Falklands fossils : famous, forgotten and filched? [abstract only]

Stone, Philip; Rushton, Adrian. 2008 Falklands fossils : famous, forgotten and filched? [abstract only]. In: Exploiting Geoscience Collections, London, 12-13 May 2008. not known, 8-9.

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The Falkland Islands – 52° south, 60° west – are typical of remote territories in that their early geological exploration was piecemeal and opportunistic. The resulting collections are now widely dispersed but remain the basis for modern interpretations. A re-examination of historical fossil collections from the Falklands (dominantly Devonian brachiopods of the Malvinokaffric realm) has show that the much-cited descriptions of some, published in the 19th and earliest 20th century, do not accurately reflect the full range of available material. One hundred and fifty years of curation has allowed this re-assessment of the historical collections as a part of current geological investigations. Some of the surprising outcomes are summarised below. Charles Darwin first discovered fossils in the Falkland Islands during his 1833 visit aboard the Beagle. Most of his renowned collection is now held by The Natural History Museum, London (NHM), descriptions having been published in 1846. We have established that specimens collected by Darwin are also present (hitherto unrecognised) in other late 19th century bequests to the NHM, whilst there is an undescribed Falklands collection made in 1842 during Ross’s Erebus & Terror expedition and preserved in obscurity ever since. A description of fossils acquired in 1876 by the Challenger expedition was published in 1885, but this collection is ambiguous. The collecting locations cited are implausible and we have been unable to locate the material in the NHM or elsewhere. There is also some uncertainty over the collection presented in 1903 (with descriptions published in 1906) to the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition. These fossils now reside in the Royal Museum, Edinburgh, but their ultimate provenance is questionable since they appeared just as specimens went missing from another collection gathered en passant in 1902 by a Swedish Antarctic Expedition. A shipwreck prolonged the Swedes’ absence during which their fossil collection, left stored in the Falklands, mysteriously diminished. The surviving Swedish material is now held by the Natural History Museum in Stockholm; perhaps the rest is in Edinburgh. To illustrate the amateur contribution we have Constance Allardyce, wife of the Governor of the Falkland Islands appointed in 1904. She sent to New York an exceptionally fine assemblage of fossils, including many trilobites from a newly discovered locality. A published description of this material appeared in 1913 and it has stimulated important recent research at the American Museum of Natural History, which has included modern collecting.

Item Type: Publication - Conference Item (Paper)
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2008 > Geology and Landscape Scotland
Additional Keywords: Falkland Islands, Fossils
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 08 Oct 2008 13:38 +0 (UTC)

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