A Study on the Effect of Barnacle Attachment to Loggerhead Turtle Fossils

Bone Modification Features Resulting from Barnacles Attachment on the Bones of Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caratta caretta), Cumberland Island, Georgia, USA: Implications for the Paleoecological, and Taphonomic Analyses of Fossil Sea Turtles

J-P Zonneveld, Z.E.E. Zonneveld, W.S. Bartels, M.K. Gingras, and J.J. Head 

Summarized by Jackson Asbrand, a current undergraduate at the University of South Florida’s School of Geosciences.

Data being used: Recent Loggerhead sea turtle skeletal material washed up off the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Florida, USA were the subjects of this study, along with any barnacles that were attached to the turtle skeletons.

The point of this paper: The purpose of the paper is to investigate the relationship between bone modification on sea turtles, such as pits (circular holes) and divots, and barnacles that attached to the bones before the turtle died (Figure 1).

Methods: Scientists gathered the skeletal material at various beaches along the east coast.  The skeletons were measured, described, and photographed, with osteological (bone) elements such as depressions or pits being noted. Some of the barnacle pits were recreated in clay to better study the specific shape of the trace left behind. Finally, all of the osteological features were plotted on a digital master sketch of the entire turtle skeleton in order to compare common types of pits on different bones and across skeletons. Each barnacle was identified on the master sketch using a gray circle. The circle would become darker depending on how many barnacles were found in that specific spot.  

Results: The barnacles leave pits on turtles by using either mechanical abrasion (physically wearing the shell down) or excreting a substance that allowed the animal to permanently attach itself to an object. After attaching to the shell, the barnacle causes bioclaustration, or a biological reaction by the host organism in response to an injury or infection by a parasitic organism (in this case, the barnacle). This leads to the bone holes and pits being created, contributed both by the secretion and the bioclaustration. However, this secretion must be renewed to continue being attached to the turtle, so most of the barnacles fall off after death, leaving only the bone pits remaining. There were six types of bone pits that scientists identified. Type 1 is a shallow, but smooth hole. Type 2 is deeper than type 1 and have a smooth, but still angled bottom, Type 3 is similar to 2, but with a flat bottom. Type 4 is a deep pit with many smaller pits on the bottom. Type 5 is a tube-shaped hole that runs even deeper into the bone. The last type, 6, is a ring-shaped indent on the surface of the bone. Broad bone pits were common on most of the skeletons, some digging deeper into the bone than others; in head bones, these pits were generally shallower. There is also a large range of how many barnacles were actually on the head, ranging from zero to even 70 individual bone pits on one unfortunate turtle. The results are similar for the top part of the turtles’ shells, which had a variety in both the depth and the number of bone pits, although they were slightly more common on the front half of the shell than the back half. On the bottom part of the shell, there is little to no relationship between the modification of the skeletons and the barnacles, as they leave no evidence of it occurring. Type 1 pits were seen on the head bones and both sides of the shell. Type 3, 4, and 5 were only seen on the shell. Type 6 was far less common than the rest of the types and were also only seen on the shell. Types 1-4 were all preserved between the barnacle and the bone, meaning that the barnacles did not use physical force to cause the bone pits, but rather dissolve them using secretions Type 5s used both physical and chemical force, as they penetrated through the skin straight to the bone. Type 6 rings were also caused solely by chemical reactions.

Six pictures of turtles are shown in the figure. One returning to the ocean from the beach, one in the ocean with dozens of barnacles on the back of its shell, a third with smaller barnacles on the side of the shell, a fourth with fewer ones atop the edge of its shell, and a fifth and sixth image are zoomed in to highlight the third and fourth turtles’ barnacles’ locations.
Several loggerhead turtles with barnacles in various spots on their shells, in which some will remain on the bone after the turtle dies. A particularly dense cluster of barnacles can be seen in image C, which all are permanently attached via secretion. The types of pits, like those identified in this study, aren’t specified here, since the pits are classified after the death of the organisms.

Why is this study important?: We can use this data to identify patterns in how barnacles not only attach to Loggerhead turtles and dig deeper into how their relationship works, but also other species of turtles, or even other marine animals with which barnacles could also share a similar parasitic relationship. 

Broader Implications beyond this study: This study creates a template to look further at bone modification on sea turtles other than loggerheads from the Cenozoic and Mesozoic Eras, or in other words, up to 252 million years ago. This study also provides insight into how a symbiotic relationship between two species could be permanently preserved in the fossil record, as interactions such as these are not as often preserved.  

Citation: Zonneveld, J.-P., Zonneveld, Z. E. E., Bartels, W. S., Gingras, M. K., and Head, J. J. (2022). Bone modification features resulting from barnacle attachment on the bones of loggerhead sea turtles (caretta caretta), Cumberland Island, Georgia, USA: Implications for the paleoecological, and taphonomic analyses of Fossil Sea Turtles. PALAIOS, 37(11), 650–670. https://doi.org/10.2110/palo.2022.021 

Halima’s Science Communication for Scientific Ocean Drilling Class Reflection

This post was written by Halima Ibrahim, a graduate student at Binghamton University in the seminar Science Communication for Scientific Ocean Drilling (SciComm for SciOD), Spring 2023. 

Throughout this course, I have had the privilege to explore and reflect on various concepts and ideas related to science communication. One of the key takeaways for me has been the vital role of effective communication in conveying scientific ideas and findings to a broader audience. Through this class, I have learned about the best practices in science communication and the various strategies and techniques that can be used to engage with diverse audiences.

The class discussions on the science communication book, “Getting to the heart of science communication: A guide to effective engagement” by Faith Kearns, were particularly fascinating. The author did an excellent job of sharing her career experiences and challenges as well as other science communicators in communicating science to the general public. The book also highlighted the need for scientists and researchers to be transparent and clear in their communication with both scientific and non-scientific communities. Our discussions over each chapter of the book were enriching, as they provided me with different perspectives and opinions from other people’s points of view.

I also appreciated the opportunity to listen to the five invited speakers who shared their research work, experiences, and how they communicate their science to a broad range of people, from the classroom to the general public. Most of the speakers had an extensive background in scientific ocean drilling, which is the area of my research interest. Some of them were involved in outreach programs to communicate science to non-experts as well as the younger generation, which was insightful to learn about their achievements. The peer review process was another aspect of the class that I enjoyed. Reviewing another person’s webpage and providing constructive feedback was fun, and it presented an opportunity to learn about other expeditions.

One of the reasons I took this class was to improve my science communication skills and contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge through creating web pages of past International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expeditions on the Time Scavengers website. These web pages will eventually be consumed by the Flyover Country app. It is fulfilling and humbling to know that someone may find the write-up that I produced in this class useful at some point in their life. The knowledge and skills I have gained from this class will enable me to effectively communicate scientific ideas in the future. I plan to apply these learnings to communicate scientific concepts and research findings more clearly and transparently to both scientific and non-scientific audiences. Furthermore, I intend to engage with different science communication strategies and seek feedback from various audiences to improve the effectiveness of my communication skills.

I appreciate Dr. Adriane Lam, our instructor, for doing an excellent job, especially as it was her first time teaching the class. From curating the course outline and choosing the book for the class to carefully selecting the invited speakers who had a wealth of knowledge to share with the class, she was amazing. I particularly liked the engaging and hands-on nature of the class. Dr. Lam is an excellent science communicator, which was evident in how she made in-class communication a two-way process by transmitting information to us students and receiving our feedback and opinions. The in-class exercises were helpful, and Dr. Lam was readily available to guide us and answer all our questions.

In conclusion, this class has been immensely valuable in enhancing my knowledge and understanding of science communication. I feel much more confident and better equipped to effectively communicate my research to people who do not have a scientific background. I have also come to appreciate the role science communication plays in shaping public opinion and understanding of complex scientific concepts such as climate change, oceanic drilling programs, and various scientific policies. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in science communication, be it to learn how to communicate their scientific knowledge to folks from different knowledge backgrounds or to venture into a science communication career.

The Early Evolution of Penguin Body Size and Flipper Anatomy: Insights from the Discovery of the Largest-known Fossil Penguin

Largest-known fossil penguin provides insight into the early evolution of sphenisciform body size and flipper anatomy

Daniel T. Ksepka, Daniel J. Field, Tracy A. Heath, Walker Pett, Daniel B. Thomas, Simone Giovanardi, and Alan J.D. Tennyson

Summarized by Faris Al-Shamsi, a geology student at the University of South Florida, currently in his senior year of undergraduate studies. His passion for geology fuels his commitment to sharing scientific knowledge with others. Faris is currently working on a project to simplify a challenging scientific article for general audiences, reflecting his dedication to communicating complex ideas to diverse readerships. After graduation, he plans to pursue a career in geology and continue to promote scientific literacy among the public.

Hypothesis: The study investigates new fossils, including the recently discovered largest-ever penguin, named Kumimanu fordycei, found in New Zealand. Scientists used these fossils to clarify the evolutionary relationships between this new species and other know penguin species in the evolutionary history record in order to gain a better understanding of their evolutionary development. 

Data used: Researchers discovered penguin fossils in rocks from the late Paleocene Epoch (55.5-59.5 million years ago). They found various bones, including the humerus (upper arm bone) and wing bones. Researchers also used data sets of previously described fossil penguin species, created by scientists Bertelli and Giannini, which included 279 morphological characteristics to compare different species of penguins.

Methods: First, they created 3D digital replicas of the recently discovered bones using a handheld laser scanner and processing software, then finalized the 3D replicas using a software called Blender. Second, they conducted phylogenetic analyses by analyzing morphological characters between different samples of penguin bone to understand different species of penguins’ relationships and evolution over time. Two types of analysis were used: parsimony analysis, which seeks to find the simplest explanation of an evolutionary tree with the fewest evolutionary changes, and Bayesian analysis, which uses statistical methods to estimate an evolutionary tree. They used a large set of data created by scientists called Bertelli and Giannini with 279 characteristics to compare different types of penguins, and the scientists added data from the new fossils they discovered. The scientists modified existing characteristics which means they compared the physical traits of the new species with old species to determine how similar or different they are. Researchers used the length and proximal width (closest to the shoulder) of the humerus to estimate body mass of different penguin species using mathematical equations. 

Results: The study looked at the wing bones of ancient penguins and compared them to those of modern underwater diving birds like diving petrels and alcids (like puffins) through evolutionary tree analyses. Using the mathematical equations for determining size, researchers determined the new penguin fossils likely belonged to a giant, extinct penguin. The researchers estimated the body mass of the new species, Kumimanu fordycei, to be 148.0 kg (326 lbs) based on the length of its humerus, which measured 236 mm. Researchers found that some features of the wing bones in the ancient penguins are similar to those in fossil flying birds, which suggests that these early giant penguins may have kept some features that were once necessary for flying but would have been less efficient for swimming. Because modern day penguins are far smaller than these fossils, it indicates that smaller body sizes were likely selected for along the evolutionary pathway of these birds. 

Chart with the geologic timeline at the bottom ranging from Cretaceous (73 million years ago) to Pleistocene Epoch (nearly recent) and two penguin family trees on the left side: one on the top constructed using parsimonious comparison of physical traits representing the penguin Kumimanu fordycei as closely related to many other species, while the tree on the bottom constructed using complex statistical analysis and it represents the penguin Kumimanu fordycei sharing the same node (branch) with Kumimanu biceae species. The chart represents a drawing of three penguins on the right, starting from the left, penguin 3, which represent penguin Kumimanu fordycei is the largest one, second we have Petradyptes stonehousei, which is the second largest, and last the extant penguin Aptenodytes forsteri which is the smallest. They have the actual bones inside them that were found in fossils colored in white, while non-preserved bones are colored in gray. Crownward (advanced and closer to the tips of the evolutionary tree) penguins exist more than other species with a lifetime ranging from Paleocene Epoch (65 million years ago) to recent while other species lifetime range from Paleocene Epoch to Eocene Epoch (65 million years ago – 50 million years ago)
Figure 1 This figure shows the family tree of penguins with x-axis representing time in million years and the epochs. Family trees started from the Paleocene Epoch, which was about 60 million years ago. The figure is made up of two different kinds of trees. The first one is based on parsimony analysis which is the simplest explanation of a tree taking the fewest changes of the evolutionary changes, and the second one is based on Bayesian analysis which uses statistical methods. The figure also includes pictures of three different penguin species: 3. The largest known penguin Kumimanu fordycei 4. The second new species and genus Petradyptes stonehousei 5.the living penguin Aptenodytes forsteri. The white bones shown on the pictures of the ancient penguins are the actual bones that were preserved, while the gray bones used to complete the skeleton of the penguin even though they are not preserved just in order to show the difference in size between penguins 3,4, and 5 in physical traits.

Why is this study important? The discovery of the largest penguin humerus ever found, and the estimation of body mass based on this bone provides valuable insights into the evolution and growth patterns of penguins. Additionally, the study provides evidence that penguins reached their upper limit of body size early in their evolutionary history and experienced a decrease in size over time, which can provide insights into the impact of environmental factors such as climate change and competition for food resources on the evolution of organisms.

Broader Implications beyond this study: Body size in the fossil record can open a number of questions about how an animal lived. Researchers think penguins lost their flying capabilities before these larger penguins described here  evolved. This might provide a potential reason for the increase on body size: without the ability to fly, penguins faced fewer selection pressures to keep a smaller body size. Researchers also think penguins evolved in Zealandia, where the fossils from this study were located. The large body size of these particular penguins may have given them better control over their body temperatures (called thermoregulation) and allowed for them to disperse to other areas of the world by being able to swim greater distances. This gives researchers new hypotheses to test about how penguins reached and established populations in other continents. 

Citation: Ksepka, D., Field, D., Heath, T., Pett, W., Thomas, D., Giovanardi, S., & Tennyson,(2023). Largest-known fossil penguin provides insight into the early evolution of sphenisciform body size and flipper anatomy. Journal of Paleontology, 1–20. doi:10.1017/jpa.2022.88

Yiran’s SciComm for SciOD Reflection

This post was written by Yiran Li, a graduate student at Binghamton University in the seminar Science Communication for Scientific Ocean Drilling (SciComm for SciOD), Spring 2023. 

For me, one of the key takeaways from graduate school was learning that being able to effectively communicate and share your research with others is just as important as the research itself, and that it is a crucial skill for integrating oneself into a collaborative research environment such as the one we have in the geosciences community. Participating in the SciComm seminar was an eye-opening experience for me. As a student of observational seismology, I had a general idea of what the International Ocean Discovery Program is through course works, but was completely unfamiliar with the aspect of community culture that advocates and invests in mentorship opportunities.

Many topics explored in this course were very new to me. It was really interesting to hear about journal studies that evaluate the effectiveness of different pathways in scientific communications, whether that’s interactions on social media or through outreach programs. I also empathized with the experiences of students who are just starting out in earth sciences, and how they discovered a community by participating in research opportunities – I had no idea that these literatures existed, and really appreciated the fact that there are published works highlighting the emotional aspects of pursuing careers in geoscience research. It helped me reflect over my own experiences as well. I hope to get more involved, and further explore more opportunities in science communication in the future.

How ocean acidification and ocean warming modify the physiology of coral reef fishes and the migrating temperate fishes

Future shock: Ocean acidification and seasonal water temperatures alter the physiology of competing temperate and coral reef fishes

Angus Mitchell, Chloe Hayes, David J. Booth, Ivan Nagelkerken

Summarized by Shruti Verma, an incoming undergrad student, interested in environmental science, biochemistry and computer programming. She wishes to become a researcher. 

Hypothesis: The purpose of this paper was to assess the relationship between changing marine environment and the physiology of coral reef fish and competing temperate fish, which are migrating into coral reef fish habitats.

What data were used? 60 coral reef fishes (A. vaigiensis)  and 180 temperate fishes (A. strigatus) were collected from a coast in Australia

Scientists measured:

  • Fish’s energy (total lipid content)
  • Fish’s feeding (stomach fullness)
  • Fish’s ability to deal with stress (Malondialdehyde concentration (MDA) and total antioxidant capacity(TAC))
  • Overall health (Fulton’s condition index)

Temperature and pH levels were monitored regularly inside tanks where fish were kept.


  1. Setting up the tanks: Scientists used transparent water tanks with small holes and bubbled pure carbon dioxide (CO2) to increase acidity. Water temperature was altered to mimic future summer and winter conditions. The temperature of  23°C, and pH 8.1 were selected as control conditions to reflect the current winter temperatures in the natural breeding range of coral reef fish populations.
  2. Initializing shoaling: Two groups were created – coral reef fish mixed (N= 60) with temperate fish (N= 60) of varying body sizes (mimicking actual reef conditions), temperate-only mixed with temperate fishes of similar body sizes (to decrease competitive advantage) (N= 120) After 40 days of treatment, fishes were euthanized, after being fed completely, to analyze stomach fullness. 
  3. Assessing water chemistry: Water’s total alkalinity was measured using Gran titration on the 24-25th day of the experiment.
  4. Measuring protein content, MDA and TAC: The TAC kits measured the total concentration of antioxidant macromolecules, antioxidant molecules, and enzymes in the fish’s white muscle tissue. TAC and MDA were then calculated using specific formulas.
  5. Fulton’s condition index: Individual fish were weighed and measured for length before and after the experiment, and their body condition was assessed using Fulton’s condition index, which was calculated from weight and length. Treatment effects on body condition were determined by subtracting the final Fulton’s condition index from the initial index.


Two horizontal panels. The top is 'Coral Reef Fish' and the bottom is 'Competing Temperate Fish'. There are three circles, the middle (yellow) is the current summer temperatures. To the right, there is a red circle indicating future summer conditions with a box to the lower left with the predicted shifting conditions. To the left, there is a blue circle indicating future winter conditions with a box in the lower right with the predicted shifting conditions.
This diagram shows how future water temperatures and ocean acidification could affect coral reef and temperate fish physiology. Arrows indicate significant changes in measured functions, with comparisons made between future winter/summer and current summer conditions. ‘*’ indicates higher response in mixed-species paired temperate fish, while ‘#’ denotes a significant increase in a given function under projected future conditions.

Key takeaways:

  • Lipid content in coral reef fish increased in colder winters (below 20°C) and exhibited decreased physiological performance, suggesting that they struggled to survive in future winter conditions.
  • In hotter summers (above 26°C), temperate fish experience more oxidative damage.

Coral reef fishes will benefit from ocean warming as their habitat range will increase, but they may struggle to survive during future winters. Simultaneously, competing temperate fishes will benefit from the presence of smaller coral reef fishes as temperate fishes will have a competitive advantage due to their greater body size. But this might not be the case when coral reef fish size increases in future summer. In future summer, temperate fishes will experience higher cell damage, and coral reef fishes will have the competitive advantage. Therefore the combined effect of decreased winter and increased summer temperatures on the competition between temperate and coral reef fish is not entirely clear yet. 

Why is this study important? Understanding the future consequences of migration altered physiology and altered shoaling interaction are crucial to determining the likelihood of survival of a fish species in the face of global warming.

Broader Implications beyond this study: It has been well documented that ocean acidification and ocean warming result in migration of fishes between different zones. However, more research needs to be conducted on the effects this behavior has on the shoaling interactions and the physiology of the migrating fish species. Even the smallest changes in environmental conditions can have great physiological impacts on certain fish species as outlined in this study.   

Citation: A. Mitchell, C. Hayes, D.J. Booth, et al., 2023. Future shock: Ocean acidification and seasonal water temperatures alter the physiology of competing temperate and coral reef fishes, Science of the Total Environment. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.163684

Alex Corsello, Biology & Earth Sciences Graduate

Alex at Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, NY.

Hello! My name is Alex Corsello and I recently graduated from Binghamton University studying Biology and Earth Science. I’m originally from Virginia, but grew up in Katonah NY, about an hour from New York City (yes there are dirt roads). Additionally, I will be staying at Binghamton to pursue my Masters of Arts in Teaching Earth Science. I am a big fan of hiking, running and baking. While not in the lab I have visited over 100 national parks across the United States, ranging from Yosemite to a tiny house on the corner of a street in Philadelphia. 

I am a paleontologist who studies foraminifera, or forams for short, particularly within the Miocene Period (roughly between 5 and 23 million years ago). My research specifically focuses on determining two things. First, where does the foram species Globoquadrina dehiscens live in the water column in a mid-latitude site?  Second, can G. dehiscens be used as an indicator for past ocean temperatures conditions? Samples are taken from cores drilled through the International Ocean Discovery Program, washed and then picked by size for the particular species that I am studying. Then, using the shell of the organism my samples are sent to Hamilton College, where they are analyzed for both oxygen and carbon isotopes. These isotopic ratios help to provide a picture of the temperature of the water where the organism lived and how productivity there was in the region where this was taking place. Thus it becomes possible to reconstruct ocean conditions. The goal of our lab is to help determine how ocean conditions changed in response to various climate variables in the past in order to best predict how they might change again under a warming climate. 

Alex and a class of second graders at Finn Academy in Elmira, NY, where he conducted an outreach program with the students.

I have always been a bit of a nature nerd… I went to ecology camp starting in first grade. But growing up I always thought I would be a historian. This changed when I took Biology in high school and I became fascinated with how life works. Every part of life, even if it seems really distant, is connected in some way and I think that’s really cool. I started as a Biology major and after taking my first geology class as part of my Biology degree I was hooked. I have been working on earth science research ever since. My favorite part of science is getting to tackle real world problems and to try to make a positive difference for others through your work. You never know what idea could be the key to a big discovery or the tool that solves a pressing problem. There is also something incredibly magical about getting people interested in science. The excitement that comes with learning is infectious and watching those who may have previously been adverse to science start to connect is really powerful. 

Alex presenting his research in poster format the Joint Southeastern/Northeastern Geological Society of America meeting in Reston, VA.

Take risks- That seemingly crazy idea that you came up with while on the toilet at 3 am may help define your path. A lot of the time, yeah, you’ll fail. But it is those few experiences where you succeed that can help to define your path both as a scientist and human being. They are what lead to more opportunities and a whole host of new people and places. Also don’t be afraid to use your resources. There are people who are in your corner who will be there to advocate for you. Don’t be afraid to get their help. You will be much better off for it.

New Species of Chalk Forming Organisms and Further Accumulations Found within the Faafu Atoll, Maldives

New Species of Chalk Forming Organisms and Further Accumulations Found within the Faafu Atoll, Maldives 

Summarized by Nathan Baker, who is a senior and future geologist at the University of South Florida. His interest in the geosciences lie within geophysics and tectonics. He hopes to attend graduate school in structure and plate tectonic studies. Outside the classroom, Nathan enjoys going to the gym, hanging out with friends, and being active outdoors. 

Hypothesis: This research aims to pinpoint the distribution of coccolithophores, a type of algae and microorganism too small to be seen by the naked human eye (and the organism that chalk is composed of), in the Faafu Atoll of the Indian Ocean’s Maldives while introducing a new species, Alisphaera bidentata. The study delves into the variety of coccolithophore species in the ocean, examining the correlation between the number of species and water temperature through measuring a number of different variables, explained below. Moreover, this paper provides insight into the ecological and environmental impacts that these microorganisms have on the climate.

Data Used: The study analyzes the area surrounding the island using various data points, such as location, depth, time, weather, temperature, conductivity, pH, O2 levels, O2 saturation percentage, and the amount of chlorophyll in the water. Scientists also collected and identified samples of coccolithophores to determine species diversity. 

Methods: As part of this study, three water samples were collected from Faafu between November 2nd and November 6th, 2018. The samples were taken from both deep reefs (between 45 m and 3050 m deep) and flat reefs (which separate lagoons and the deep ocean). Each sample was recorded with a GPS device. Water temperature and oxygen concentrations were measured at each location. Surface samples of water containing coccolithophores were collected from a boat using a bucket off the coast of the islands. Along with this, vertical water samples at 0 m, 10 m, 25 m, and 40 m deep were collected using devices that can withstand high-pressure environments in the deeper ocean. Once the samples were collected, water analysis began. The first step in analyzing the samples was filtration. Samples containing two liters of water were sent through filters that separated the organisms from the saltwater. These organisms were then dried and viewed under a microscope to record the number, concentration, and types of coccolithophores.

Results: Scientists found that the density of coccoliths in surface waters was lower than that in waters with depths of 1-2 m, and the density continued to increase towards the bottom depths in both the lagoon and deep ocean environments. When investigating the vertical samples, scientists noted that there was a 1℃ decrease in temperature, observed from the surface to depths of 40m, along with a decrease in oxygen concentration within the lagoon environment. Within the open ocean environment, there was a 0.5℃ decrease in temperature, along with a decrease in oxygen concentration. Chlorophyll readings demonstrated overall low concentrations at all stations but showed a slight increase at larger depths.

Out of the multiple coccoliths species identified (16), only two were abundantly common within both open water and lagoon areas. The most abundant species were Gephyrocapsa oceanica and Oolithotus antillarum (as shown in figure 1). The concentrations of G. oceanica and O. antillarum increased with depths in both the lagoon and deeper ocean. Within these increasing depths, minor species also became more prevalent. An interesting find was that all 16 species of coccoliths existed in all of the sampled environments. Researchers also discovered a new species of coccolith (Alisphaera bidentata), which among the lesser commonly occurring species in these samples; further testing will be needed to understand the organism’s lifestyle.

Left: circular coccolithophore comprised of thin ridged plates with a bridge in the middle of each plate. The plates are layered on each other in a stacked orientation building on top of each other.Right: circular coccolithophore comprised of thin smooth plates with a small pit in the center of each plate. These plates are layered on each other with each plate’s connection oriented in the southern direction. Each organism is approximately 5–10 micrometers in diameter.
Figure 1: Gephyrocapsa oceanica (left) and Oolithotus. Antillarum (right); modified from microtax.org).

Study Importance: This study mapped the overall abundance of coccolithophores of the island of Faafu Atoll in the Maldives. The data showed that, of the 16 species found, the most abundant were Gephyrocapsa oceanica and Oolithotus antillarum. Along with these major species, numerous minor species were also detected within the waters around Faafu. Scientists, through this study, were better able to quantify how coccolith diversity is related to water conditions. 

Broader Implications. This study is important due to the effects coccoliths can have on the environment. Coccolithophores can affect the environment through the use of photosynthesis. By removing CO2 within the oceans and atmosphere, coccolithophores play a role in stabilizing ocean acidity and atmospheric conditions, and broadly  play a role in stabilizing climate and ocean health. Additionally, the pH in the ocean can be influenced by the amount of CO2 removed from the water, which, in turn, can prevent marine disasters such as coral bleaching and red tides. Furthermore, comparing the data of these coccoliths to other regions of the world can help identify the rate of CO2 absorption and possibly identify reasons why certain regions are affected by global warming more than others.

Full citation: Malinverno, E., Leoni, B., & Galli, P. (2022). Coccolithophore assemblages and a new species of Alisphaera from the Faafu Atoll, Maldives, Indian Ocean. Marine Micropaleontology, 172, 102110. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marmicro.2022.102110

Charlotte’s SciComm for SciOD Reflection

This post was written by Charlotte Heo, a graduate student at Binghamton University in the seminar Science Communication for Scientific Ocean Drilling (SciComm for SciOD), Spring 2023. 

Here’s a picture of me presenting my research at the spring 2023 regional Southeastern/Northeastern Geological Society of America conference and it’s an example of what I think of when I imagine science communication but casually talking about research at the dinner table with family and friends can also be considered science communication as well!

I decided to take SciCommSciOD this semester because I had some free time in my schedule and I wanted to show my support for a new class. I am so glad I decided to because I have learned so much about science communication that I was not aware about before. Science communication is a growing area of interest in the scientific community and I definitely think it should be talked about more and prior to the formation of this class my university lacked a curriculum like it. SciCommSciOD opened me up to new perspectives about sharing science, such as how science communication can be used as a tool to connect with people directly affected by science and it shifted my perspective to think more about the people I want to share my science with. I think sometimes I struggle with SciComm because a lot of the time I’m sharing my science with people with strictly science backgrounds such as at conferences or seminars but it is really important for me to make my research accessible to the public. The work that I do directly pertains to climate change which impacts a ton of different people within different communities and backgrounds (both in science and in public audiences) so it’s necessary to be able to have a discussion about it in an accessible way. Overall, I hope that learning about science communication becomes more of a standard in the scientific community, and as scientists I believe we have a responsibility to effectively communicate our findings in accessible ways.

329: South Pacific Gyre Subseafloor Life

Map of locations for sites that were drilled during Leg 329 on the South Pacific Gyre off of the coast of New Zealand. Figure from IODP Expedition 329 Summary.

International Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 329 took place from October to December in 2010 and drilled Sites U1365–U1371 in the South Pacific Gyre, a large system of rotating ocean currents in the South Pacific Ocean located off the coast of New Zealand. The expedition was a collaboration between scientists and staff from the United States, Japan, Germany, China, Norway, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Korea, Australia, and India. Currently, there are no other ocean drilling sites located near Expedition 329 sites making it a massively understudied location. The sites drilled and studied during this expedition are an excellent location for exploring and researching subseafloor sedimentary habitats in what is considered to be the center of an open ocean gyre. The South Pacific Gyre is Earth’s largest gyre system out of five total gyre systems. Even though the cores recovered on Expedition 329 vary in ages, they are all extremely useful in understanding hydrothermal circulation (the circulation of hot water), and habitability (the capacity to be lived in) of oceanic crusts. 

Detailed image of a calcite crystal contained within a section of basalt, the rock that makes up the ocean crust. Blue coloring is from a marker. Image from the LIMS Database.

Expedition 329 had four major objectives: 1) to document habitats; 2) research how oceanographic factors affect habitats; 3) quantify subseafloor microbial communities; and 4) determine how habitats at the sites vary with crust age. Before Expedition 329, life in the sediments beneath mid-ocean gyres was generally understudied and poorly understood, despite the South Pacific Gyre being a unique location. Within this gyre system, surface chlorophyll concentrations and primary photosynthetic productivity in the seawater are lower than in other ocean regions, contributing to some of the lowest organic burial rates in the ocean. Scientists and staff aboard the ship during this expedition found that microbial cell counts are lower than at all sites previously drilled, dissolved oxygen and nitrate are present throughout the entire sediment sequence, and dissolved hydrogen concentration is low but often above detection limits in deeper sediments. High-resolution chemical and physical measurements provided the opportunity for reconstructing glacial seawater characteristics through the South Pacific Gyre. Overall, Expedition 329’s findings and discoveries of the presence of dissolved chemicals revealed that there is microbial habitability of the entire sediment sequence, offering valuable insights into gyre habitability.


D’Hondt, S.L., Jørgensen, B.B., Miller, D.J., et al., 2003. Proc. ODP, Init. Repts., 201: College Station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program). doi:10.2973/odp.proc.ir.201.2003

Dubois, N., Mitchell, N. C., & Hall, I. R. (2014, April). Data report: particle size distribution for IODP Expedition 329 sites in the South Pacific Gyre. In Proc. IODP| Volume (Vol. 329, p. 2).

Expedition 329 Scientists, 2011. Methods. In D’Hondt, S., Inagaki, F., Alvarez Zarikian, C.A., and the Expedition 329 Scientists, Proc. IODP, 329: Tokyo (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International, Inc.). doi:10.2204/iodp.proc.329.102.2011

Discovery of new fossil net-wing insect species in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

A new fossil lacewing (Ithonidae) from the Lower Cretaceous (Barremian-Aptian) Sinuiju Formation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

By: Kwang Sik So and Chol Guk Won 

Summarized by Karla Rodriguez, a senior geology undergraduate major at the University of South Florida. She has always had an interest in hydrology and geophysics. She is currently a water quality scientific technician at the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Once she graduates, she is planning to continue work in the private sector of hydrogeology. Outside of work, she loves playing competitive video games, hoping to join tournaments in the future.

Hypothesis: The purpose of this research was to describe the first fossils of a net-wing insect, belonging to the lacewings group, found in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and establish these finds as an entirely new genus and species. This paper describes the morphology of Sinuijuala paekthoensis gen. et sp. nov. (gen. et. sp. nov. means new genus and species), and compares it to known, related lacewings.

Data used: Recovered Sinuijuala paekthoensis specimens were encapsulated in a portion of shale (fine-grained sedimentary rock deposited in aquatic environments) within the Lower Cretaceous Sinuiju Formation, located in Sinuiju City, North P’yŏngan province of DPRK.  The lacewings were continuously buried by sediment, flattening the organisms. However, the burial allowed for unique preservation of wing features, head, and thorax (the middle part of the body). Wing venation provides one-of-a-kind patterns that can distinguish net-winged individuals, like lacewings, from other types of winged insects.

Methods: All recovered specimens were kept in the Paleontology laboratory at Kim II Sung University, which is in Pyongyang, DPRK. Microscope photographs of recovered Sinuijuala paekthoensis were taken with a Zeiss Discovery V20 microscope. Drawings of the images were created using Adobe Photoshop software. The number and positions of veins in the wing of the samples were measured using a microscope.

Results: This study provides the first documentation of lacewing fossils in DPRK. Researchers determined that Sinuijuala paekthoensis shares similarities with Ithonidae, a taxonomic family grouping of lacewings. Features like the lack of regular wing veining in part of the wing, and the branching of cross veins further in the middle anterior of the wing, as seen in Figure 1, are shared with the insect family, Ithonidae. Other fossils that have been found in the Sinuiju Formation are fossils of woody plants, indicating Sinuijuala was likely a woodland insect, similar to modern lacewings. 

The top two photographs are both sides of a recovered Sinuijuala paekthoensis gen. et sp. nov. sample, shown side by side. Black and white wing venation drawings are underneath their respective reference photographs. Vein abbreviations which specify parts of the wing are next to the drawings: R, radius; Rs, radial sector; MA, media anterior; MP, media posterior; CuA, cubitus anterior; R1, first branch of R; C, costa; Sc, subcostal. The photographs and drawings are shown with 2.0 mm scale bars. A US nickel is around 2.0 mm thick. The specimens are cemented in yellowish shale; wing, the thorax, and the head is clearly seen on the surface. The wings have Sc veins that start closest to the body, and branch out into Rs, MA, MP, and CuA veins away from the body.
Figure 1. Two photographs of a specimen of Sinuijuala paekthoensis gen. et sp. nov. (A, B) and corresponding line drawings (C, D) which illustrate observed wing venation in the sample image. Vein abbreviations are used to distinguish parts of the wing: R, radius; Rs, radial sector; MA, media anterior; MP, media posterior; CuA, cubitus anterior; R1, first branch of R; C, costa; Sc, subcostal. The wings have subcostal veins that start closest to the body as singular veins, and branch out into multiple veins veins away from the body. There were many subcostal veins observed, but fewer costal cross veins were present, which the authors noted as important in describing this particular fossil.

Why is this study important? The recovered specimens introduce a new genus and species of lacewings. This study was the first to find lacewings in DPRK, expanding the geographic range of these insects and increasing the total biodiversity of lacewings in the Early Cretaceous. The discovery of the net-winged insects here suggests the Sinuiju Formation may represent similar environments to other geological formations of the same age, such as the Yixian Formation in the People’s Republic of China, the Crato Formation in Northeast Brazil, and many others. 

Broader Implications beyond this study: Finding new species of lacewings in DPRK shows that new discoveries can expand the biodiversity and biogeographic range of fossil insects, which are not commonly preserved in the fossil record. The compaction of the shale allowed for rare preservation of their delicate wings and unique features. Knowing more about how they were preserved, too, may help us identify other places where delicate organisms may have been encapsulated in sediment and fossilized. There are many more insect species waiting to be discovered, including but not limited to, lacewings!

Citation: So, & Won, C. G. (2022). A new fossil lacewing (Ithonidae) from the Lower Cretaceous (Barremian-Aptian) Sinuiju Formation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Cretaceous Research, 138, 105288. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105288