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An introduction to the Rhynie chert

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2019

Russell J Garwood
Affiliation:
School of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK Earth Sciences Department, Natural History Museum, London, UK
Heather Oliver
Affiliation:
Sharples School, Hill Cot Road, Astley Bridge, Bolton, UK
Alan R T Spencer
Affiliation:
Earth Sciences Department, Natural History Museum, London, UK Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK
Corresponding

Abstract

The terrestrialization of life has profoundly affected the biosphere, geosphere and atmosphere, and the Geological Magazine has published key works charting the development of our understanding of this process. Integral to this understanding – and featuring in one of the Geological Magazine publications – is the Devonian Rhynie chert Konservat-Lagerstätte located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Here we provide a review of the work on this important early terrestrial deposit to date. We begin by highlighting contributions of note in the Geological Magazine improving understanding of terrestrialization and Palaeozoic terrestrial ecosystems. We then introduce the Rhynie chert. The review highlights its geological setting: the Caledonian context of the Rhynie Basin and its nature at the time of deposition of the cherts which host its famous fossils. There follows an introduction to the development of the half-graben in which the cherts and host sediments were deposited, the palaeoenvironment this represented and the taphonomy of the fossils themselves. We subsequently provide an overview of the mineralization and geochemistry of the deposit, and then the fossils found within the Rhynie chert. These include: six plant genera, which continue to provide significant insights into the evolution of life on land; a range of different fungi, with recent work starting to probe plant–fungus interactions; lichens, amoebae and a range of unicellular eukaryotes and prokaryotes (algae and cyanobacteria); and finally a range of both aquatic and terrestrial arthropods. Through continued study coupled with methodological advances, Rhynie fossils will continue to provide unique insights into early life on land.

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Original Article
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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