Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Athyris nettlerothi

After roaming the exhibits of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History I found a darkened case that contained fossils that I have collected many of.  The Devonian Period Athyris brachiopod found in southern Indiana.  Why the display case was so dark, puzzles me.  As luck had it, I was carrying a small white LED keyring.  Using one hand to illuminate the specimens and the other to hold the camera to auto-focus and then take the picture.  The results are somewhat mixed but I was still happy to these compact little brachiopods found in the Louisville area are on display.

The displays describe them as Athyris nettlerothi (Stainbrook, 1942) of the Middle Devonian Period found in Indiana.  This species is named after a famous paleontologist in the state of Kentucky, Henry Nettelroth(1835-1887).  Appropriately, the Smithsonian Institution published an article entitled "The Nettelroth Collection of Invertebrate Fossils" by R.S. Bassler in Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections (Quarterly Issue) Volume 52, Part 2, pages 121-152, with Plates IX-XI, No. 1814, September 23, 1908. 

After doing a search for the species, it revealed only a few sources and no images.  One source was from Guy Campbell who lived in southern Indiana and specialized in fossils from this area.  He listed it as occurring in the Speed Limestone which is exposed in southern Indiana.  A search of the on-line Smithsonian collections database did not reveal any information about these specimens.

This last picture is of some Athyris brachiopods found in the Speed Limestone of Clark County, Indiana.

Learn more about the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History at their channel on YouTube.

UPDATE (Jan. 2023):  Thanks to Mark Florence at the Smithsonian for pointing out where this species was named. It was in BRACHIOPODA OF THE CEDAR VALLEY BEDS OF IOWA
 Inarticulata, Rhynchonellacea and Rostrospiracea
by Merrill A. Stainbrook (1897-1956) of Texas Technological College, Lubbock Texas (now known as Texas Tech University). It looks Merrill Stainbrook misspelled Nettelroth's name in his paper on page 617 when he named the new species and referring to the reference book. I cannot fault him though as I have reversed the letters E and L in Henry Nettelroth's name on a number of occasions as well.  Merrill's rational for naming the new species is:

"The Indiana Athyris differs in shape
 and outline, is nearly twice as large as A.
 vittata, and is slightly longer than wide on
 the average or as wide. The fold is bordered
 by less acute furrows on either side, and
 the anterior commissure is not as strongly
 sinuous. The shell is thicker proportion-
 ately, the umbos are more prominent, and
 the pedicle beak more protuberant and in-
 curved. A typical example from the Jeffer-
 sonville limestone measures 19.5 mm. in
 length, 19.1 mm. in width, and 13.6 mm.
 in thickness. In Athyris vittata the greatest
 breadth is at the midlength or a little an-
 terior; in the Indiana Athyris the greatest
 width is posterior. Athyris vittata is thickest
 at the midpoint; the Indiana form is thick-
 est posteriorly."

He refers to the holotype as 1290A and papratypes 1290 and 1289 in his collection that will later be turned over to the university. I assume they are now stored at the Museum of Texas Tech University. An obituary for Merrill Addison Stainbrook was published by the Iowa Academy of Science pages 70-72.