No new species this time or Ammonite pathologies

Dactylioceras semipolitum, 6 cm, showing both sides

Hildoceras semipolitum, 6 cm, showing both sides

From time to time you might come across ammonites that look like a known species but then again they are different.
Just like the above ammonite. I had been looking at it when I was selecting the ammonites for one of the previous posts (it´s a Hildoceras semipolitum),
but something just wasn´t right :
It has a steep smooth (apart from growth lines) umbilical wall with a sharply angled edge. The ammonite is like that as far as one can see down the umbilicus.
I was looking through my books to see what it could be – H. semipolitum does not have such a sharply angled umbilical edge – until I realized it is “just” a pathology
when I turned the ammonite to the other side : There it´s just like a normal H. semipolitum should be.
Some pathologies are just like that, only a small change, a missing rib, a slight change in ribbing pattern on the body chamber, a healed fracture etc, but overall the species is still recogizable. For others the change is more drastic: a missing keel, a complete change in ribbing pattern starting very early in the shell, a completely asymmetric shell etc. leading authors in previous centuries to create new species for them, examples are Hildoceras walcotti, Monestieria errata .
"Monestieria errata", 4 cm, a Cleviceras sp. forma aegra circumdata

“Monestieria errata”, 4 cm, a Cleviceras sp. forma aegra circumdata HÖLDER 1956

Complete loss of keel or any other structural elements on the keel.

Today it is generally being recognized that these changes in the ammonite shell might have been caused by predators, parasites, diseases or interaction with other
hard-ground settling organisms like bivalves or tube worms and have set up so called “forma aegra” or “sick form” types, describing the pathologies as what they are.
“Sick” forms sometimes offer interesting glimpses into how ammonite shell growth worked and how amazingly adaptable these animals really were.
We may never fully know what caused them in all cases , only where an external cause like a settling oyster, is still preserved with the ammonite, the cause becomes obvious.
Androgynoceras lataecosta with "hook", overgrown bivalve or worm,  6 cm

Androgynoceras lataecosta with “hook”, overgrown bivalve or worm, 6 cm

A relatively common pathology : A bivalve or worm settled on the shell and was overgrown by the ammonite – a typical “bend” is created.

I´d like to show some that I have accumulated over the years, either found myself or bought from known fossil dealers.
They do represent only a portion of the described pathology types, I may add additional ones when I should find them…

forma aegra juxtacarinata HÖLDER 1956

Asteroceras sp. forma aegra juxtacarinata, cast, 5 cm

Asteroceras sp. forma aegra juxtacarinata, cast, 5 cm

Keel drawn out and relocated to the flank – it seems like the keel producing tissue was stretched to the flank and produced the keel there.
This specimen is a cast kindly given to me by my friend Klaus.

forma aegra cicatricocarinata HELLER 1964

Pleuroceras paucicostatum forma aegra cicatricocarinata HELLER 1964, 7 cm

Pleuroceras paucicostatum forma aegra cicatricocarinata HELLER 1964, 7 cm

Keel, visible on the right side, “inversed” on the left side – the exact part of the shell where it happened is eroded…

forma aegra substructa HÖLDER 1973

Catacoeloceras sp. forma aegra substructa HÖLDER 1973, 4 cm

Catacoeloceras sp. forma aegra substructa HÖLDER 1973, 4 cm

Broken out shell underlaid with new shell, bulbous shell growth at break point

forma aegra excentrica HÖLDER 1956

Zugodactylites braunianus forma aegra excentrica, 4.5 cm

Zugodactylites braunianus forma aegra excentrica, 4.5 cm, top side concave

Zugodactylites braunianus forma aegra excentrica, 4.5 cm, underside convex

Zugodactylites braunianus forma aegra excentrica, 4.5 cm, underside convex

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra excentrica, 8 cm, showing the bowl shape from the side

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra excentrica, 8 cm, showing the bowl shape from the side

Growth out of the normal shell symmetry into a bowl shaped form, presumably to correct a shell imbalance

forma aegra verticata HÖLDER 1956

Peronoceras fibulatum forma aegra verticata, 7 cm

Peronoceras fibulatum forma aegra verticata, 7 cm

A punctate permanent injury of the shell secreting part of the mantle probably caused by something like a lobster’s pinch with its claws creates a continuous groove across the ribs as the shell continues to be generated.

forma aegra pseudocarinata FERNÁNDEZ-LÓPEZ

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra pseudocarinata, 7 cm

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra pseudocarinata, 7 cm

Special form of forma aegra verticata, the adjoining ribs forming a keel like sculpture by themselves

forma aegra concreta HENGSBACH 1996

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra concreta, pearl 2 mm diameter

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra concreta, pearl 2 mm diameter

Pearl growth on the inside of the shell, probably similar to what happens with pearls in bivalves.

forma aegra inflata KEUPP 1976

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra inflata, 4 cm

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra inflata, 4 cm

Bulbous shell growth to heal a larger hole in the shell – this specimen even has septae build into the “bulb” as the animal continued to grow !

forma aegra undaticarinata HELLER 1958

Pleuroceras sp. forma aegra undaticarinata, 3 cm

Pleuroceras sp. forma aegra undaticarinata, 3 cm

Swinging keel, most often seen with Pleuroceras.

Left/right “hybrid”

Hildoceras bifrons, 12 cm  showing a strong difference between the sides

Hildoceras bifrons, 12 cm
showing a strong difference between the sides

One of the most intriguing types of pathologies : One side shows a normal Hildoceras sculpture, while on the other the spriral grove is completely missing, it looks like a bit like a Grammoceras.
This is of course no real hybrid, but the pathological side came to be through loss/damage/sickness of the spiral grove producing part of the mantle.

forma aegra undatispirata KEUPP & ILG 1992

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra undatispirata, 6 cm (Col. D. Groocock)

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra undatispirata, 6 cm
(Col. D. Groocock)

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra undatispirata, 6 cm
(Col. D. Groocock)
Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra undatispirata, 6 cm (Col. D. Groocock), keel view

Dactylioceras sp. forma aegra undatispirata, 6 cm
(Col. D. Groocock), keel view

Swinging whorl, apparently to equalize an imbalance in the shell caused by e.g. an oyster settling on the shell

The mystery…

Amaltheus stokesi without keel, 11 cm

Amaltheus stokesi without keel, 11 cm

Amaltheus stokesi without keel, 11 cm, keel view

Amaltheus stokesi without keel, 11 cm, keel view

This pathology is still a mystery. What is hidden on the other side, still in the rock ?
Is is a forma aegra juxtacarinata, i.e. the keel has been dislocated to the (invisible) flank ?
Or is it a forma aegra circumdata, i.e. the keel is just not there ?
One of these days I will prep a window into the back of the matrix and see for myself…

AndyS

Literature :

Helmut Keupp : Atlas zur Paläopathologie der Cephalopoden, Berliner Paläobiologische Abhandlungen Band 12 – Berlin 2012
Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. Nick

     /  April 28, 2013

    Andy
    This is an excellent article. Well put together and a real pleasure to read. Are you working to a timeline for your book or have a rough idea of how long it’ll take to pull together.
    All the best
    Nick

    Reply
    • Nick,
      Thanks – there might actually be a part 2, as I’ve left out some of the pathologies that I was not totally sure of.
      Timeline for the book : Yes – I’m hoping to finish it in 2014, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of our first holiday in Robin Hoods Bay.

      All the best,
      Andy

      Reply

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