The EAT PROJECT

In marine ecosystems, echinoids play an important role as a host or food source for other organisms, including crabs, snails, and vertebrates. In many cases, predators leave specific traces on echinoid tests making it potentially possible to identify predators and parasites using fossils.

The ecological importance of echinoids and their good preservation potential make them excellent model organisms for studying the evolutionary history of predator-prey and parasite-host interactions. This is one of the primary goals of the EAT-PROJECT.

The EAT-PROJECT is supported by the three-year grant provided by the Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology program of the National Science Foundation.

Objectives

The EAT-PROJECT focuses on echinoid-predator and echinoid-parasite interactions archived in the post-Paleozoic fossil record of marine ecosystems. The main goal here is to quantify the evolutionary history of ecological interactions that influenced evolution, ecology, and behavior of echinoids as well as their predators and parasites.

Approach

With the actualistic approach, modern echinoid-predator systems are identified, and trace morphologies are described with respect to the trace producer. Detailed trace descriptions are the basis for interpreting trace fossils and the potential assignment to a specific predator in the fossil record.

Material

Analyses are based on recent and fossil specimens collected in the field, or, retrieved from museum collections and the literature. The special coverage includes nearly all continents and covers large parts of the post-Paleozoic.