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Lyell Meeting 2015

Mud, glorious mud, and why it's important for the fossil record

A contribution from the Joint Committee for Palaeontology to the Geological Society 'Year of Mud'.

Mudrocks provide an unrivalled medium for the preservation of fossils. This exceptional preservation has in turn enabled significant scientific advances in the functional morphology and evolution of biota throughout life history and a high resolution record of the ways in which biota adapt and evolve during environmental change.

It has long been observed that mudrocks yield abundant, diverse and well-preserved micro- and macro-fossils. Almost all of the strata yielding fossils with soft parts preserved are also from mud-grade deposits. More recent studies have discovered that the seawater chemistry at the time of deposition remains largely unaltered in shells preserved in mudrocks. This enables these fossils to be used as proxies for important Earth surface parameters such as water temperature, salinity, ice volume, rate of chemical weathering and pH. 

The role of mudrocks in providing an ideal medium for understanding life throughout geological time also applies to lake deposits where terrestrial palynomorphs provide us with records of vegetation change in response to climatic fluctuations. The relative stratigraphical completeness of most mudrock successions makes them ideal for high-resolution studies and hence for understanding the rock record on biological timescales.

The meeting will be of interest to those interested in understanding Earth surface processes particularly periods of extreme environmental change as well as those interested in the exceptional preservation of fossil. 


Angela Coe (The Open University) and Alan Lord (Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut)

Invited Speakers

  • Derek Briggs (Yale University)
  • Paul Taylor (Natural History Museum)
  • Nick McCave (University of Cambridge)
  • Crispin Little (University of Leeds)
  • Volker Wilde (Senckenberg Naturmuseum)
  • David Martill (University of Portsmouth)
  • Paul Pearson (University of Cardiff)
  • Samantha Gibbs (Southampton University)
  • William Gosling (University of Amsterdam)
  • Luke Mander (University of Exeter)
  • John Marshall (University of Southampton)


Photo credit: Bositra radiata, an opportunistic bivalve that survived the environmental change associated with the onset of the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event.

Event Details

Date: 11 March 2015

Venue: Geological Society, Burlington House, London, UK


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