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Palaeoceanographer needs advice on tube worm fossils

Harry A. ten Hove hove at science.uva.nl
Tue May 7 17:31:12 EST 2002

Dear James,

At 21:00 7-5-02 +0100, you wrote:
>Dear Annelid experts,
>I am an paleoceanographer seeking advice regarding 4 tube worm fossil 
>samples collected from Holocene (<10kyr old) sediments on the Icelandic 
>shelf (about 200 m water depth).  
>Firstly, I am seeking help in identifying the specimens. Would anyone 
>recommend a text book which could aid me or if anyone has the time or 
>inclination and would like to have a go themselves - I have attached some
>stills of the samples.  

On the assumption that you have serpulid tubes (not all tubeworms are 
serpulids though), please send me the photographs, and I'll have a try. Be 
aware, however, that most serpulids only can be identified by the animals, 
and not by their tubes. You might have a try yourself with : Kupriyanova, E.K., 
& I.A. Jirkov, 1997.- Serpulidae (Annelida Polychaeta) of the Arctic Ocean. 
Sarsia 82: 203-236, 11 figs, 11 maps. or alternatively ask Lena Kupriyanova 
(lena.kupriyanova at flinders.edu.au) for help.  

>Secondly, I'm seeking advice on a couple of specific issues regarding the 
>modes of the specimens. I wish to use the calcium carbonate tubes for 
>radiocarbon dating. However the dating facility I am working with has not used
>tube worms for this purpose previously and therefore there are several criteria
>that need to satisfied before we can date them with confidence.  
>The concerns are:
>- The mechanism by which the organism constructs the tube i.e. does the 
>organism precipitate the carbonate itself? (vital for our needs)or does it
>collect carbonate detritus from it's environs an stick it together with a
>biological glue (an aggultinated form)?  

Serpulids indeed do precipitate the carbonate themselves, although there are 
very) few records telling us that they may incorporate foreign substance. 
However, tubeworms have been carbon dated before (don't have the time 
now to check the references), so probably it is not that much of a problem. 
Personally, I would not worry about it, almost all serpulid tubes show a very 
consistent mineralogy, not indicative of foreign corpora.  

>- Does the organism dwell at the sediment surface (preferable) or at depth?  

Depends on the species concerned.

dr. Harry A. ten Hove
head curator Vertebrata
Zoological Museum
POB 94766, 1090 GT, Amsterdam
the Netherlands
tel. +31205256906


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