My name is Aleksandr Mironenko, I am a paleontologist and paleobiologist. I have been interested in nature and fossils since my childhood. Although for most kids the dinosaurs are the most popular ancient creatures, I always have been more interested in invertebrate fossils such as fossilized seashells. The first fossil seashells for my collection (they were Devonian brachiopods) I found in gravel on the roads of Moscow, my hometown, when I was about 10 years old.
Nevertheless, my way to the paleontological science was long and winding and for a long time paleontology was only my hobby. I graduated from university in 2003 with a BA and specialist degree (analogue of a masters degree in the old Russian system) in environmental sciences. In the first year in the university, the training included a short course of geology with elements of paleontology and with excursions to various fossil localities. After I found out where well-preserved fossils can be collected, I became an active fossil collector and amateur paleontologist. A large number of easily accessible localities of the Jurassic age in the vicinity of Moscow and in the city itself influenced the choice of my main object of collecting and later of my research - ammonites. A few years later, while still an amateur paleontologist, I completed a bachelor's degree in computer sciences. For several years I worked as a web-programmer and in my spare time made two paleontological web-sites: Paleometro.ru, dedicated to fossils which are located in the wall decorating material of the stations of Moscow Metro, and Ammonit.ru – mix of a forum, social network and a fossil record database for amateurs and specialists in the paleontology.
Collecting ammonites and fossil nautiloids led me to reading paleontological literature - I tried to read all the articles and books on cephalopod paleobiology (especially on ammonoid paleobiology) which I could find. Thanks to the Internet and help of my friends - professional paleontologists, I had access to both classic books and modern journal articles and gradually realized that among ammonites in my collection there are some paleobiological features that had not been described in literature. Since 2014 I began to describe these findings in my own publications. Thus I went from being a reader to a writer of scientific articles and became a self-educated paleontologist.
Currently, I work at the Geological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ginras.ru) as a researcher. My professional interests concentrate mainly on Jurassic and Cretaceous ammonoids, but cover all fossil cephalopods, including various Paleozoic nautiloids. I am interested in various aspects of the evolution, paleoecology, and paleobiology of the fossil nautiloids and ammonoids: the structure and evolution of their jaw apparatus, muscular system, and siphuncle tissues, their growth, reproduction, sexual dimorphism, etc. I like to go and take part in excavations and to find cephalopod shells for future research. I alternate between the writing of scientific papers and popular publications and maintains my websites.
The first well-preserved soft-body imprint of a fossil squid was discovered from the Lower Oligocene of the Krasnodar region, Russia. The squid is perfectly preserved, with many details of its body available for study, such as imprints of eyes and head, a pair of statoliths, jaws, and stomach contents. Statoliths of this squid are the first finds of in situ statoliths in fossil non-belemnoid coleoids, and their shape is characteristic of the genus Loligo (family Loliginidae). Although some Mesozoic coleoids were previously classified as teuthids, these finds remain controversial and the squid described herein is the first unquestionable representative of fossil Teuthida known to date. It should be noted that the squid is preserved not due to phosphatization, which is typical for fossil coleoids, but by pyritization and carbonization. Numerous fish remains in the stomach contents of the squid indicate its piscivorous diet. A small cutlassfish Anenchelum angustum, which was buried together with the squid and whose bones are located near the squid's jaws, sheds light on the circumstances of the death of this animal. Most likely, the squid suffocated in the anoxic bottom waters, where it drowned along with its last prey (distraction sinking).More >>>
Sphenothallus specimens are reported for the first time from the Mississippian of Central Russia. All Sphenothallus specimens have a phosphatic composition and a characteristic laminar structure, which is best observable in the thickened lateral parts of a tube. Most of the lamellae in the tube wall are straight, but some have a wavy morphology and a few are so wrinkled that they form hollow “ribs”. The wrinkled lamellae presumably had an originally higher organic content than the straight lamellae. There are borings on the surfaces of some lamellae that are similar in morphology to the bioerosional traces in various hard, biomineral substrates. Lamellae in the inner parts of the tube wall are composed of fibres. The fibres are parallel to the surface of the tube wall and in successive laminae they differ in orientation by irregularly varying angles. It is possible that the plywood microstructure in Sphenothallus was originally organic and was later phosphatized during fossilization. An alternative, but less likely explanation is that the plywood structure was originally mineralized and therefore is comparable to the phosphatic lamello-fibrillar structures of vertebrates.More >>>
Heteromorphs are ammonoids forming a conch with detached whorls (open coiling) or non-planispiral coiling. Such aberrant forms appeared convergently four times within this extinct group of cephalopods. Since Wiedmann's seminal paper in this journal, the palaeobiology of heteromorphs has advanced substantially. Combining direct evidence from their fossil record, indirect insights from phylogenetic bracketing, and physical as well as virtual models, we reach an improved understanding of heteromorph ammonoid palaeobiology. Their anatomy, buoyancy, locomotion, predators, diet, palaeoecology, and extinction are discussed. Based on phylogenetic bracketing with nautiloids and coleoids, heteromorphs like other ammonoids had 10 arms, a well-developed brain, lens eyes, a buccal mass with a radula and a smaller upper as well as a larger lower jaw, and ammonia in their soft tissue. Heteromorphs likely lacked arm suckers, hooks, tentacles, a hood, and an ink sac. All Cretaceous heteromorphs share an aptychus-type lower jaw with a lamellar calcitic covering. Differences in radular tooth morphology and size in heteromorphs suggest a microphagous diet. Stomach contents of heteromorphs comprise planktic crustaceans, gastropods, and crinoids, suggesting a zooplanktic diet. Forms with a U-shaped body chamber (ancylocone) are regarded as suspension feeders, whereas orthoconic forms additionally might have consumed benthic prey. Heteromorphs could achieve near-neutral buoyancy regardless of conch shape or ontogeny. Orthoconic heteromorphs likely had a vertical orientation, whereas ancylocone heteromorphs had a near-horizontal aperture pointing upwards. Heteromorphs with a U-shaped body chamber are more stable hydrodynamically than modern Nautilus and were unable substantially to modify their orientation by active locomotion, i.e. they had no or limited access to benthic prey at adulthood. Pathologies reported for heteromorphs were likely inflicted by crustaceans, fish, marine reptiles, and other cephalopods. Pathologies on Ptychoceras corroborates an external shell and rejects the endocochleate hypothesis. Devonian, Triassic, and Jurassic heteromorphs had a preference for deep-subtidal to offshore facies but are rare in shallow-subtidal, slope, and bathyal facies. Early Cretaceous heteromorphs preferred deep-subtidal to bathyal facies. Late Cretaceous heteromorphs are common in shallow-subtidal to offshore facies. Oxygen isotope data suggest rapid growth and a demersal habitat for adult Discoscaphites and Baculites. A benthic embryonic stage, planktic hatchlings, and a habitat change after one whorl is proposed for Hoploscaphites. Carbon isotope data indicate that some Baculites lived throughout their lives at cold seeps. Adaptation to a planktic life habit potentially drove selection towards smaller hatchlings, implying high fecundity and an ecological role of the hatchlings as micro- and mesoplankton. The Chicxulub impact at the Cretaceous/Paleogene (K/Pg) boundary 66 million years ago is the likely trigger for the extinction of ammonoids. Ammonoids likely persisted after this event for 40–500 thousand years and are exclusively represented by heteromorphs. The ammonoid extinction is linked to their small hatchling sizes, planktotrophic diets, and higher metabolic rates than in nautilids, which survived the K/Pg mass extinction event.More >>>
Elements of the jaw apparatuses of the ammonite genus Kepplerites (Ammonoidea: Stephanoceratoidea, Kosmoceratidae, Keppleritinae) are described from two Upper Bathonian and one Lower Callovian localities of the Russian Platform. The lower jaws (aptychi), based on their size and shape can be assigned to two groups and certainly belonged to the co-occurring macroconchs K. (Kepplerites) and theirs microconchs K. (Toricellites). It is established that the presence or absence of tuberculate ornamentation on the surface calcite layer in the studied kosmoceratid aptychi (and accordingly the assignment of the aptychi of kosmoceratids to Granulaptychus-type or Praestriaptychus-type) is a result of burial and fossilization in diferent settings. Most likely all Kosmoceratidae had lower jaws of the Granulaptychus-type, apparently like the related subfamily Garantianinae (family Stephanoceratidae). For the frst time, upper jaws of cephalopods supposedly also belonging to the ammonites of genus Kepplerites are described from the Bathonian Stage.More >>>
Cephalopoda is the only class of molluscs in which virtually all its modern representatives have a pair of powerful jaws. There is little doubt that jaws have contributed to the evolutionary success of cephalopods, but their origin still remains a mystery. Though cephalopods appeared at the end of the Cambrian, the oldest unequivocal jaws have been reported to date from the Late Devonian, though they were initially interpreted as phyllopod crustaceans of the suborder Discinocarina. After their relation with ammonoids was proven, they were considered as opercula, and only later their mandibular nature was recognized and widely accepted. Finds of discinocarins from Silurian deposits are still considered as opercula of ammonoid ancestors ‐ nautiloids of the order Orthocerida. However, according to modern ideas, there is no place within their soft body for the location of such large opercula. Moreover, the repeated appearance of very similar structures in the same evolutionary line at least twice, but in different places of the body and for different purposes seems highly improbable. A new hypothesis is proposed herein, in which the Silurian fossils, earlier assigned to Discinocarina, are not specialized opercula, but protective shields, to defend orthocerids not from the predators, but from their own prey. The chitinous plates around the mouth likely appeared in the Silurian orthocerids for protection from such damage and later, during Silurian and Devonian, most likely gradually evolved into the jaws.More >>>
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