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Aurelius

Number of extant Ammonite fossils

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Aurelius

Categorise this as 'just for fun', and don't get your hopes up for much fun.

 

I've been doing some '[word wrongly auto-censored] packet' calculations (this is British for writing on the back of a cigarette packet, not a slur) about how many ammonite fossils may be extant on the earth.


I'm not a mathematician. I'm the opposite of a mathematician, whatever that is. But I started my calculations based upon a single rock formation which I know well, to see if I could use that to work from. If we look at the Toarcian Beacon Limestone formation in the UK - which spans at least twenty miles in a single direction and is around five metres thick (significantly thinner at the coastal end, I think).

 

Ammonites are abundant in this rock, with many layers being packed full of them. In a single square foot of material, you will sometimes find dozens of ammonites. In a single square-foot section vertically through the entire formation, I'd say that you'd easily find 100 ammonites. That's probably an underestimate.

 

So on that basis, if we assume a total of thirty square miles for this formation, we have 836,352,000 square feet. Assume 100 ammonites per square foot (all the way down through the formation), that's 83,635,200,000, or eighty-three billion, six hundred and thirty-five million, two hundred thousand ammonites preserved.

 

Now, that's got to be way out. For a start, the formation varies in different locations, both in thickness and number of ammonites present. It is probably not present at all in many areas (though there are quite a few outcrops). 

 

Has anyone ever attempted to make an rough estimate at how many ammonites may be preserved in the earth? It's interesting to think; the Beacon Limestone formation is five metres thick, and represents about eight million years of sedimentary deposition. Barely any of the ammonites that lived during that time, in this area, are preserved in this formation. Makes you wonder how many ammonites must have swam in the oceans over all those millions of years.

 

20180616_154109.thumb.jpg.bc9149ffbf79e9f18e76715191c76cdc.jpg

The Beacon Limestone

 

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DPS Ammonite

Wow! This is significantly more difficult than figuring out how many licks there are in a Tootsie Pop. 

 

I was thrown off a little. There are no living ammonites so instead of "extant" you mean how many "extinct" ammonites exist in the rock layers.

 

How ever many ammonites are preserved they are probably only a fraction of once lived. 

 

I do do not know if I will live long enough to figure out this one. I also do not think that there exits a large enough envelope or napkin to write this one on.

 

I do often wonder why ammonites and other cephalopods are so common in such places as north Texas and why there are so few preserved in Arizona. I have seen only a handful of coiled cephalopods in Arizona Paleozoic rocks. Certainly they must have been around in these ecosystems. For what ever reason most did not fossilize.

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WhodamanHD

Always hated fermi problems...

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Aurelius
7 minutes ago, DPS Ammonite said:

I was thrown off a little. There are no living ammonites so instead of "extant" you mean how many "extinct" ammonites exist in the rock layers.

 

Yes, exactly - how many ammonite shells are - in one form or another - still extant.

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DPS Ammonite

Instead of calling them extant extinct or extinct extant (my brain hurts) ammonite shells, just say how many ammonite fossils exist. :)

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Ludwigia

Duh! I'd say there's a whole lot of 'em, when not a whole bunch more!!

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ynot
2 hours ago, Aurelius said:

 

Yes, exactly - how many ammonite shells are - in one form or another - still extant.

The answer to this question is - without a doubt- ZERO.

There are no extant ammonites (in fossil beds or the oceans.).

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Aurelius
7 minutes ago, ynot said:

The answer to this question is - without a doubt- ZERO.

There are no extant ammonites (in fossil beds or the oceans.).

 

I'm afraid that's incorrect. I said 'how many ammonite shells are - in one form or another - still extant'.

 

The operative word there being shells. And a great many ammonite shells are - in one form or another - still extant.

 

Of all the replies I thought people might give, I wasn't expecting quite this much inaccurate pedantry about the exactly wording I used.

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ynot
7 minutes ago, Aurelius said:

 

I'm afraid that's incorrect. I said 'how many ammonite shells are - in one form or another - still extant'.

 

The operative word there being shells. And a great many ammonite shells are - in one form or another - still extant.

 

Of all the replies I thought people might give, I wasn't expecting quite this much inaccurate pedantry about the exactly wording I used.

Uh yeah, OK.:headscratch:

 

In that case..... Billions and billions. (in Carl Sagan's voice.)

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WhodamanHD

I’m working on a VERY rough estimate. Like, so rough you could sand a large planet to a marble with it. I will explain how and what my answer is once I’m finished.

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DPS Ammonite
7 minutes ago, WhodamanHD said:

I’m working on a VERY rough estimate. Like, so rough you could sand a large planet to a marble with it. I will explain how and what my answer is once I’m finished.

Make sure that you show all your calculations to determine your exact uncertainty of your resulting figure. ^_^

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Aurelius
10 minutes ago, WhodamanHD said:

I’m working on a VERY rough estimate. Like, so rough you could sand a large planet to a marble with it. I will explain how and what my answer is once I’m finished.

 

My breath is well and truly bated!

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WhodamanHD

So I  multiplied the number of formations in the US that came from the correct date (which is the rough amount I found on a USGS site) by the estimate you provided in order to give me the amount of ammonites theoretically in the US, then divided the area of the US in kilometers squared, which gives me a hypothetical ammonites per kilometer squared, which I rounded to the nearest whole number cuz I don’t like endless decimals. I then multiplied that by the amount of land on earth (the oldest oceanic crust is from the very latest Cretaceous if memory serves because of plate tectonics), which should give me the amount of ammonites on earth (extremely roughly). The number I got was (drum roll please)

8,710,258,154,781,638

Almost 9 Quadrillion

An incredible amount of assumptions was made to attain that number and it is likely very far off. It is, however, a number. A number is better than no number. 

Edited by WhodamanHD
Typos, extra stuff

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WhodamanHD
30 minutes ago, DPS Ammonite said:

Make sure that you show all your calculations to determine your exact uncertainty of your resulting figure. ^_^

Come on, School just ended! If someone pulls out a quadratic I’m not gonna be happy...

I did think about including only significant figures, but I had already used the estimation provided by Aurelius here which didn’t have them so I decided nothing would save it!

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Kane

Well, to be fair, this is a simple arithmetic calculation (based, in part, on probabilities) and not mathematic in the true sense. The probability figure is nice, but the variance might be high. 

 

Let's take a simple coin toss to express this: I can toss a coin 100 times and have it come up heads 65 times. Does that mean 1000 tosses = 650 heads? Not necessarily. Multiply by 1000. Does 1,00,0000 =n 650,000 heads? Not likely. A fair coin  is n = 50%, although variations will adjust that. In terms of strata, there is the tendency of stuff pinching in and out, pending drift action or fluctuations in species population. 

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Aurelius
42 minutes ago, WhodamanHD said:

So I  multiplied the number of formations in the US that came from the correct date (which is the rough amount I found on a USGS site) by the estimate you provided in order to give me the amount of ammonites theoreticall in the US, then divided the area of the US in kilometers squared, which gives me a hypothetical ammonites per kilometer squared, which I rounded to the nearest whole number cuz I don’t like endless decimals. I them multiplied that by the amount of land on earth (the oldest oceanic crust is from the very latest Cretaceous if memory serves because of plate tectonics), which should give me the amount of ammonites on earth (extremely roughly). The number I got was (drum roll please)

8,710,258,154,781,638

An incredible amount of assumptions was made to attain that number and it is likely very far off. It is, however, a number. A number is better than no number. 

 

In other words: Eight quadrillion, seven hundred and ten trillion, two hundred and fifty-eight billion, one hundred and fifty-four million, seven hundred and eighty-one thousand, six hundred and thirty-eight. That's a pretty impressive number. There are so many variables at work - the actual size and thickness of the formations, the preservation conditions, the population numbers in given areas, their distribution across the world, etc etc - that it's always going to be a stab in the dark.

 

The starting point here, the Beacon Limestone formation, is particularly densely packed with ammonites, so we're probably way off before we've even started. But still; I think we can safely assume that the true number of individual ammonite fossils in the ground must be a spectacularly high number. To think that these are just the merest tiny fraction of those that lived, probably one in every god-knows-how-many millions having been preserved, then the true number of these amazing creatures that lived over the course of 340-odd million years must be entirely beyond our ability to comprehend. 

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Ludwigia

Might be interesting to do a similar calculation for homo sapiens, although you probably couldn't count the cremations.

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DPS Ammonite
1 hour ago, Ludwigia said:

Might be interesting to do a similar calculation for homo sapiens, although you probably couldn't count the cremations.

Will give you a shovel so that you can do some night time sampling. We need to know how many per cubic meter.

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FossilsAnonymous
5 hours ago, DPS Ammonite said:

Will give you a shovel so that you can do some night time sampling.

Future Aspirations?

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Ludwigia
7 hours ago, DPS Ammonite said:

Will give you a shovel so that you can do some night time sampling. We need to know how many per cubic meter.

:muahaha:

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Tidgy's Dad

I often think of this sort of counting. 

Just for example, how many Elrathia kingii fossils are there ? 

And how many did not preserve?

I know that many are moults, but how many billions and billions must there have been of just that one species of trilobite? 

Numbers like this are really too big for us to comprehend.

We can write down numbers followed by a string of zeros, but can't really understand the scale of it. 

With some animals, scientists say they can count to three, so it's "One, two, three, lots."

With humans, well, I can picture a hundred, maybe a thousand, but ten thousand? Not really, it just becomes a blur. 

So my answer is, "Lots". 

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JohnBrewer

My head hurts. @Aurelius surely a gaf ;)

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