Micropalaeontologists deal with the miniscule hard parts of long-dead organisms. One type of such fragments is called an otolith, or ‘earstone’, a tiny concretion which once acted as a gravity sensor within the inner ear of its host. Once the subtle differences in their form have been described in the literature, they can tell an expert, like Dr. Adrian Rundle, what species they came from. (Dr. Rundle’s inquisitive nature has also driven him to examine similar present-day organisms, including woodlice!) Somewhere in his vast collection are a couple of unusual squid otoliths from Bracklesham Bay whose descriptions have not yet been published. He will, he says, get round to it one day. Can’t be soon enough for one of them . . .

I’m an undescribed species from Bracklesham Bay;
An anonymous otolith, me,
From the ear of a squid. I told it which way
Was ‘up’, and which ‘down’, in the sea.

I’d a purpose in life, and that was terrific,
But my squid has long rotted away.
I’m an ‘earstone’ of sorts, but nothing specific –
What species I am, none can say.

Microfossil I may be, but I still have my pride,
And I’m desperately seeking ID.
Put me under you microscope, peer down inside,
And describe to the world what you see.

All things have descriptions, from microbes to men,
So please, Dr. Rundle, go to it:
Stop messing with woodlice, pick up your pen –
It’s a tough job, but someone must do it.

[Image: researchgate/Malcolm B Hart (scale bars = 0.5 mm)]
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