Granton Shrimp Bed

Last updated

The Granton Shrimp Bed is a fossil-bearing deposit exposed on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh, in Scotland. It is classified as a Konservat-Lagerstätten because of the exceptional quality of preservation of the fossils and is dominated by crustaceans; the deposit dates back to the Lower Carboniferous, some 359 to 323 million years ago. [1]

Fossil Preserved remains or traces of organisms from a past geological age

A fossil is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects preserved in amber, hair, petrified wood, oil, coal, and DNA remnants. The totality of fossils is known as the fossil record.

Firth of Forth estuary or firth of Scotlands River Forth

The Firth of Forth is the estuary (firth) of several Scottish rivers including the River Forth. It meets the North Sea with Fife on the north coast and Lothian on the south. It was known as Bodotria in Roman times. In the Norse sagas it was known as the Myrkvifiörd.

Edinburgh City and council area in Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.


Location and geological setting

The Granton Shrimp Bed is located on the south shore of the Firth of Forth about 3 km (2 mi) from the centre of Edinburgh. It consists of a layer of dolomitic limestone surrounded by Dinantian mud shales which were formed as a result of the deposit of material in either a delta plain setting or in an inter-distributary bay, where sedimentation occurred because of flood-generated incursions. [1]

Dolostone Sedimentary carbonate rock that contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite

Dolostone or dolomite rock is a sedimentary carbonate rock that contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In old USGS publications, it was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolostones or magnesium-rich limestones. Technically, dolostone has a stoichiometric ratio of nearly equal amounts of magnesium and calcium. Most dolostones formed as a magnesium replacement of limestone or lime mud prior to lithification. It is resistant to erosion and can either contain bedded layers or be unbedded. It is less soluble than limestone in weakly acidic groundwater, but it can still develop solution features over time. Dolostone can act as an oil and natural gas reservoir.

Dinantian is the name of a series or epoch from the Lower Carboniferous system in Europe. It can stand for a series of rocks in Europe or the time span in which they were deposited.

River delta Silt deposition landform at the mouth of a river

A river delta is a landform that forms from deposition of sediment that is carried by a river as the flow leaves its mouth and enters slower-moving or stagnant water. This occurs where a river enters an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, or another river that cannot carry away the supplied sediment. The size and shape of a delta is controlled by the balance between watershed processes that supply sediment, and receiving basin processes that redistribute, sequester, and export that sediment. The size, geometry, and location of the receiving basin also plays an important role in delta evolution. River deltas are important in human civilization, as they are major agricultural production centers and population centers. They can provide coastline defense and can impact drinking water supply. They are also ecologically important, with different species' assemblages depending on their landscape position.

The shrimp bed resulted from the periodic inundations of marine water into stagnant lagoons, each incursion leaving a lamina of limestone rich in the fossils of soft-bodied marine invertebrates and other animals. These conditions of fluctuating salinity seem to have created a suitable habitat for an assemblage of shrimp-like crustaceans, fish, bellerophonts, conchostracans and ostracods. The sudden changes in salinity caused mass mortalities of this fauna, and also brought marine species such as orthocone cephalopods, polychaete worms and conodonts, which are also found fossilised here. [2]

Lagoon A shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs

A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs. Lagoons are commonly divided into coastal lagoons and atoll lagoons. They have also been identified as occurring on mixed-sand and gravel coastlines. There is an overlap between bodies of water classified as coastal lagoons and bodies of water classified as estuaries. Lagoons are common coastal features around many parts of the world.

Bellerophontoidea superfamily of molluscs

Bellerophontoidea,, common name "bellerophonts", is a superfamily of extinct planospirally-coiled globose molluscs. This superfamily is generally included within the Gastropoda, but may instead be a group of monoplacophorans. The taxon first appeared late in the Cambrian and continued until late in the Triassic.

Clam shrimp suborder of arthropods

Clam shrimp are a taxon of bivalved branchiopod crustaceans that resemble the unrelated bivalved molluscs. They are extant, and known from the fossil record, from at least the Devonian period and perhaps before. They were originally classified in a single order Conchostraca, which later proved to be paraphyletic, being separated into three different orders: Cyclestherida, Laevicaudata, and Spinicaudata.


The Granton Shrimp Bed was first brought to the attention of the scientific community by D Tait in 1923. [3] He stated that a common crustacean fossilised in the bed was Tealliocaris , but that there were other species there new to science. One of these, the commonest shrimp in this community, was subsequently described by F.R. Schram in 1979 as Waterstonella grantonensis , named for Dr. Charles Waterstone, keeper of geology at the Royal Scottish Museum, and the location where it was found. [4] The shrimp bed is also important because it was the first place to provide evidence of the structure of conodonts; this is because these animals were soft-bodied, and only their teeth were suited for preservation under normal conditions. [5] Other unique soft-bodied animals were also found in the bed. The small number of fossils with shells were not decalcified, and the lack of bioturbation suggests that the sediment was largely lacking in oxygen. The exceptional state of preservation suggests that the assemblage of fossils is likely to represent the original community and not just some elements of it. [1]

Tealliocaris is an extinct genus of pygocephalomorphans from the Carboniferous.

Waterstonella grantonensis is a species of fossil crustacean so distinct from other crustaceans that it has been placed in its own genus, Waterstonella, family, Waterstonellidae, and order, Waterstonellidea. It is named after Dr. Charles Waterstone, keeper of geology at the Royal Scottish Museum, while the specific epithet commemorates the location where the fossil was found, the Granton shrimp beds, near Edinburgh.

Conodont Extinct agnathan chordates resembling eels

Conodonts are extinct agnathan chordates resembling eels, classified in the class Conodonta. For many years, they were known only from tooth-like microfossils found in isolation and now called conodont elements. Knowledge about soft tissues remains limited. The animals are also called Conodontophora to avoid ambiguity.

Related Research Articles

Burgess Shale geological formation known for its fossils in British Columbia, Canada

The Burgess Shale is a fossil-bearing deposit exposed in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia, Canada. It is famous for the exceptional preservation of the soft parts of its fossils. At 508 million years old, it is one of the earliest fossil beds containing soft-part imprints.

Maotianshan Shales mountain in Peoples Republic of China

The Maotianshan Shales are a series of Early Cambrian deposits in the Chiungchussu Formation, famous for their Konservat Lagerstätten, deposits known for the exceptional preservation of fossilized organisms or traces. The Maotianshan Shales form one of some forty Cambrian fossil locations worldwide exhibiting exquisite preservation of rarely preserved, non-mineralized soft tissue, comparable to the fossils of the Burgess Shale. They take their name from Maotianshan Hill in Chengjiang County, Yunnan Province, China.

Lagerstätte sedimentary deposit that exhibits extraordinary fossils with exceptional preservation

A Lagerstätte is a sedimentary deposit that exhibits extraordinary fossils with exceptional preservation—sometimes including preserved soft tissues. These formations may have resulted from carcass burial in an anoxic environment with minimal bacteria, thus delaying decomposition. Lagerstätten span geological time from the Neoproterozoic era to the present. Worldwide, some of the best examples of near-perfect fossilization are the Cambrian Maotianshan shales and Burgess Shale, the Devonian Hunsrück Slates and Gogo Formation, the Carboniferous Mazon Creek, the Jurassic Solnhofen limestone, the Cretaceous Santana and Yixian formations, and the Eocene Green River Formation.

Geology of Dorset

Dorset is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. Covering an area of 2,653 square kilometres (1,024 sq mi); it borders Devon to the west, Somerset to the north-west, Wiltshire to the north-east, and Hampshire to the east. The great variation in its landscape owes much to the underlying geology which includes an almost unbroken sequence of rocks from 200 Ma to 40 Ma and superficial deposits from 2 Ma to the present. In general the oldest rocks appear in the far west of the county, with the most recent (Eocene) in the far east. Jurassic rocks also underlie the Blackmore Vale and comprise much of the coastal cliff in the west and south of the county; and although younger Cretaceous rocks crown some of the highpoints in the west, they are mainly to be found in the centre and east of the county.

Hamilton Quarry is a Late Carboniferous lagerstätte near Hamilton, Kansas, United States. It has a diverse assemblage of unusually well-preserved marine, euryhaline, freshwater, flying, and terrestrial fossils. This extraordinary mix of fossils suggests it was once an estuary. This type of Lagerstätte is considered a Konservat-Lagerstätte, due to the quality the preservation of soft tissue.

Rhynie chert Early Devonian sedimentary deposit exhibiting extraordinary fossil detail or completeness

The Rhynie chert is an Early Devonian sedimentary deposit exhibiting extraordinary fossil detail or completeness. It is exposed near the village of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland; a second unit, the Windyfield chert, is located some 700 m away. The Rhynie chert contains exceptionally preserved plant, fungus, lichen and animal material preserved in place by an overlying volcanic deposit. The bulk of the fossil bed consists of primitive plants, along with arthropods, lichens, algae and fungi.

Emu Bay Shale Basal conglomerate with fine sandstone and mudstone (containing the fossil Lagerstatte within basal 10 m) above; sandstone and conglomerate above.

The Emu Bay Shale is a geological formation in Emu Bay, South Australia, containing a major Konservat-Lagerstätten. It is one of two in the world containing Redlichiidan trilobites. The Emu Bay Shale is dated as Cambrian Series 2, Stage 4, correlated with the upper Botomian Stage of the Lower Cambrian.

Granton, Edinburgh district in the north of Edinburgh, Scotland

Granton is a district in the north of Edinburgh, Scotland. Granton forms part of Edinburgh's waterfront along the Firth of Forth and is, historically, an industrial area having a large harbour. Granton is part of Edinburgh's large scale waterfront regeneration programme.

<i>Waptia</i> Species of crustacean (fossil)

Waptia fieldensis is an extinct species of arthropod from the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale Lagerstätte of Canada. It grew to a length of about 8 cm (3 in) and resembled modern shrimp in both morphology and habit. It had a large bivalved carapace and a segmented body terminating into a pair of tail flaps. It was an active swimmer, feeding on organic particles it gathers from the seafloor substrate. It is also one of the oldest animals with direct evidence of brood care.

A number of assemblages bear fossil assemblages similar in character to that of the Burgess Shale. While many are also preserved in a similar fashion to the Burgess Shale, the term "Burgess Shale type fauna" covers assemblages based on taxonomic criteria only.

Richard John Aldridge was a British palaeontologist and academic, who was Bennett Professor of Geology at the University of Leicester.

Wheeler Shale

The Wheeler Shale is a Cambrian (c. 507 Ma) fossil locality world famous for prolific agnostid and Elrathia kingii trilobite remains and represents a Konzentrat-Lagerstätten. Varied soft bodied organisms are locally preserved, a fauna and preservation style normally associated with the more famous Burgess Shale. As such, the Wheeler Shale also represents a Konservat-Lagerstätten.

Stephen Formation

The Stephen Formation is a geologic formation exposed in the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia. Its rocks were formed during the middle Cambrian. It is famous for the exceptional preservation of soft-bodied fossils: the Burgess Shale biota. The formation overlies the Cathedral escarpment, a submarine cliff; consequently it is divided into two quite separate parts, the 'thin' sequence deposited in the shallower waters atop the escarpment, and the 'thick' sequence deposited in the deeper waters beyond the cliff. Because the 'thick' Stephen Formation represents a distinct lithofacies, some authors suggest it warrants its own name, and dub it the Burgess Shale Formation. The stratigraphy of the Thin Stephen Formation has not been subject to extensive study, so except where explicitly mentioned this article applies mainly to the Thick Stephen Formation.

A megabias, or a taphonomic megabias is a large scale pattern in the quality of the fossil record that affects paleobiologic analysis at provincial to global levels and at timescales usually exceeding ten million years. It can result from major shifts in intrinsic and extrinsic properties of organisms, including morphology and behaviour in relation to other organisms, or shifts in the global environment, which can cause secular or long-term cyclic changes in preservation.

Prioniodontida, also known as the "complex conodonts", is a large clade of conodonts that includes two major evolutionary grades; the Prioniodinina and the Ozarkodinina. It includes many of the more famous conodonts, such as the giant ordovician Promissum (Prioniodinina) from the Soom Shale and the Carboniferous specimens from the Granton Shrimp bed (Ozarkodinina). They are euconodonts, in that their elements are composed of two layers; the crown and the basal body, and are assumed to be a clade.

Aciculopoda is an extinct prawn which existed in what is now Oklahoma approximately 360 million years ago. It was described in 2010 on the basis of a single fossil from Oklahoma. The single species, Aciculopoda mapesi, was named by Rodney Feldmann and Carrie Schweitzer in honour of Royal Mapes, a paleontologist who discovered the type specimen. It is only the third unambiguous fossil decapod from before the Mesozoic.

Dark stain

A dark stain is often associated with fossils of the Burgess Shale, representing decay fluids that were squashed out of the organism during the taphonomic process.

Mangrullo Formation formation in Uruguay

The Mangrullo Formation is a Lower Permian (Artinskian) fossil locality in northeastern Uruguay. Some authors alternatively group it together with the Paso Aguiar Formation and the Fraile Muerto Formation as the three subdivisions of the Melo Formation, in which case it is referred to as the Mangrullo Member. Like the correlated formations of Irati and Whitehill, it is known for its abundant mesosaur fossils. It also contains the oldest known Konservat-Lagerstätte in South America, as well as the oldest known fossils of amniote embryos.

<i>Lecthaylus</i> genus of worms

Lecthaylus is a genus of fossil sipunculid worms that lived between the Cambrian and the Lower Carboniferous periods.


  1. 1 2 3 Briggs, D.E.G.; Clark, N.D.L.; Clarkson, E.N.K. (1991). "The Granton 'shrimp-bed', Edinburgh--a Lower Carboniferous Konservat-Lagerstätten". Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences. 82: 65–85. doi:10.1017/S0263593300007525.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. Cater, John M.L. (1987). "Sedimentology of part of the Lower Oil-Shale Group (Dinantian) sequence at Granton, Edinburgh, including the Granton "shrimp-bed"". Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 78 (1): 29–40. doi:10.1017/S0263593300010932.
  3. Tait, D. (1923). "Notice of a shrimp-bearing limestone in the Calciferous Sandstone Series at Granton, near Edinburgh". Transactions of the Edinburgh Geological Society. 11 (2): 131–134. doi:10.1144/transed.11.2.131.
  4. Clarkson, E.N.K. (1985). "Carboniferous crustaceans". Geology Today . 1 (1): 11–15. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2451.1985.tb00277.x.
  5. Briggs, D. E. G.; Clarkson, E. N. K.; Aldridge, R. J. (1983). "The conodont animal". Lethaia. 16 (1): 1–14. doi:10.1111/j.1502-3931.1983.tb01993.x.