Current Research Projects
It is often said that the large sauropod dinosaurs, like the large herbivorous mammals of today, had to eat vast quantities of vegetation every day to stay alive and to maintain their immense bulk. Recent evidence also suggests that many sauropod species travelled in herds and may, in fact, have been warm blooded.
Careful study of the growth characteristics of those plants in our Living Fossil collection that were common contemporaries of the dinosaurs of the early to mid-Jurassic casts doubt on some of these findings.
This project is looking at the differences and similarities of the feeding habits of present day reptiles and migratory mammals with a view to applying these principles to the possible drivers that would have affected the structure and nature of dinosaur society.
Dartford has extensive and varied deposits of sand and gravel distributed around the Borough attributed to Quarternary Drift deposits from the action of outflow streams from melting glaciers and from normal river deposition from both the Thames and Darent rivers.
It is a widely held view that prior to the Pleistocene Glaciation, the course of the river Thames lay some miles to the north of its' present course, running through Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex.
It is also believed that the proto-Darent was formerly much larger than the present day but that the river Medway, through erosion of the soft chalk and clays of the North Downs/Western Weald, captured much of the headwaters that once supplied the Darent.
The Thames flows across strata that are predominently either Jurassic or Eocene, whereas the Darent flows mainly across Cretaceous strata. Glacial deposits can include rocks that have travelled hundreds of miles locked up in the ice.
By close examination of the rock types contained within the sand, the strata from which they originated and method of deposition can be inferred and mapped.
Examination of the upper chalk in the Dartford area shows anomalies in the pattern of distribution of fossil marine fauna. Chalk deposits, literally yards apart, can be either highly fossiliferous with remains of bivalves, brachiapods and sea urchins, or can be completely barren of fossil remains.
The bands of flint that are often found in the upper chalk are said to be the sicilified remains of the soft parts of marine animals, yet little is understood about why these remains should manifest themselves in these regular bands rather than by even distribution through the chalk.
Microscopic examination of the coccoliths that make up the chalk horizons directly above and below the flint layers may provide answers to these questions.
London and the South East is underlain by significant chalk strata containing bands of quartz flint. Current thinking (Garrison 2002) is that chalk can only form in shallow waters yet red chert is thought to only be formed in deep water environments. This begs the question "Where did the red chert originate?"
This project will examine the possible mechanisms that led to their deposition such as erosion of upriver strata or glacial deposit.