Derek E. G. Briggs's research while affiliated with Yale-New Haven Hospital and other places

Publications (404)

Article
Full-text available
Birds and mammals independently evolved the highest metabolic rates among living animals¹. Their metabolism generates heat that enables active thermoregulation¹, shaping the ecological niches they can occupy and their adaptability to environmental change². The metabolic performance of birds, which exceeds that of mammals, is thought to have evolved...
Article
The Spence Shale Lagerstätte is a middle Cambrian (Miaolingian Series; Wuliuan Stage) fossil deposit in northern Utah and southern Idaho, USA. At present, it is known to preserve 89 species, from at least 10 phyla, of biomineralizing and soft-bodied taxa, and represents the only major Lagerstätte of Wuliuan age in Laurentia outside the Canadian Roc...
Article
A non-biomineralized arthropod, Protocaris marshi, was described from the lower Cambrian (Dyeran Series 2, Stage 4) of Parker's Cobble in northwestern Vermont in 1884. It represents the first fossil exhibiting Burgess Shale-type preservation to have been discovered. The locality was presumed to have been worked out and was not collected in a signif...
Article
A recent article argued that signals from conventional Raman spectroscopy of organic materials are overwhelmed by edge filter and fluorescence artefacts. The article targeted a subset of Raman spectroscopic investigations of fossil and modern organisms and has implications for the utility of conventional Raman spectroscopy in comparative tissue ana...
Article
Full-text available
True crabs (Brachyura) are one of the few groups of arthropods to evolve several types of compound eye, the origins and early evolution of which are obscure. Here, we describe details of the eyes of the Cretaceous brachyuran Callichimaera perplexa, which possessed remarkably large eyes and a highly disparate body form among brachyurans. The eyes of...
Article
Full-text available
Amber fossils provide snapshots of the anatomy, biology, and ecology of extinct organisms that are otherwise inaccessible. The best-known fossils in amber are terrestrial arthropods—principally insects—whereas aquatic organisms are rarely represented. Here we present the first record of true crabs (Brachyura) in amber—from the Cretaceous of Myanmar...
Article
Full-text available
Discoveries from the Late Devonian Gogo Formation, in the Canning Basin, Western Australia have provided insights into the origin and evolution of many unique gnathostome features such as the origins of teeth, internal fertilisation, air-breathing, transitional tissues between bone and cartilage, and insights into the fin to limb transition. Althou...
Article
Full-text available
The first Silurian trilobite known with soft parts preserved, a Dalmanites species, is described from the Herefordshire Lagerstätte. Biramous appendages and much of the alimentary system are evident. High‐fidelity three‐dimensional preservation reveals a novel arrangement of the exopod, in which successive filaments are connected by a presumed memb...
Article
Full-text available
Most Palaeozoic brittle stars lack the fused arm ossicles (vertebrae) that facilitate the remarkable mode of walking that characterizes living forms. Here we describe a stem ophiuroid from the Herefordshire Lagerstätte (Silurian, Wenlock Series), which is exceptional in preserving the body cavity uncompacted and the long tube feet. We assign the sp...
Article
The role of minerals in Burgess Shale–type fossilization is controversial, particularly that of the clay mineral kaolinite. Kaolinite may have formed on carcasses or attached to them as they decayed, stabilizing organic matter. Alternatively, kaolinite may have formed during metamorphism, playing no role in the preservation of soft tissues. Evaluat...
Article
Soft-bodied fossils of Cambrian age, now known as Burgess Shale–type biotas, were first described from the Parker Slate of the northwest Vermont (USA) slate belt in the late 19th century, 25 years before the discovery of the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, Canada. Here, we report the rediscovery of fossiliferous horizons at Parker’s Cobble, the...
Preprint
Full-text available
Raman spectroscopy has facilitated rapid progress in the understanding of patterns and processes associated with biomolecule fossilization and revealed the preservation of biological and geological signatures in fossil organic matter. Nonetheless six large-scale statistical studies of Raman spectra of carbonaceous fossils, selected from a number of...
Article
Full-text available
Living brittle stars (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea) employ a very different locomotion strategy to that of any other metazoan: five or more arms coordinate powerful strides for rapid movement across the ocean floor. This mode of locomotion is reliant on the unique morphology and arrangement of multifaceted skeletal elements and associated muscles and...
Article
The fossil record provides the only direct record of the history of life, but it is an incomplete one. Discriminating between what is absent and what is simply not preserved is critical to macroevolutionary and macroecological inferences. A comparison of diversity data in over 20,000 modern marine assemblages from the Ocean Biogeographic Informatio...
Article
Full-text available
The early burst model suggests that disparity rises rapidly to fill empty ecospace following clade origination or in the aftermath of a mass extinction. Early bursts are considered common features of fossil data, but neontological studies have struggled to identify them. Furthermore, tests have proven difficult because factors besides ecology can d...
Article
Mudstone-hosted microfossils are a major component of the Proterozoic fossil record, particularly dominating the record of early eukaryotic life. Early organisms possessed no biomineralized parts to resist decay and controls on their fossilization in mudstones are poorly understood. Consequently, the Proterozoic fossil record is compromised—we do n...
Article
Full-text available
Proteins, lipids, and sugars establish animal form and function. However, the preservation of biological signals in fossil organic matter is poorly understood. Here, we used high-resolution in situ Raman microspectroscopy to analyze the molecular compositions of 113 Phanerozoic metazoan fossils and sediments. Proteins, lipids, and sugars converge i...
Article
Full-text available
The locomotion strategies of fossil invertebrates are typically interpreted on the basis of morphological descriptions. However, it has been shown that homologous structures with disparate morphologies in extant invertebrates do not necessarily correlate with differences in their locomotory capability. Here, we present a new methodology for analysi...
Article
The chemical composition of fossil soft tissues is a potentially powerful and yet underutilized tool for elucidating the affinity of problematic fossil organisms. In some cases, it has proven difficult to assign a problematic fossil even to the invertebrates or vertebrates (more generally chordates) based on often incompletely preserved morphology...
Article
Regurgitalites (fossilized regurgitates) can provide insight into the behavioral ecology and physiology of extinct species, but they are rarely reported because they are difficult to identify and distinguish from coprolites. A compact mass of skeletal material from the Owl Rock Member of the Upper Triassic Chinle Formation of Arizona reveals featur...
Article
Full-text available
The eurypterids of the Silurian Bertie Group of North America are some of the most striking fossils known, with their dark organic cuticle outlined against a background of light coloured dolomite. Eurypterus is the most abundant genus but the pterygotids with their long grasping claws have fired our imagination as giant extinct predators. Large com...
Conference Paper
Carbonaceous fossils are known for all major groups of life and provide pivotal insights into the evolution of organismal form and function. Even though globally distributed throughout the Neoproterozoic and Phanerozoic, carbonaceous soft part preservation is considered exceptional based on the assumption that biomolecular building blocks have a lo...
Article
Full-text available
The most commonly preserved soft tissues associated with ornithischian dinosaurs are skin remains. The apparent resistance of hadrosaur skin to decay, and its abundance in the fossil record relative to that of other tetrapods, has been attributed to factors such as thickness and composition. Here we report additional intrinsic factors within hadros...
Presentation
The phylogenetic position of vetulicolians within deuterostomes and conodonts within chordates has been controversial since these affinities were first proposed. No study has addressed these questions within a deuterostome framework, based on multiple OTUs (Operational Taxonomic Units) per taxon including representatives of all early chordate/hemic...
Article
Full-text available
Autotomy, the self-induced loss of a body structure, occurs in every living class of echinoderms and is related to the remarkable regeneration capabilities of the group. It is particularly prevalent in brittle stars (Class Ophiuroidea). Autotomy is facilitated by mutable collagenous tissue, which undergoes nervous system-mediated changes in tensile...
Article
The Herefordshire Lagerstätte ( c . 430 Ma) from the UK is a rare example of soft-tissue preservation in the Silurian. It yields a wide range of invertebrates in unparalleled three-dimensional detail, dominated by arthropods and sponges. The fossils are exceptionally preserved as calcitic void infills in early diagenetic carbonate concretions withi...
Article
Full-text available
Sponges (Porifera), as one of the earliest-branching animal phyla, are crucial for understanding early metazoan phylogeny. Recent studies of Lower Palaeozoic sponges have revealed a variety of character states and combinations unknown in extant taxa, challenging our views of early sponge morphology. The Herefordshire Konservat–Lagerstätte yields an...
Article
Reconstructing the evolutionary assembly of animal body plans is challenging when there are large morphological gaps between extant sister taxa, as in the case of echinozoans (echinoids and holothurians). However, the inclusion of extinct taxa can help bridge these gaps. Here we describe a new species of echinozoan, Sollasina cthulhu, from the Silu...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Echinoidea is a clade of marine animals including sea urchins, heart urchins, sand dollars and sea biscuits. Found in benthic habitats across all latitudes, echinoids are key components of marine communities such as coral reefs and kelp forests. A little over 1000 species inhabit the oceans today, a diversity that traces its roots back...
Article
Echinoderms lack a centralized nervous control system, yet each extant echinoderm class has evolved unique and effective strategies for locomotion. Brittle stars (Ophiuroidea) stride swiftly over the seafloor by coordinating motions of their five muscular arms. Their arms consist of many repeating segments, requiring them to use a complex control s...
Article
Full-text available
Vertebrate hard tissues consist of mineral crystallites within a proteinaceous scaffold that normally degrades post-mortem. Here we show, however, that decalcification of Mesozoic hard tissues preserved in oxidative settings releases brownish stained extracellular matrix, cells, blood vessels, and nerve projections. Raman Microspectroscopy shows th...
Article
Full-text available
Ostracod crustaceans are diverse and ubiquitous in aqueous environments today but relatively few known species have gills. Ostracods are the most abundant fossil arthropods but examples of soft-part preservation, especially of gills, are exceptionally rare. A new ostracod, Spiricopia aurita (Myodocopa), from the marine Silurian Herefordshire Lagers...
Article
Full-text available
Brittle stars (Phylum Echinodermata, Class Ophiuroidea) have evolved rapid locomotion employing muscle and skeletal elements within their (usually) five arms to apply forces in a manner analogous to that of vertebrates. Inferring the inner workings of the arm has been difficult as the skeleton is internal and many of the ossicles are sub‐millimeter...
Article
Sedimentation in Oligocene Lake Enspel was rapidly terminated by a basaltic lava flow. This introduced a preservational barrier while imparting a ‘natural flash pyrolysis’ during which the organic matter in underlying stratigraphic units was subjected to rapid thermal maturation resulting in hydrocarbon generation. Samples from these strata exhibit...
Article
Full-text available
The Winneshiek Shale (Middle Ordovician, Darriwilian) was deposited in a meteorite crater, the Decorah impact structure, in NE Iowa. This crater is 5.6 km in diameter and penetrates Cambrian and Ordovician cratonic strata. It was probably situated close to land in an embayment connected to the epicontinental sea; typical shelly marine taxa are abse...
Article
Full-text available
The Herefordshire (Silurian) Lagerstätte (approx. 430 Myr BP) has yielded, among many exceptionally preserved invertebrates, a wide range of new genera belonging to crown-group Panarthropoda. Here, we increase this panarthropod diversity with the lobopodian Thanahita distos, a new total-group panarthropod genus and species. This new lobopodian pres...
Article
The Decorah structure, recently discovered in northeastern Iowa, now appears as an almost entirely subsurface, deeply eroded circular basin 5.6 km in diameter and ~200 m deep, that truncates a near-horizontal series of Upper Cambrian to Lower Ordovician platform sediments. Initial analysis of geological and well-drilling data indicated characterist...
Article
The colonization of the water column is among the most important transformations in the evolution of animal life and global ecosystems. The Devonian nekton revolution has been identified as a major macroevolutionary event signifying the rapid occupation of the water column by independent radiations of swimming animals. Using new data, an expanded t...
Article
Full-text available
The Martian surface is cold, dry, exposed to biologically harmful radiation and apparently barren today. Nevertheless, there is clear geological evidence for warmer, wetter intervals in the past that could have supported life at or near the surface. This evidence has motivated NASA and ESA to prioritize the search for any remains or traces of organ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Mars 2020 should target fine-grained sediments, which on Earth preserve biosignatures more reliably and consistently than other settings identified on Mars. Taphonomic experiments will show how oxychlorine compounds may affect preservation.
Article
Microfossil assemblages that include large acritarchs with complex processes, known as Doushantuo-Pertatataka-type acritarchs, are recovered from early Ediacaran successions globally. They are commonly found in shale and chert lithologies, but their diversity and palaeobiological significance is greatest when they are phosphatized. The best-known e...
Article
Burgess Shale–type (BST) fossilization of carbonaceous remains that are ordinarily lost to decay is critical to our understanding of the early evolution of complex life. Sediment composition, particularly the abundance of certain clay minerals, has been invoked as a significant factor in BST fossilization. X-ray diffraction data for 213 Cambrian sh...
Article
W. Scott Persons IV and John Acorn, in their paper “A Sea Scorpion’s Strike: New Evidence of Extreme Lateral Flexibility in the Opisthosoma of Eurypterids,” appearing in the July 2017 issue of The American Naturalist, suggested a radical new mode of hunting for eurypterids involving extreme lateral flexibility that permitted the telson to slash and...
Article
The 3.5 Ma Pliocene Bowden shell beds in southeast Jamaica constitute one of the best-known and well-studied paleontological sites in the Greater Antilles. More than 850 species of shelly fossils, dominated by molluscs, have been reported from the unit. Stratigraphic analysis of a newly cleared, continuous section revealed a submarine channel that...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the water vascular system (WVS) in early fossil echinoderms is critical to elucidating the evolution of this system in extant forms. Here we present the first report of the internal morphology of the water vascular system of a stem ophiuroid. The radial canals are internal to the arm, but protected dorsally by a plate separate to the...
Article
Full-text available
Exceptionally preserved fossils are the product of complex interplays of biological and geological processes including burial, autolysis and microbial decay, authigenic mineralization, diagenesis, metamorphism, and finally weathering and exhumation. Determining which tissues are preserved and how biases affect their preservation pathways is importa...
Article
Presentation of the 2016 Paleontological Society Medal to Richard A. Fortey - Volume 91 Issue 6 - Derek E.G. Briggs
Article
Full-text available
There is a long history of collaboration between Russia and the United Kingdom in paleontology. This began, arguably, in 1821, with the seminal work by William Fox-Strangways, who produced a geological map of the area around St Petersburg. Most famously, Roderick Murchison carried out extensive surveying and observations throughout European Russia...