Mistaken Point, Newfoundland -> More than just a clever name.

I wanted to take a day to call attention to  a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of Paleontology. This paper defines two new genera of Ediacaran small fronds found at Mistaken Point in Newfoundland. I find this exciting for a few reasons.


Aspidella terrinovica Photo Credit: Sara Mason

The first being that it is Canadian fossil research, it is always exciting for me to find out what is being discovered in this giant backyard of ours. Until 2015 I had not even heard of the fossil genera Ediacara, let alone that Newfoundland was home to some of the oldest fossils in the world. Most of the fossils in Mistaken Point have already been named, however, the small fronds have not, and that is where this paper steps in. The process is difficult at best, since Mistaken Point is a protected area and fossils cannot be removed.  This is a blessing and a curse, since it allows for future generations to continue research, visit as tourists, and keeps the site preserved. However, for scientists this means that all interpretations and research work must be conducted via photographic means, molds, and casts.


This is often what paleontologists look like: on the ground, notebooks, pens/pencils, measuring devices. Photo Credit: Calla Carbone

The second being that Sara Mason is a wonderfully thorough paleontological ediacaran-studying researcher who I have had the privilege of calling my mentor during my own field work. She is brave in many ways I cannot describe, even traveling to the depths of Africa where there is no WiFi, all in the name of science and the pursuit of knowledge. (All joking aside, she actually did travel to Africa for research purposes, and is the reason I have tried Savannah Cider). She is a champion for POTS and dysautonomia awareness. She advocates for those who are scared or unable to stand up for themselves. She is remarkably eloquent with words, brilliant in the field, strong-minded, and no one is more deserving of having their paper be my first serious scientific focal point on this blog. She has an incredible eye for detail, focusing on distinguishing the differences in very similar ‘dusters’ and finding that indeed the constructions are quite unique after all. Filling in the small, oft over-looked gaps of the ediacaran biota can change the way we view  the paleoecology of the period. Mop-like constructions vs. lobate, flabellate constructions can infer competition for resources even at this level.

Lastly, not enough attention is called to the works of female scientists. I know is this going to come off as whiny. I know this is going to come off as ‘feminist’. Frankly, it is just the truth. As women, it takes longer for our papers to get published if our first names our used, they get taken less seriously, and they get referenced/cited less often. It is a gender bias that reaches into the salaries as well. It is time for it to end. Yes, I will also be posting works from men. I have quite a few that I admire as well and follow their research. I have nothing against them. This paper just happens to hit everything I want to draw attention to at the moment… Canadian Fossils, Canadian Researchers, or Women in Science.

Now, please go see what neat, newly-named small fronds we have! The article is conveniently linked in full below. 


Featured Image: Mistaken Point E surface, the prominent fossil in the lower right and corner is Fractofusus misrai. Photo Credit: Sara Mason


Sara J. Mason and Guy M. Narbonne Two new Ediacaran small fronds from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology, Available on CJO 2016 doi:10.1017/jpa.2016.14

Copyright 2016 Mason and Narbonne. Permissions for use were obtained from the lead author Sara Mason. Cambridge University Press grants permission freely for the reproduction in another work of a short prose extract (less than 400 words), a single figure or a single table in which it holds rights. The original article can be found at:  http://jpaleontol.geoscienceworld.org/content/90/2/183

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