing up – Riedl's alternative – trouble in the quarry – Horner and Lower – East Lansing – news spreads of the discovery – yet more trouble – the paper disappears in a snow storm – errors in publication – thrilled readers and the indigestible meatball.

12.
THE INVENTION OF LIFE

Models of animals – the purpose of the tiny fossils – Fahlbusch's algae and little victory – Nease's plants – Gross's animal-less conodont – Lindström's first animal – the rush for the
S E M
– Müller and Nogami's art – Lindström's tentacled worm – Rietschel's jaws – Lindström's grand thought experiment and tiny barrel – Conway Morris's conodont animal – denying Melton and Scott – Priddle looks to the lamprey – Bischoff introduces yet more animals – Hofker looks to the soil – Bengtson's new teeth – Landing's superteeth – Nicoll's filter – Hitchings, Ramsay, and Scott design filters – Jeppsson's teeth – Szaniawski's influential arrow worms.

13.
EL DORADO

Finding the real animal – the shock of the old – Clarkson's puzzle – the Mazon Creek clue – meeting with Briggs – Halstead and the rumor – Aldridge's luck – the first paper – Aldridge joins up – Clark's extraordinary eye – rumors spread – the Conodont Animal – revisiting models – Dzik and Drygant remove the arrow worm – Janvier's critique – Nicoll's view – vandalism – the Waukesha animal – Nottingham – Smith strengthens the team – Norby's model – rebuilding the apparatus – separating fact from myth – strengthening interpretations – Dzik asserts the vertebrate – Tillier and Cuif's strange mollusks – Sweet's critique – Aldridge and Briggs's repost.

14.
OVER THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON

The journey to the vertebrate – strange plants in the Cedarberg Mountains – Rickards's intervention – Aldridge's luck (again) – Theron's collaboration – African giants – Gabbott and Purnell strengthen the team – Gabbott's triumph – Kreja's helping hand – Moya Smith's expertise – Sansom's remarkable discovery – the conodont vertebrate becomes a reality – views of the fossil past are shaken – Purnell's bite – Briggs and Kear watch the dead – evidence continues to build – Donoghue's attention to detail – the animal becomes an alien – the vertebrate enters the grand narrative of life – a gathering storm – is this El Dorado after all?

AFTERWORD: THE PROGRESS OF TINY THINGS

NOTES

INDEX

BOOK: The Great Fossil Enigma
2.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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