Determining the ages of sub-fossil cetacean remains, found in the Carse of Stirling, Scotland

McMaster, Patrick (2024) Determining the ages of sub-fossil cetacean remains, found in the Carse of Stirling, Scotland. MRes thesis, University of Glasgow.

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During the 19th and early 20th centuries, sub-fossil cetacean remains were often discovered in the Firth of Forth, Central Scotland. These bones and skeletons of "Whales" were excavated from a recent, estuarine deposit (named "carse clay") and, within the biological and geological sciences, were not judged to be important. That palaeontological evidence is re-evaluated in this thesis. These cetacean remains have been preserved in an unusual marine environment and form an exceptional fossil assemblage, with almost no geological precedents. Why is it there?

Whatever caused exceptional preservation in the Firth of Forth in the early Holocene (c. 9.5 – 2.5ka cal BP) can be best identified with chronological data. The ages of six sets of cetacean remains are determined in this thesis, by radiocarbon dating and stratigraphic inference. To reconstruct where a bone or skeleton had been found in the "carse" and then to identify any surviving elements in modern museum collections, archaic textual sources had to be thoroughly investigated. Radiocarbon dates from marine organisms require correction for "reservoir effects" and those applicable to mysticete cetaceans require careful consideration.

The absolute dating evidence shows that no two "Whales" are the same age and that each died, and was then preserved, over the period 9.5 – 7.0ka cal BP. Therefore, a "disaster" (e.g. tsunami) or mass mortality is unlikely to have caused these remains to accumulate. A combination of physical processes and stable environmental conditions are more likely responsible, and might still permit exceptional preservation in the modern Firth of Forth. Actualistic experiment (observing if, and how, a cetacean carcass is preserved or dispersed on a modern tidal foreshore) would allow further insights into this cryptic palaeontological assemblage.

Item Type: Thesis (MRes)
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: The National Environmental Isotope Facility (NEIF) provided funding for five radiocarbon dates, presented in this thesis (No. 2371.0321).
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Q Science > QH Natural history
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Persano, Professor Cristina, Staff, Dr. Richard and Owen, Dr. Amanda
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84037
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2024 12:37
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2024 14:44
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84037

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