Paleonet: Known First as Fossils - Clarification

Martin J. Head mhead at
Wed Mar 7 18:30:33 GMT 2007


Although this does not quite fit into your category, there is the  
taxonomically interesting case of a well-known red-tide  
dinoflagellate that was described from living material as Gonyaulax  
polyedrum, and subsequently transferred to a fossil genus  
Lingulodinium.  This is also a "living fossil" in that L.  
machaerophorum is known from the Late Paleocene.  A nomenclatural  
history (from Head, 1996, p. 1228) follows:

Genus Lingulodinium Wall 1967, emend. Dodge 1989. This genus was  
erected for cyst-based taxa and has as its type a Miocene cyst-based
species, Lingulodinium machaerophorum. Dodge (1989) emended the  
of Lingulodinium to include theca-based characters, and transferred to
this genus the theca-based species Gonyaulax polyedra von Stein 1883, as
Lingulodinium polyedrum (von Stein 1883) Dodge 1989.

There must be many examples of microfossils first described buried in  
sediments and later discovered alive. Perhaps a trawl through  
Ehrenberg's species will turn up some examples.  Then there's the  
question of what consititutes a fossil.  According to the Botanical  
Code, a specimen is required to have stratigraphic context to be  
eligible for fossil status -- so it could be a dead specimen lying  
on, or close below the surface, of the sea floor!


On 7 Mar 2007, at 09:37, Carl Mehling wrote:

> Hi All,
> Some have suggested that I look into “living fossils.” The examples  
> I am looking for are not necessarily “living fossils.” To me, that  
> term describes taxa whose lineages have an extremely long  
> geological records and which persist today in basically the same  
> form. This would be things like Latimeria, cockroaches, Lingula,  
> lycopods, etc. But I am only looking for taxa that were first known  
> as fossils and then were subsequently found extant. This would  
> include things like the XXX known from 4 million year old fossils  
> and then later found alive today, as well as things like  
> coelacanths, but not things like horseshoe crabs. I also wouldn’t  
> consider the XXX a “living fossil” because of its relatively recent  
> oldest fossil occurrence.
> Best,
> Carl
> Carl Mehling
> Fossil Amphibian, Reptile, and Bird Collections
> Division of Paleontology
> American Museum of Natural History
> Central Park West @79th Street
> New York, NY  10024
> (212) 769-5849
> Fax: (212) 769-5842
> cosm at
> _______________________________________________
> Paleonet mailing list
> Paleonet at

Martin J. Head
Department of Earth Sciences
500 Glenridge Avenue
St. Catharines, Ontario L2S 3A1
Tel  905-688-5550 ext. 5216
Fax  905-682-9020
Email  mjhead at
Professor (status only), Department of Geology, University of  
Toronto, Canada
Senior Member, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, UK

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