Caves and their Ice Age History (Geology Section)
Sat. 18 May 2024 at 10:30 am
A talk by Malcolm Hart, Emeritus Professor of Micropalaeontology, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth.
In many parts of South Devon (e.g., Plymouth, Buckfastleigh, Torbay) the Devonian Limestones host extensive cave systems, many of which were explored in the 19th Century by William Pengelly and the Torquay Natural History Society. These caves contain a wealth of fossil remains, including mammoths, cave bears, hyenas, large sabre-toothed cats, etc., as well as the remains of early hominins (and their tools). This led Pengelly to write some of the earliest papers on the ‘Antiquity of Man’ and developing a chronology for the cave deposits. Kents Cavern is one of the most famous caves having links with Agatha Christie and Beatrix Potter. Its fossil record is, however, extremely important. Across Tor Bay, on Berry Head there are caves that are now at sea level and these contain a marine record of, probably, the last three ice ages and their associated interglacials. This makes the South Devon area almost unique in having both a terrestrial and a marine record within cave systems.
Coupled with these areas are the finds of Cattedown Caves in Plymouth and the recent discovery of megafauna in the new developments of Sherford (Plymouth). Coupled with other features such as raised beaches and submerged forests, South Devon has a near unique record of cave history and other sea level indicators as will be presented in this lecture.
Malcolm Hart DSc FGS CGeol CSci is Emeritus Professor in Micropalaeontology at the University of Plymouth, having ‘retired’ in 2010. Since 1965, he has been undertaking research on foraminifera and several other groups of microfossils. Best known for his published work on the foraminiferal biostratigraphy of the Cretaceous he has recently been involved in a study of Jurassic coleoid fossils and the statoliths and arm hooks found in many Jurassic sediments. The Cretaceous work involved the site investigation and construction of the Channel Tunnel and Thames Barrier – both of which used foraminiferal biostratigraphy quite extensively.
In the University Plymouth he served as Head of Department of Geological Sciences for 10 years before becoming Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) of the University for 8 years and Associate Dean of Science (Research) for a further 6 years.
In recent years he has been awarded the Brady Medal by The Micropalaeontological Society, the Lamarck Medal by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the Gryzbowski Award by the Gryzbowski Foundation (Krakow, Poland).
His current major project involves editorial work on a Geological Society Special Publication on the 200th Anniversary of the Cretaceous System.