Dept. of Earth and
Lane Hall, Room 003
Medford, MA 02155
Email Prof. Benner
Paleontology and Paleoecology
B.S.S. 1997 Cornell College
M.S. 2002 University of Utah
EOS 38: Historical Geology/Paleontology
EOS 104: Geological Applications of GIS
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.
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.
A trace fossil produced by a freshwater sculpin
from the glaciolacustrine varves of Lake Hitchcock