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2007 Patterson Memorial Grant Recipient

Jan Fischer

Jan Fischer

I grew up in Saxony, Eastern Germany. I first came in contact with paleontology reading the impressive illustrated book of Z. Spinar and Z. Burian “Life before Man.” After finishing school, I pursued my interests in fossils and Earth history and began to study geology and paleontology at the University of Mining and Technology in Freiberg, Germany.

While participating in the Freiberg workgroup of Jörg Schneider I gained insight into all fields of paleontological work. During my studies my interests shifted to Late Paleozoic terrestrial ecosystems, especially on shark remains from freshwater habitats. I joined several field projects in Germany and abroad (e.g., France, Czech Republic, Italy) to study important Permocarboniferous lake deposits. Finally, my master thesis dealt with the paleontology, paleoecology and paleobiogeography of the hybodont freshwater shark Lissodus in central European continental basins during Late Carboniferous to Early Permian times. The main results of the thesis are the description of a new species of Lissodus from Sardinia, Italy and a proposal of potential migration patterns of freshwater sharks based on the distribution of related fossil remains in space and time.

After receiving my MSc in Geology/Paleontology, I got in contact with the Triassic Madygen fossil lagerstaette of south western Kyrgyzstan, central Asia. Together with Sebastian Voigt, I was engaged in a study concerning the adjustment of the elongate dorsal appendices of the enigmatic reptile Longisquama insignis. In autumn 2006 Sebastian Voigt found Palaeoxyris egg capsules in the Madygen Formation whose deposits have been assumed so far to represent an internally drained upland basin. I was fascinated by his findings because of its important implications. Also, a specific exploration to other shark remains within the Madygen sediments may supply hard facts for basin configuration, paleoecology and biostratigraphy.

Funding from the Bryan Patterson Memorial Grant is supporting my field work on shark fossils in one of the most interesting Early Mesozoic terrestrial environments represented by the Madygen basin. This project is a preliminary work of my planned PhD concerning the paleo­biogeography and paleoecology of small hybodont sharks, especially Lissodus, based on stable isotopic analysis of teeth and spines. A specific interest is focused on the ecological evolution of this group, inasmuch it is still unknown if there is a true freshwater chondrichthyan fauna or indications of an annual migration by anadrom marine sharks for spawning.

Photo courtesy of Jan Fischer.