Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quick Notes on Brachiopods

By Blake Reher
Junior Member of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society

The brachiopods lived in shallow marine water, and its fossil looks like a symmetrical shell.   The frontal view of the Brachiopod looks like a butterfly with outstretched wings. The wingspan measures 2.5 cm.  When looking at a brachiopod sideways it looks like two shells that were somewhat symmetric and have a hinge separating the two sides.  The depth measures 1 cm.   It has a groove in it called a sulcus that separates the right and left sides (wings).  The many ridges or lines are labeled growth lines similar to tree rings. 

Figure 1. Brachiopod specimen. Genus:
Mucrospirifer; Species: thedfordensis.
 Collection of Blaker Reher. Photo © by Blake Reher

The opposite side of the shell has a protruding ridge on it.  The shell is not symmetrical because one side protrudes in and the other side protrudes out.

Figure 2. Diagram of a brachiopod specimen.
Information is scarce on young brachiopods still in the larval stage.  It may have been because their shell was not hard and did not calcify and become a fossil. 

Figure 3. The articulate brachiopod. The various parts
 of the organism are identified in this diagram.

An adult brachiopod was considered a filter feeder, similar to many types of whales that open their mouths and feed on brills from the seawater they swallow. The whale is mobile while the brachiopod was not.  A brachiopod has a pedicle that attaches to the pedicle valve and on the other side attaches to a surface.  This would allow the brachiopod to get off the muddy bottom of the oceans floor to gain a better leverage to open its two brachial valves and ingest water. 
The inside of the shell consists of a spiral like organ called a lophophore. The lophophore was like a pump that allowed the water to pump through the body cavity to recover food particles. It also aided in respiration.  Several muscles were also in the cavity of the brachiopod, to open and close its mouth, and to aid in digesting food and also attaching to objects. 
The brachiopods were most plentiful in the Devonian Period. During the great dying event of the Permian Period most of marine life died. The great dying period was thought to be because of volcanic eruptions and the earth being smothered by ash and filled with dangerous hot gases being present on earth. This destroyed many life forms including most orders of brachiopods.  The specimen studied was found in Arkona, Ontario, Canada. This is near the Great Lake, Huron. Similar fossils found in China are called Shih-yen or Stone Swallows. In the European Alps, similar fossils are called are called Little Doves.
Taxonomic Classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Brachiopoda
Class: Articulata
Order: Spiriferida
Genus: Mucrospirifer
Species: thedfordensis

Author bio: Colorado Springs has been home to Blake Reher all of his life. Blake is a 7th grader at Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School. Blake is active in Boy Scouts, and karate but his real passion lies in paleontology and geology.  Blake is a Junior Member of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society. Blake has helped promote the Colorado Springs Pebble Pup program at many outreach programs, most recently at the Cool Science Festival at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.


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