The Soom Shale

Background

Dick Aldridge on the Soom
Dick Aldridge on the Soom shale
The Late Ordovician Soom Shale Lagerstätte of the Western Cape Province (South Africa) preserves a relatively limited ecosystem, but the quality of preservation is truly extraordinary. Details of organisms’ internal anatomy such as muscles, livers, eyes, guts and arthropod endoskeletons are common. The fossils are preserved as organic films, similar to those in the Chengjiang biota and Burgess Shale, with associated clay mineralization aping soft-tissue anatomy. It records an ecosystem at the time of the demise of the end of the Ordovician glaciation event (see also my research on Sedimentology).

The Team

The Soom Team
Hannes Theron, Sarah Gabbott, Rowan Whittle and Dick Aldridge
The Soom Shale is important to me as it was the Lagerstätte I investigated for my PhD, and I have spent many months collecting fossils from the few localities that yield exceptional preservation. I worked principally alongside Professor Dick Aldridge (University of Leicester) and Hannes Theron (Council for Geoscience, South Africa) and Dr Rowan Whittle (British Antarctic Survey) on the Soom.

My Funding

2013: National Geographic Explorers Award in Research to fund drilling in South Africa and research on ‘The winds of change: did dust blown from a glacial landscape fertilize the ocean after the end-Ordovician glaciation?’ Principal Investigator. €20,000.

2007: The Geological Society of London Elgar Wood fund awarded to fund research materials. Principal Investigator. £600.

2005: The Geological Society of London Gloyne Outdoor Geological Research Fund for fieldwork in South Africa. Principal Investigator. £865.

2002: Royal Society Equipment Grant to purchase a Petroscope. Principal Investigator. £5451.

2002: Royal Society Conference grant to attend First Australian Palaeontological Congress, Sydney. £739. Presented on Soom Shale conodont with soft tissue preservation.

Publications

Aldridge, R.A., Murdoch, D.M., Gabbott, S.E., Theron, J.N. (2013). A seventeen-element conodont apparatus from the Soom Shale Lagerstätte (Upper Ordovician), South Africa. Palaeontology, 56, 261-276.

Gabbott, S. E., Zalasiewicz, J. A., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, N. (2010). Eolian input into the Late Ordovician postglacial Soom Shale, South Africa. Geology, 38(12), 1103-1106. doi:10.1130/G31426.1

Bassett, M. G., Popov, L. E., Aldridge, R. A., Gabbott, S. E., & Theron, J. N. (2009). Brachiopoda from the Soom Shale Lagerstatte (Upper Ordovician, South Africa). Journal of Paleontology, 83(4), 614-623. doi:10.1666/08-136.1

Whittle, R. J., Gabbott, S. E., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. (2009). An Ordovician Lobopodian from the Soom Shale Lagerstatte, South Africa. Palaeontology, 52, 561-567. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2009.00860.x

Vandenbroucke, T. R. A., Gabbott, S. E., Paris, F., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. N. (2009). Chitinozoans and the age of the Soon Shale, an Ordovician black shale Lagerstatte, South Africa. Journal of Micropalaeontology, 28, 53-66.

Whittle, R., Gabbott, S. E., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. (2008). Late Ordovician (Hirnantian) scolecodont clusters from the Soom Shale Lagerstatte, South Africa. Journal of Micropalaeontology, 27(2), 147-159.

Whittle, R. J., Gabbott, S. E., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. N. (2007). Taphonomy and palaeoecology of a Late Ordovician caryocaridid from the Soom Shale Lagerstatte, South Africa. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 251(3-4), 383-397. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2007.04.006

Aldridge, R. J., Gabbott, S. E., Siveter, L. J., & Theron, J. N. (2006). Bromalites from the Soom Shale Lagerstätte (Upper Ordovician) of South Africa: palaeoecological and palaeobiological implication. Palaeontology, 49(4), 857-871. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2006.00570.x

Gabbott, S. E., Siveter, D. J., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. N. (2003). The earliest myodocopes: ostracodes from the late Ordovician Soom Shale Lagerstätte of South Africa. Lethaia, 36(3), 151-160. doi:10.1080/00241160310004620

Gabbott, S. E., Norry, M. J., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. N. (2001). Preservation of fossils in clay minerals; a unique example from the Upper Ordovician Soom Shale, South Africa. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 53(3), 237-244.

Gabbott, S. E. (1999). Orthoconic cephalopods and associated fauna from the late Ordovician Soom Shale Lagerstatte, South Africa. Palaeontology, 42, 567-568.

Braddy, S. J., Aldridge, R. J., Gabbott, S. E., & Theron, J. N. (1999). Lamellate book-gills in a late Ordovician eurypterid from the Soom Shale, South Africa: support for a eurypterid-scorpion clade. Lethaia, 32(1), 72-74.

Gabbott, S. E. (1999). Orthoconic cephalopods and associated fauna from the late Ordovician Soom Shale Lagerstatte, South Africa. Palaeontology, 42, 123-148. doi:10.1111/1475-4983.00065

Gabbott, S. E. (1998). Taphonomy of the Ordovician Soom Shale Lagerstatte: An example of soft tissue preservation in clay minerals. Palaeontology, 41, 631-667.

Gabbott, S. E., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. N. (1998). Chitinozoan chains and cocoons from the upper Ordovician Soom shale lagerstatte, South Africa: implications for affinity. Journal of the Geological Society, 155, 447-452. doi:10.1144/gsjgs.155.3.0447

Gabbott, S. E., Aldridge, R. J., & Theron, J. N. (1995). A giant conodont with preserved muscle-tissue from the Upper Ordovician of South Africa. Nature, 374(6525), 800-803. doi:10.1038/374800a0

Aldridge, R. J., Purnell, M.A., Gabbott, S.E., & Theron, J. N. The apparatus architecture and function of Promissum pulchrum kovacs-endrody (Conodonta, upper Ordovician) and the prioniodontid plan. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London - Biological Sciences, 347(1321), 275-291. doi:10.1098/rstb.1995.0027

Purnell, M. A., Aldridge, R. J., Donoghue, P. C. J., & Gabbott, S. E. (1995). Conodonts and the first vertebrates. Endeavour, 19(1), 20-27. doi:10.1016/0160-9327(95)98890-R

Aldridge, R. J., Theron, J. N., & Gabbott, S. E. (1994). The Soom shale: a unique Ordovician fossil horizon in South Africa. Geology Today, 10(6), 218-221.

Aldridge, R. J., Gabbott, S. E, and J. N. Theron. 2001. The Soom Shale p.340-342. In: Briggs, D.E.G. and P.R. Crowther. Palaeobiology 11. Blackwell Sciences, Oxford.

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