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Contact Info:
Tufts University
Dept. of Earth and
Ocean Sciences
Lane Hall, Room 003
Medford, MA 02155

Office: 617-627-3494
Fax: 617-627-3584

Jacob Benner
Senior Lecturer
Paleontology and Paleoecology

B.S.S. 1997 Cornell College
M.S. 2002 University of Utah

Courses Taught
EOS 38: Historical Geology/Paleontology
EOS 104: Geological Applications of GIS

Research Interests
I am an ichnologist – a variety of paleontologist who studies fossilized tracks, trails and burrows of organisms (trace fossils). As such I am interested in the interplay of animal behavior, physiology and ecology and how that contributes to the occurrence and morphology of various traces left by animals in substrates of varying consistency. One significant function of ichnology is its application to the paleoecology of endobenthic animals and the evolution of animal behavior. The field has also been responsible for great strides in the interpretation of complex depositional environments and stratigraphic problems.

I have worked on the early evolution of a particular behavior of marine invertebrates: the ability to bore into rock. The results of this work have led to new understandings of the evolution of the boring behavior and the ecological pressures to perform such an act. I have been involved in soft-sediment trace fossil research as well, looking at the occurrence and construction method of a complex burrow (known as Gyrochorte) in order to reconstruct the possible anatomy and ecological preferences of the responsible organism.

A trace fossil produced by a freshwater sculpin
from the glaciolacustrine varves of Lake Hitchcock
Most recently, Jack Ridge and I have been looking into trace fossils preserved in the glacial lake sediments of the Connecticut River Valley, the most intriguing of which were made by fish as they scraped the substrate with their fins. Using Jack's high-resolution stratigraphic data, we have begun to track the progress of fish species as they re-invaded the valley after the last glaciation. There are no body fossils preserved in these sediments, which makes our novel approach even more valuable. Probably most exciting is the prospect of answering questions that fish biologists and paleontologists have asked for years. What was the pace of re-introduction? From what refugium did the fish originate? Regionally, there are implications for the status of many of our native species, in particular, the blueback trout (a morph of Arctic Charr) and the freshwater sculpin.