Harquail Family Invests $10M in Earth Sciences

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Paul Copper

Professor Emeritus

BSc (Saskatchewan)
MSc (Saskatchewan)
PhD (Imperial College), DIC, FRSC

Home address: Loupicoubas, 46220 Prayssac, France
google: Paul Copper
Home phone from outside Europe: 011-33-565-226-581
Home phone within France: 05 65 22 65 81 [within Europe 00-33-565-226-581]

Research Interests

  • Paleoecology of early and middle Paleozoic benthic marine communities shelly and reefal); paleoecology, evolution and functional morphology of atrypoid brachiopods (Ordovician-Devonian); mass extinction events especially in tropical reef settings; global climate change and reef distribution.
  • Anticosti Fossil and Carbonate Reef Research Group
  • Global mass extinctions
  • The global carbon cycle through the last half billion years

Field Activities

  • 2007. Spain: Late Ordovician carbonates, with IGCP Project, from U Zaragoza
  • 2007. Russia, northern Urals (Komi Republic), O-D carbonates, reefs W side Urals
  • 2007. Russia, southern Urals (Bashkortostan Republic, Bashkiria), Devon-Permian carbonates, reefs
  • 2006. China, O/S boundary sections, Jiangsu, Hunan, Hubei
  • 2006. Tibet, Siluro-Permian, P/T carbonate sections in southern Tibet
  • 2005. Anticosti Island, Canada, O/S carbonate sections

Interesting Links

A Silurian-Devonian reef seascape, as one might have seen on a scuba dive in the Middle Paleozoic tropical ocean.
Blue Fiord reefs - Panoramic aerial view of a Middle Devonian reef exposed on Princess Royal island between Banks and Victoria islands, Canadian arctic (latitude 75 degrees N). This reef is part of an ongoing PARRC reef research project underway since 2000 by Dr Paul Copper and Dr Evan Edinger (now in Newfoundland, Memorial U.) to study a large, 2500 km long coral-sponge reef tract which grew in the Canadian arctic about 387 million years ago, when this area was in the tropics.
Chicotte reefs - These coral-sponge reefs, exposed today on tidal flats in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Anticosti Island, are part of the very long research program of PARRC. These reefs are up to about 800m in diameter, and outcrop along a distance of ca, 70 km along the coast and inland. This helicopter view shows what you see from above.

Representative Publications

Refereed Papers

2014d. [submitted] Copper, P. Cerasinella, a replacement name for the Silurian brachiopod genus Cerasina Copper 1995. Journal of Paleontology,

2014c. [submitted] Copper, P. and Jin Jisuo. Tracking the Early Silurian post-extinction faunal recovery: the Jupiter Formation of Anticosti Island, eastern Canada. Newsletters on Stratigraphy, 47: xx [contains section on first reefs in Jupiter Formation, mid-Telychian, of Anticosti Island]

2014b. Copper, P. and Jin Jisuo. The revised Lower Silurian (Rhuddanian) Becscie Formation, Anticosti Island, eastern Canada records the tropical marine recovery from the end-Ordovician Mass Extinction. Newsletters on Stratigraphy, 47: 61-83, 10 text-figs.

2014a. Wang, Yi, Jin, Jisuo, Zhan, Renbin, and Copper, P. Early Silurian 'algal meadows', Anticosti Island, eastern Canada: an analogue to modern seagrass meadows?. Geology Today, 30: 67-70, 4 text-figs.

2010e. Copper, P. Banks Island: Frasnian (Late Devonian) reefs in northwestern Canada. In, David Hopley, [Ed.] Encyclopedia of modern coral reefs, Springer-Verlag, pp. xx, figs 1-4. [expected publ. Dec. 2010]

2010d. Jin Jisuo & Copper, P. Microbially induced phosphatization of intercrystalline tissue in the Late Ordovician brachiopod Plaesiomys, Anticosti Island, eastern Canada. Special papers in palaeontology, 84:1-15, 1 text-fig., 5 pls.

2010c. Jin, Jisuo & Copper, P. Origin and evolution of the Early Silurian (Rhuddanian) virgianid pentameride brachiopods — the extinction recovery fauna from Anticosti Island, eastern Canada, Bolletino della Società Paleontologica Italiana 49: 1-11, text-figs 1-6.

2010b. Nestor, H., Copper, P. and Stock, C.W. Late Ordovician and Early Silurian stromatoporoid sponges from Anticosti Island, eastern Canada: crossing the O/S mass extinction boundary. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, 163 pp., 28 text-figs., 28 pls. (June 2010).

2010a Ausich, W.I. and Copper, P. The Crinoidea of Anticosti Island (Late Ordovician and Early Silurian). Palaeontographica Canadiana, 29: 157pp., 12 pls.

2009. Copper, P and Edinger, E. Distribution, geometry and palaeogeography of the Frasnian (Late Devonian) reef complexes of Banks Island, NWT, western arctic, Canada. In, Königshof, P. (ed.) Devonian Change: Case Studies in Palaeogeography and Palaeoecology. The Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 314:107–122, 7 text-figs.

2008c.Holland, C.H. and Copper, P. Ordovician and Silurian nautiloid cephalopods from Anticosti island: traject across the Ordovician-Silurian (O/S) mass extinction boundary. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 45: 1015-1038, 7 text-figs.

2008b.Chatterton, B.D.E., Copper, P., Dixon, O.A., and Gibb, S. Soft polyps with spicular sclerites in Silurian favositid corals from Anticosti Island, E. Canada, and Silurian heliolitids from the Canadian arctic. Palaeontology, 51(1): 173-198.

2008a. Jin, J. and Copper, P. Response of brachiopod communities to environmental change during the Late Ordovician mass extinction interval, Anticosti Island, eastern Canada. Fossils and Strata, 54: 41-51.

2007c. Copper, P. Brachiopoda (Atrypida, partim Athyridida), Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Revised, Part H, Supplement 6. In, Selden, P. (ed) pp. 1-3226 (as contributing author to final volume).

2007b. Jin, Jisuo, Copper, P., and Zhan Renbin 2007. Species-level response of tropical brachiopods to environmental crises during the Late Ordovician mass extinctions. Acta Palaeontologica Sinica, 46:194-200, 4 text-figs.

2007a. Jin, Jisuo, Zhan Renbin, Copper, P., and W. G. E. Caldwell . Epipunctae and phosphatized setae in Late Ordovician plaesiomyid brachiopods from Anticosti Island, eastern Canada. Journal of Paleontology, 81(4): 666-683, 11 text-figs.

2006b. Azmy, K, Veizer, J. Jin, J., Copper, P. and Brand, U. Paleobathymetry of a Silurian shelf based on brachiopod assemblages: an oxygen isotope test. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 43: 281-293.

2006a. Li Rongyu and P. Copper. Early Silurian (Llandovery) orthide brachiopods from Anticosti Island, eastern Canada: the O/S extinction recovery fauna. Special Papers in Palaeontology, 76:1-71, 19 pl, 14 text figs.

Submitted, or accepted, in press.

2008c. (submitted, under review). Jin Jisuo & Copper, P. Microbially mediated phosphatisation of intracrystalline tissue in the Late Ordovician brachiopod Plaesiomys, Anticosti Island, eastern Canada. Bulletin British Museum of Natural History, ca. 21 pp, 5 pls, 1 text-fig.[nvited, submitted for Festschrift of the late C.H.Brunton]

2008d. (reviewed, accepted). Holland, C.H. and Copper, P. Ordovician and Silurian nautiloid cephalopods from Anticosti island: traject across the O/S mass extinction boundary. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, ca. 20 pp., 7 pls.

2008e. (submitted 2007, accepted). Copper P. & Edinger, E.. Geometry and paleogeography of the Frasnian (Late Devonian) reef complex of Banks Island, NWT, western arctic Canada. Special Publications, Geological Society of London, ca. 26 pp., 9 text-figs.

2008f. {submitted March 2008, in review). Ausich, W. & Copper, P. Ordovician-Silurian pelmatozoans (crinoids, cystoids) from Anticosti island, E Canada. Palaeontographica Canadiana, ca. 200 pp., 30 pl.

2008g. (submitted NRC Research Press). H. Nestor, P. Copper and C.W. Stock. Late Ordovician and early Silurian stromatoporoid sponges from Anticosti Island, eastern Canada: crossing the O/S mass extinction boundary, ca. 180 pp, 61 pls.

Abstracts at meetings, non-refereed reports, Conference Presentations

Copper, P. 2010. From shallow to deep, hot to cold, and acme to crisis: shelly communities from the Ordovician through Devonian. Abstracts 6th International Brachiopod Congress, Geological Society of Australlia, 95: p. 36

Copper, P. 2009. Reefs under global climate stress: a Paleozoic paradox from the Late Ordovician through Devonian. Abstract, 9th North American Paleontological Convention, Cincinnati, p.313

Copper, P. 2009. What happened to the spirally lophophorate brachiopods during the multiple Late Ordovician mass extinctions? Abstract, 9th North American Paleontological Convention, Cincinnati, p.177

2008b. Copper, P. Boom and bust cycles in Mid-Paleozoic reefs: comparing Late Ordovician and Late Devonian mass extinctions, and subsequent recoveries. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, October, Houston [abstract].

2008a. Ausich. W., Copper, P. et al. The Anticosti Project: biosphere collapse and recovery during a global glacial epoch. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, October, Houston [abstract: talk presented by Ausich]

2007d. Copper, P. Faunal change across the O/S boundary carbonate platform stratotype, Anticosti Island, Canada. Meeting IGCP Project 503, Ordovician Paleogeography and Paleoclimate, Zaragoza University, Spain [invited keynote, abstract, p. 7]

2007c. Copper, P. & Edinger, E. The Frasnian reef tract, Banks Island, arctic Canada: what survived after the end Givetian collapse of the arctic Devonian carbonate platform in a distal margin superdelta setting, Tenth International Symposium Fossil Cnidaria and Porifera, St Petersburg, p. 29 [abstract].

2007b. Chatterton, B., Copper, P., Dixon, O.A. & Gibb, T. Soft polyps with spicular sclerites in Silurian favositid corals from Anticosti island and Silurian heliolitids from the Canadian arctic Tenth International Symposium Fossil Cnidaria and Porifera, St Petersburg, p. 28 [abstract presented by Copper].

2007a. Stanley, G.D. & Copper, P. Carbon dioxide and the evolution of ancient reef ecosystems: insight and paradox. Tenth International Symposium Fossil Cnidaria and Porifera, St Petersburg, p. 86 [abstract & poster].

2006b. Copper, P. Biodiversity and paleoecology across the Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction boundary, Anticosti I, E Canada. 2nd International Paleontological Congress, Beijing, China [abstract pp.31-32].

2006a. Copper, P. The end Ordovician Mass Extinction: faunas across the boundary. GSA Annual Meeting, Philadelphia [invited keynote talk at all day session, special session in honour of Paul Copper]

Paleozoic Reef Research Centre (PARRC)

  • PARRC consists of the following researchers interested in mid-Paleozoic reefs and reefal settings, especially from Anticosti, Banks Island Ontario:
  • Paul Copper, Earth Sciences, Laurentian University: stratigraphy, Ordovician-Devonian reef distribution and biotas. Mass extinctions , Brachiopods, Corals
  • Darrel Long, Earth Sciences, Laurentian University: Sedimentology of reefs and siliciclastics
  • Evan Edinger, Assistant Faculty, Memorial University: paleoecology of reef settings
  • Leif Tapanila, PhD canditate at University of Utah, Salt Lake City: bioerosion in reefs and peri-reefal carbonates, Anticosti
  • Adrienne Sokoloskie, Earth Sciences, Laurentian University: coral growth rates
  • Jin Jisuo,, U Western Ontario: pentamerid-rhynchonellid brachiopods, Anticosti
  • Keith Dewing, GSC, Calgary: strophomenids brachiopods
  • Zhan Renbin, Nanjing, China: orthid brachiopods, Anticosti
  • Jan Ove Ebbestad, Uppsala, Sweden: gastropods
  • Heldur Nestor, Tallin, Estonia: stromatoporoids, Anticosti
  • Carl Stock, U. Alabama
  • Patrick Racheboeuf, Université Lyon, Villeurbanne: strophomenid-chonetid brachiopods, Anticosti
  • Robert Elias, U. Manitoba: Anticosti solitary rugosans
  • Graham Young, Museum of Man, Winnipeg: Anticosti tabulates
  • Brian Chatterton, U. Alberta, Edmonton: trilobites, Anticosti
  • Dieter Schmid, U. Munichm Paleontology: calcimicrobes, Anticosti

Anticosti Fossil & Carbonate Reef Research Group

  • Paul Copper (stratigraphy, reefs, atrypids, spiriferids, athyrids)
  • Darrel Long (sedimentology, stratigraphy, with Copper)
  • Andre Desrochers (cartography, mapping)
  • Jisuo Jin (pentamerids, rhynchs)
  • Patrick Racheboeuf (chonetids, strophs)
  • Tanya Grunt (athyrids, with Copper)
  • Renbin Zhan (orthids)
  • Keith Dewing (strophs: monograph on Anticosti strophs is just out: Pal Canadiana v. 17)
  • Frank Brunton (Chicotte reefs)
  • Owen Dixon (heliolitids)
  • Graham Young (tabulates)
  • Bob Elias (rugosans)
  • Heldur Nestor (stroms--almost complete now)
  • Carl Stock (with Heldur)
  • Brian Chatterton (trilobites)
  • Rolf Ludvigsen (trilobites)
  • C. Mitchell (graptolites)
  • Aicha Achab (chitinozoans, other microfossils…)
  • Karem Azmy & Jan Veizer (stable isotopes(∂O18, ∂13C, Sr)
  • Christophe Lecuyer ( geochem REEs, CNRS Lyon, U Claude-Bernard)
  • Catherine Girard (conodonts for ∂O18 & REEs, CNRS Lyon, U Claude-Bernard)
  • Dieter Schmitt, Munich (calcimicrobes)
  • Fritz Neuweiler (allo- and automicrites in Laframboise –East point reefs)
  • Reinhold Leinfelder & Martin Nose, Munich (reef communities)
  • Charles Holland (nautiloids)
  • Jan Ove Ebbestad (gastropods)
  • Evan Edinger (epeiric sea and passive margin carbonates)
  • William Ausich (echinoderms)

Global mass extinctions

One of the popular themes which has captivated world media attention in the last decade of the 20th century, centers around the question of what happens to life when a large meteorite or bolide from outer space, say one with a diameter of 20 kilometers or more, collides with Planet Earth. Some may have seen this through the dramatic eyes of Hollywood, for example, the films "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact", which focus on the human response to such a catastrophe.

We have a fairly good idea what will probably happen physically by carrying out impact experiments at a small scale, and by modeling such events on a planetary scale. Scientists have also studied, of course, large impact craters on earth (such as the Sudbury basin and lake Wanapitei), and those on the moon, Mars, Venus and other planets and their moons: these give us a rough idea of the shapes and sizes of craters, and the "on ground" effects on the rocks which they strike. We also know how frequently such events occur. According to Dr Richard Grieve (Ottawa, Geological Survey of Canada), one of the world's impact experts, large chunks of 10km or larger strike Earth approximately every million years on average. This calculation is based on the age dating of known craters, especially those of the last half billion years of earth history. But is there a pattern to these impacts? The experts are divided: some suggested 15 years ago that these may strike more commonly in cycles of 30 million years as the earth passes through the Oort Cloud, a cluster of large chunks of rock past which the Solar system circles. Others see no such pattern, and today this idea is generally discarded.

However, life on earth should also record the severity of impacts: such catastrophes, at such scales, should have a major effect on life, by extinguishing vulnerable species of plants and animals, or large groups, and wiping out whole ecosystems. Large scale elimination of species, usually 50% or more of the planetary community, is called global mass extinction. Symposium SY 5, is a special get together of scientists who will be discussing this controversial aspect: is there any correlation between known global mass extinctions and ET impacts? Do the five major mass extinctions in the past half billion years, show a pattern in common with impacts from outer space? Large impacts should create instant extinctions.

We now have also clear evidence of a very large impact crater, about 150km across, at the Chicxulub site in the Yucatan, Mexico: this crater, buried under several hundred meters of limestone today, coincides with the K/T boundary global mass extinction (from Cretaceous / Tertiary, 65 million years ago), during which a number of dinosaurs disappeared on land, and exotic molluscs like clams and squid relatives vanished in the oceans. The K/T boundary event is matched by evidence for large tsunami splash waves, chemical signatures in the oceans, and shocked impact glasses: its presence is not disputed. However, puzzling questions remain as to whether the impact had a major effect on life, since many species survived. Many scientists who study the detailed record of species below the impact boundary are suggesting that the end Cretaceous, the last 3 million years of it, had already seen a massive loss of many dinosaur species, and the loss of complex systems such as tropical reefs before the meteorite struck. The nature of the survivors themselves will also give us clues as to how severe these extinctions were and how selective.

The global carbon cycle through the last half billion years

The single largest reservoir for the storage of carbon on planet earth is crustal carbonate rock, i.e. CaCO3 or limestones. It far exceeds the reservoir we see in coal, oil and gas, and other carbon matter stored in the crust. Carbon is the most essential element to life, in addition to water, but it is in relatively short supply compared to elements like iron, magnesium and sodium. The largest surface reservoirs on earth are organic matter, for example, plants, and the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, through which carbon is cycled. The ultimate source for most carbon is via volcanic gases, through erosion of soluble minerals on the earth's surface, and through heating of rock via metamorphism.

One question is, what is the role of limestones in the long term, and are there evident cycles during which limestone was more rapidly deposited or eroded than others? We know that the acme or peak of CaCO3 production is via the secretion of skeletons by animals and plants, e.g. corals and algae, in the warm oceans, most importantly, in reefs. Such major trends are strongly influenced by global climate change, and are strongly affected at times of global perturbations in the earth-atmosphere system, such as during global environmental stress and mass extinction. I study such patterns by plotting global trends in microbial, algal, coral and sponge reef distributions, e.g. thickness and diameters of reefs and their components. These are then placed into paleogeographic maps that show where the ancient oceans and land areas were located, and these are then analysed over particular time slices of 1 million years. More than 12 major cycles have already been plotted on a worldwide basis. This data is collected in the field and culled from the literature, and contacts with colleagues around the world. To confirm major paleoclimate trends we take stable isotope samples from fossil CaCO3 skeletons, especially brachiopods, which are particularly sensitive, and which tell us the ambient temperatures of shallow surface seawaters. Thus we have a good overall view of the world's oceans in both space and time, and a reasonably reliable set of indicators for global climate change. This has told us that the earth was much warmer in the Middle Paleozoic than today, that is, about 25-30 degrees celsius global average temperature, versus today's global averages for surface seawater and sealevel atmosphere, of about 15C. Thus today, in recent human history, global average temperatures are not nearly so warm as they were then, even with modern trends of atmospheric warming due to the greenhouse effect of CO2 gases.