Tag: Ben Slater

Ben is a palaeontologist who works primarily on Palaeozoic terrestrial ecosystems. He recently completed a PhD at the University of Birmingham, UK, and the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, where his research focused on the biota of exceptionally preserved peat remains from the Permian of Antarctica. His main interests in palaeontology are the development of the earliest complex terrestrial ecosystems, arthropod–plant interactions in the Palaeozoic and the Permian floras of the Southern Hemisphere. Previously, he studied for a master’s in palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, UK, and has worked on a wide range of fossil groups. Aside from fossils, Ben enjoys music, looking after his pet gecko, a bit of amateur astronomy and listening to Test Match Special.

Contact Details:

Dr. Ben Slater, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK.

Fossil Focus: Arthropod–plant interactions

Fossil Focus
by Ben J. Slater*1 Introduction: When the geneticist and evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane was asked what he could conclude about the nature of a creator from his studies of natural history, he supposedly replied that any creator must have “an inordinate fondness for beetles”. Indeed, there are more species of beetle than of any other animal alive today, and as insects, beetles belong to the most diverse class of modern organisms, which includes more than two-thirds of all described species (Fig. 1). It can be said that macroscopic life is dominated by insects (and in particular beetles), but like all organisms, insects — and other arthropods, the larger phylum to which the insects belong — don’t exist in isolation. Organisms are the product of their environment, which inc...

Fossil Focus: Coal swamps

Fossil Focus
by Ben Slater*1 Introduction: Coal swamps are the classical terrestrial (land-based) ecosystems of the Carboniferous and Permian periods. They are forests that grew during the Palaeozoic Era (encompassing the Carboniferous and Permian) in which the volume of plant biomass dying and being deposited in the ground was greater than the volume of clastic (grains of pre-existing rock) material, resulting in a build-up of peat. This was subsequently buried, and eventually turned into coal over geological time. These swamps gave rise to most of the major, industrial-grade coal reserves that are mined today. The palaeontology of these coal-forming ecosystems is well known from the Carboniferous rocks of Euramerica (modern day Europe and North America), owing to the history of coal exploitation ...