About the cover: Ammoniods

This Jura Stone Light Beige tile is a common example of fossiliferous building stone found throughout the United States. This decorative tile can be found in numerous airports and shopping centers. The stone dates to the Upper Malm Epoch (Late Jurassic Period) and is approximately 160 million years old. It is easily identified by the bisectioned ammoniods and belemnoids found throughout the tile. This limestone was likely quarried from the Franconian Region of southern Germany (just north of Bavaria). This particular ammonoid is from the SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina. The floors in this shopping center contain more than 500 ammonoids, providing a useful study collection for local schools and universities. An example of one such study is “Functional Morphology at the Mall,” by Scott Hippensteel in this issue. The author is an Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at UNC Charlotte specializing in the environmental uses of fossils. The featured ammonoid was photographed at the SouthPark Mall in February, 2012, using a Nikon L22 at 1/60 second and f/4.

Suggested Teachable Moment Questions

  1. (1)

    Ammonoids have an exceptionally good fossil record. What characteristics do they possess that makes them a good candidate for preservation in the fossil record?

  2. (2)

    One of the chambers of the ammonoid was used as a living space and the rest were used to regulate buoyancy, just like in a submarine. Can you identify which is which?

  3. (3)

    Ammonoids evolved to have more complex suture patterns – and, thus, stronger shells – through time. What environmental benefits might have resulted from this trend?

  4. (4)

    Ammonoids were devastated by the largest extinction in Earth’s history, at the end of the Permian Period, as well as Late Cretaceous mass extinction. Although they did not survive the Cretaceous event, they quickly multiplied and radiated after the Permian mass extinction. Do you have any thoughts as to why they were so successful in the early Mesozoic?

The cover image, the caption, and the above questions for your students were contributed by Scott Hippensteel.