The Great Fossil Enigma
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The story of an unsolved paleontological puzzle

Stephen Jay Gould borrowed from Winston Churchill when he described the conodont animal as a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." This animal confounded science for more than a century. Some thought it a slug, others a fish, a worm, a plant, even a primitive ancestor of ourselves. The list of possibilities grew and yet an answer to the riddle never seemed any nearer. Would the animal that left behind these miniscule fossils known as conodonts ever be identified? Three times the animal was "found," but each was quite a different animal. Were any of them really the one? Simon J. Knell takes the reader on a journey through 150 years of scientific thinking, imagining, and arguing. Slowly the animal begins to reveal traces of itself: its lifestyle, its remarkable evolution, its witnessing of great catastrophes, its movements over the surface of the planet, and finally its anatomy. Today the conodont animal remains perhaps the most disputed creature in the zoological world.

List of Illustrations
Prelude: The Impossible Animal
1. The Road to El Dorado
2. A Beacon in the Blackness
3. The Animal with Three Heads
4. Another Fine Mess
5. Outlaws
6. Spring
7. Diary of a Fossil Fruit-Fly
8. Fears of Civil War
9. The Promised Land
10. The Witness
11. The Beast of Bear Gulch
12. The Invention of Life
13. El Dorado
14. Over the Mountains of the Moon



Publié par
Date de parution 06 novembre 2012
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253006066
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1900€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


James O. Farlow, editor
The Search for the Conopont Animal
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESSBloomington&Indianapolis
Illus., p. vi: Pinhead fossils.This scanning electron microscope image of conodont fossils on a dressmaking pin became an iconic image in those years after the animal had been discovered. Photo: Mark Purnell, University of Leicester.
This book is a publication of INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESS 601 North Morton Street Bloomington, Indiana 47404–3797 USA Telephone orders800-842-6796 Fax orders812-855-7931 © 2013 by Simon J. Knell All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses’ Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences – Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48–1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Knell, Simon J.  The great fossil enigma : the search for the conodont animal / Simon J. Knell. pages cm – (Life of the past) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-253-00604-2 (cloth : alk. paper)
ISBN 978-0-253-00606-6 (ebook)  1. Conodonts. 2. Science – Social aspects. I. Title. QE 899.2.C65K59 2012 562.2 – dc23
1 2 3 4 5 18 17 16 15 14 13
1 · THE ROAD TO EL DORADO The fossil is found – the search begins – Pander's chicks – a friend of Murchison – Pander sees teeth and imagines fishes – others see trilobites, sea cucumbers – Owen sees anything but fish – Harley sees crustaceans – Moore in paleontological ecstasy – the fossil arrives in Cincinnati – Newberry sees fish – Grinnell misses Custer's Last Stand – Ulrich denies the fish and sees a worm – Hinde proves the fish – Smith's surprise – Huxley's encouragement – Zittel and Rohon murder the fish and see a worm.
2 · A BEACON IN THE BLACKNESS Oil enters the American soul – fossils take on economic importance – microfossils take center stage – scientific worth of conodonts recognized – the black shales problem – godlike Ulrich vs. Kindle – Bryant's fishes – Hibbard's washing machine – Ulrich and Bassler's proof of method – Stauffer's chance discovery – Gunnell's vision of the future – Chalmer Cooper the disciple – Branson and Mehl's big campaign – Huddle's accidental beginnings – an index discovered –Icriodusthe ideal – Cooper's cellophane fossils – contamination – Ellison's logic.
3 · THE ANIMAL WITH THREE HEADS The fight for biological paleontology begins – Croneis's influence – the geography of thinking – Macfarlane's conodont oil theory – giant conodonts – Kirk finds bone – Gunnell's imaginings – Eichenberg's novel idea – Schmidt's assemblage – Stadtmüller's influence – Scott finds oil, earthquake and assemblage, and worm – Jones finds assemblages and Denham thinks of sex – Ulrich and Bassler in denial – Loomis and Pilsbry see snails – Demanet finds the fish – Cullison's remarkable jaw.
4. ANOTHER FINE MESS Looking inside the fossil – chemistry like bone – Stauffer loses his teeth – Hass sees extraordinary detail – knowing the animal becomes impossible – more Ellison logic – Scott attempts to convince skeptics – Du Bois sees flesh – Germany plays catch up – Beckmann adopts German fish – Schmidt stuck in the past – Rhodes makes the assemblage a reality – a fine mess.
5. OUTLAWS A chaos of names – the rights of nuts and bolts – Croneis's military order – the problematic Commission – Rhodes's duel with Sinclair – Lange's revolutionary worm teeth – Sylvester Bradley and Moore's parataxa – the solution to illegality is to change
the law – theTreatise– Moore spells trouble – Arkell's ammonites join the cause – arguments get political – the plan is thrown out – Moore explains how to ignore the problem.
6. SPRING Postwar optimism and the fifties generation – Rhodes's overview of the problem and the future – Müller's war – Gross's influence – Cooper pioneers acids – acids take hold and the conodont world is turned on its head – Beckmann's technique – Gross finishes off the dying fish – Schindewolf rises to power – the magic mountain – Müller in the Devonian – Beckmann reveals the German future – the rush for glory begins – Ziegler starts his meteoric rise – Müller escapes to the Carnic Alps – Walliser's energy – Lindström the schoolboy geologist – Sweet changes track and meets Bergström.
7. DIARY OF A FOSSIL FRUIT FLY A fossil's evolution – Simpson's evolution – naive evolution – Haldane and Dobzhansky – New Paleontology – the problem of species – Müller's evolving fossils – Helms's evolutionary details – fruit flies – Ziegler's universal timescale – Ziegler begins global campaign – a little setback – the conodont becomes mainstream – the Pander Society formed – Müller's Cambrian exotica – Youngquist's Triassic proofs – the Cretaceous seems possible – Japanese Jurassic fossils – Mosher reveals fantasies – Gould and Eldridge deny conodonts’ evolutionary journey – Klapper and Johnson enter the fray – conodont workers march on regardless.
8. FEARS OF CIVIL WAR Ziegler's mountain – Rhodes begins to construct the skeleton – Huckreide and Walliser do the same – Bergström and Sweet see skeletons too – Lindström's symmetry transitions – Rexroad and Nicoll's fused fossils – Bergström and Sweet take a stand – Schopf and Webers join them – Ziegler's world explodes – Lange's critical fossils – Pollock's clusters – Lane's symmetry – Kohut's numbers – arguing with Ziegler in Ohio – fears of fractricide – the Marburg peace accord – learning to speak a new language – Parataxa reappear – the “troublesome” Melville – Aldridge's diplomacy – Sweet's magnificent letter – Melville's astonishment – the turncoats.
9. THE PROMISED LAND The promise of ecology – conodonts are like God – Rexroad's provinces – Lindström's honeymoon and Rosetta Stone – Sweet's great campaign – Bergström's Swedish American fossils – Bergström and Sweet's animal migrations – Schopf's models – Glenister and Klapper's Canning Basin – Druce in the field – Seddon's reef ecology – Seddon and Sweet's arrow worms – Druce's modifications – more problems for Ziegler – Merrill's changing ecology – the disruption of tectonic plates – Valentine's influence – Barnes and company put theory into practice – Waterloo – Jeppsson's seasonal migrations – rising doubts about ecology.
10. THE WITNESS Catastrophism and color – Epstein acquires color vision – Alvarez and the asteroid – Schindewolf's extraterrestrial causes – Walliser's global events – Golden Spikes – MacLaren's asteroid – Clark's index of evolution – Fåhræus's ballet – Walliser joins a club – Kellwasser – Ziegler, Sandberg, and Dreesen imagine another world – Jeppsson's island and his big idea.
11. THE BEAST OF BEAR GULCH Man lands on the moon and the animal is found – the false dawn of Scott's blebs – Lange's mistake – Melton and Horner's fish – strange fossils – the Chicago sensation – the rumor of Scott's kidnap of Melton – Scott and Melton's friendship – getting funds – the truth of Melton – trouble brews – Huddle's doubts – closing ranks – publicity – writing up – Riedl's alternative – trouble in the quarry – Horner and Lower – East Lansing – news spreads of the discovery – yet more trouble – the paper disappears in a snow storm – errors in publication – thrilled readers and the indigestible meatball.
12. THE INVENTION OF LIFE Models of animals – the purpose of the tiny fossils – Fahlbusch's algae and little victory – Nease's plants – Gross's animal-less conodont – Lindström's first animal – the rush for the S E M – Müller and Nogami's art – Lindström's tentacled worm – Rietschel's jaws – Lindström's grand thought experiment and tiny barrel – Conway Morris's conodont animal – denying Melton and Scott – Priddle looks to the lamprey – Bischoff introduces yet more animals – Hofker looks to the soil – Bengtson's new teeth – Landing's superteeth – Nicoll's filter – Hitchings, Ramsay, and Scott design filters – Jeppsson's teeth – Szaniawski's influential arrow worms.
13. EL DORADO Finding the real animal – the shock of the old – Clarkson's puzzle – the Mazon Creek clue – meeting with Briggs – Halstead and the rumor – Aldridge's luck – the first paper – Aldridge joins up – Clark's extraordinary eye – rumors spread – the Conodont Animal – revisiting models – Dzik and Drygant remove the arrow worm – Janvier's critique – Nicoll's view – vandalism – the Waukesha animal – Nottingham – Smith strengthens the team – Norby's model – rebuilding the apparatus – separating fact from myth – strengthening interpretations – Dzik asserts the vertebrate – Tillier and Cuif's strange mollusks – Sweet's critique – Aldridge and Briggs's repost.
14. OVER THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON The journey to the vertebrate – strange plants in the Cedarberg Mountains – Rickards's intervention – Aldridge's luck (again) – Theron's collaboration – African giants – Gabbott and Purnell strengthen the team – Gabbott's triumph – Kreja's helping hand – Moya Smith's expertise – Sansom's remarkable discovery – the conodont vertebrate becomes a reality – views of the fossil past are shaken – Purnell's bite – Briggs and Kear watch the dead – evidence continues to build – Donoghue's attention to detail – the animal becomes an alien – the vertebrate enters the grand narrative of life – a gathering storm – is this El Dorado after all?
Pinheap fossils. 1.1 Hinpe's roof. 2.1 The solution to the dlack shales pisute. 3.1 Schmipt's fish. 3.2 Scott's conopont assemdlages. 4.1 Hass's journey into the anatomy of the fossil. 5.1 Hass's comromise. 6.1 Walliser, Linpström, Ziegler, anp Müller. 7.1 Helms's iconic evolutionary chart. 7.2 Müller's oppities. 8.1 Rexroap anp Nicoll's fusep conopont clusters. 8.2 Sweet anp Bergström. 9.1 Mopeling the ecology of the animal. 10.1 Fåhræus's choreograhy. 10.2 Jesson's oceanic mopels. 11.1 The deast of Bear Gulch. 12.1 Müller anp Nogami's art. 12.2 Linpström's imaginep animals. 12.3 Conway Morris's animal. 12.4 Conopont teeth. 12.5 Conopont filters. 13.1 The conopont animal. 14.1 Briggs anp Alpripge. 14.2 Alien jaws. 14.3 The conopont animal as it is imaginep topay.
Preface & Acknowledgments
THIS BOOK HAS TWO BEGINNINGS. THE STORY OF THE “GREAT fossil enigma” begins with the Prelude. However for those expectin g an analytical history of science, I suggest the afterword as a useful introd uction because it explains how and why I have written this book and what lies bene ath the narrative of the chapters. When I began this book in 2003, I envisag ed it as the second in a trilogy of monographs revealing the fossil as a cul tural object. In the first book, The Culture of English Geology,1815–1851, I tried to show how fossils acted as cultural objects, shaping lives, playing a role in local politics, and leading to the founding of museums and the emergence of geology as aculturalfield. As a museologist and cultural historian rather than a hi storian of science, I wanted to explain fossils and their place in society not in terms of a history of ideas but more holistically. I took these ideas further in explorations of the p olitics of “English geology,” the possibilities of a cultural revolution in scien ce, and cultural changes in geology in late-twentieth-century Britain. In this book, I turn my attention to the workings of a single community of researchers over a period of 150 years or so and consider how these men and women imagined and c onceptualized the fossils that bound them together. Once again I have not attempted to write a straightforward history of ideas or to explore the contributions these fossils made to science in any detailed sense. My interest remai ns predominantly in culture, in the relationships between people, objects, and p ractices (the things people do, often formalized and institutionalized in some way). While I have long thought of this as a blend of cultural history and museology – as a branch of museum studies – I am aware that it is also a form of ethnology as it has long been understood in northern Europe (as a curiosity about one's own culture). No doubt it is this approach to the history of a scien ce that caused a number of readers of the manuscript to consider it rather “strange.” If that is the case, I am delighted, for a study of this kind requires the au thor and reader to remove themselves sufficiently far from their subject to s ee the actions of individuals as strange rather than natural. As I researched and wrote this book, I became incre asingly aware that, as one of science's great enigmas, its subject already existed, though not in any coherent form, as a possession of all those who won dered about and worked on these fossils. If I began my research believing tha t I might be another user of these fossils, this time in my own analytical histo ry, I soon understood that I had to prioritize the needs of those for whom the fossils already held meaning. Having never set out simply to tell a story, I came to understand that accessible narrative was critically important. Indeed, I felt it was an obligation. Consequently, I decided to put a good deal of my an alysis into the afterword (which at various times I have considered an explan atory introduction) without making that part of the book oppressively long. I h ave written the narrative of the chapters broadly in chronological fashion, though s ome themes prevented me from adhering to this unwaveringly. I hope they retain something of the
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