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Ron Pickerill and trace fossils

At the University of New Brunswick Dr. Ron Pickerill has taught palaeontology to hundreds of geology students. As a research scientist he is a well-known ichnologist, a fossil expert specializing in the study of trace fossils. Traces provide a different perspective on the fossil world. Instead of preserving the body remains of animals, they record behavior by preserving tracks, trails and burrows left behind. Footprint trackways can reveal how an animal walked. Trails left by snails, worms and other invertebrates leave clues about feeding strategies and locomotion, and burrows may indicate where animals lived and reproduced.

Dr. Pickerill described traces from Silurian rocks near Siegas in northern New Brunswick. The Siegas Formation is a thickly-bedded, calcareous sandstone, mixed with limestone and conglomerate. The formation represents a turbidite sequence deposited as an underwater ‘landslide’ into a submarine canyon. Deeper water environments like this often preserve few body fossils, but trace fossils can be abundant and useful for determining the paleoenvironment and age of the rocks. Fossils described by Dr. Pickerill included Neonereites, Scalarituba, Helminthopsis, Palaeophycus. Meandering fossils of Neonereites are thought to be a feeding trace from an animal that grazed along the seabottom, leaving behind fecal pellets while a worm-like animal made the trace Palaeophycus, interpreted as a feeding and dwelling burrow.