Homostius milleri Traquair

Model of Homostius milleri (by P.H.de Buisonjé)

This very flat, heavily armoured placoderm was named after Hugh Miller (see this web page). In Orkney it is found in sediments above the Sandwick Fish Bed and one rare example from below the Sandwick Fish Bed. The species is mostly found as disarticulated dermal plates. It is well described by Heintz (1934) together with a species from Estonia (Homostius sulcatus). Later Mark-Kurik (1993) made a new reconstruction with some alterations. The body is covered with thick dermal plates, but nothing is known about the tail. The reconstruction of the tail and the fins are therefore not to be taken too seriously. There is another model reconstruction in the NMS where the tail has been reconstructed less robustly. The body height however can be reconstructed from the armour and indicates it was a very flat bottom dweller.

Complete specimens are very rare, but the picture shows a cast of a specimen in the National Museums of Scotland Edinburgh, together with a drawing of this specimen by Traquair.

Cast of a specimen showing head and body (collection N.M.S., ©).

Drawing of the specimen above, (after Traquair, 1889).

The fish probably was a bottom dweller filtering mud and eating small crustaceans. The lower jaws do not have teeth at all but show a rounded surface.

Since Homostius sulcatus from Estonia was so well reconstructed by Heintz (1934) and resembles very much Homostius milleri, we will also show some of the drawings by Heintz of that species.

Reconstruction of Homostius sulcatus (Heintz, 1934).

Drawing of head, internal view  and reconstruction (after Miller, 1849).

Drawing of head (after Miller, 1849).

Nuchal and para nuchal plates from the inside NMS ©.

Reconstructions of head of Homostius sulcatus, internal, external view and indication of plate overlaps (Heintz, 1934).

Reconstruction of the body carapace of Homostius sulcatus (Heintz, 1934).

Median-dorsal plate, internal view (collection Stromness Museum, © S.M.)

Median dorsal plate in external and internal view and drawing by Miller 1849.

Reconstruction of the median dorsal plate of Homostius sulcatus, internal view (Heintz, 1934).

Nuchal and paranuchal plates in external and internal view NMS ©.

Reconstruction of the nuchal plate of Homostius sulcatus, internal view, (Heintz, 1934).

Medio ventral plate seen from inside and drawing outside by Miller 1849

Reconstruction of the body in lateral view (Mark-Kurik, 1993 ©).

Hugh Miller

Hugh Miller (1843) 1802-1856

Hugh Miller 1850s

Hugh Miller (1802-1856) was born in Cromarty, Scotland. At the age of 17 he was apprenticed to a stone mason and the work in quarries, and his walks along the coast of Cromarty started his interest in geology and paleontology. He often sent the fossils collected from Cromarty, mainly Devonian fish, to experts in the field. He and Robert Dick (the Thurso baker) supplied the first Scottish Devonian fossils that Louis Agassiz described in his famous book series on the fossil fishes. Agassiz’s publication that included most of the Scottish Devonian fish was, Monographie des poisson fossiles du Vieux Grès Rouge 1844.

Miller did visit several important localities in Scotland and made one of the first fossil collections in Scotland, now in the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) and the Hugh Miller Cottage at Cromarty.

He became famous for the books he wrote on the subject books that are still read by people today, such as:

Miller, H. The Old Red Sandstone: or new walks in an old field 1841

Miller, H. The foot-prints of the Creator: or, The Asterolepis of Stromness 1849

For further information, see papers by Michael A. Taylor, as he has done a lot of research on Hugh Miller. See for example:

Taylor M.A., 2007, Hugh Miller: Stonemason, Geologist, Writer

Taylor M.A., 2019, ‘Miller’s most important geological discovery’: Archibald Geikie (1835–1924) as pupil and memorialist of Hugh Miller (1802–56)

Taylor M.A., 2021 The unusual printing and publishing arrangements of Hugh Miller (1802–1856)

Archives of Natural History 48.2 (2021): 298–309 Edinburgh University Press

Hugh Miller 1850s

Hugh Miller 1850s

Painting of Hugh Miller (Stromness Museum)

“I traced the formation and upwards this evening along the edges of the upturned strata, from where the great conglomerate leans against the granite, till where it merges into the ichythyolitic flagstones; and then pursued these from older and lower to newer and higher layers, desirous of ascertaining at what distance over the base of the system its more ancient organisms first appear, and what their character and kind And, embedded in a greenish colour layer of hard flag, somewhat less than 100 yards over the granite, and about 160 feet over the upper stratum of the conglomerate, I found what I sought, — a well marked bone, — in all probability the oldest vertebrate remain yet discovered in Orkney.”

Hugh Miller 1849. Footprints of the creator; Or, the Asterolepis of Stromness.

The nail from Hugh Miller in the Stromness museum.

This bone is actually the spine of the median dorsal plate, the plate here weathered away (see reconstruction of MD plate by miller)

Placoderms Arthrodira