Touro Paleontologist Presents Papers on Ancient Fossils

Date: January 03, 2013
Media Contact:

Gabe Kahn
212-463-0400 x5404
gabriel.kahn@touro.edu

New York, N.Y. – Dr. Howard R. Feldman, a paleontologist and biology professor at Touro’s Lander College for Women – The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School (LCW) in Manhattan, recently presented two papers at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Dr. Feldman’s research may help determine the timing of the breakup of Pangaea, which scientists believe to have been an ancient supercontinent made up of all the world’s continents.

“Once again, Dr. Feldman’s innovative work and exhaustive research have revealed previously unknown information about the ancient world,” said Marian Stoltz-Loike Ph.D., Touro’s vice president of online education and the dean of LCW. “Dr. Feldman is a creative scientist whose insight brings new understanding to the field of paleontology and is an inspiration to our students.”

A new technique to identify the internal structure of fossils using a CT scan allowed Dr. Feldman to conduct a more thorough examination of the internal structure of Middle Jurassic brachiopods (seashells) and their (marine) communities in southern Israel. The CT scan enables scientists to reproduce a three-dimensional image of the fossil's internal structures; previously the shells could only be reproduced in two dimensions.

“Using state of the art technology, we were able to find another piece of evidence to support the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics, which causes the drift,” said Dr. Feldman. During the Jurassic period there existed a large sea, the precursor of today’s Mediterranean, which covered most of North Africa and part of India, according to Dr. Feldman. Brachiopod fossils from that era were preserved along the shoreline of the Jurassic Ethiopian Province at the time that Pangaea was breaking up, estimated to have occurred between 40 and 50 million years ago.

By analyzing a 3D image of the shells, Dr. Feldman was able to determine that the fossils on the north African-Sinai coast were almost identical to those on the coast of what is now northwest India (the Cutch), giving further credence to the theory that the continents were once part of a single unit.

In addition to the insight gained into Pangaea, Dr. Feldman said that the research also shows how species have reacted to selection pressures and may predict how they will do so in the future, while also revealing information on paleoclimates.

“These data will help establish the history of brachiopod species and their evolution,” said Dr. Feldman. “The taxonomic information recorded as a result of these studies will help us understand the biogeographic history of the Ethiopian Faunal Province that includes the Maghreb, Egypt, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and the Cutch, and help to interpret the structure and paleoecology of its marine communities.”

The papers are part of a long-term project that began with Dr. Feldman’s analysis of the northern Sinai area and Israel 1978 in order to systematically study the fossil brachiopod faunas.

The Lander College for Women is an undergraduate division of Touro, a student-centered college located in midtown Manhattan where Jewish women follow a rigorous academic program as they pursue their baccalaureate degrees, while continuing and deepening their Torah education and commitment. The Judaic Studies and general academic curricula aim to enrich the students’ general knowledge, to develop leadership skills and to prepare students to enter their chosen academic discipline.