A farm in England was the unlikely source of the Jurassic Prize: a treasure trove of 183-million-year-old fossils. On the outskirts of Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds, beneath soil now trampled under cattle hooves, researchers recently discovered the fossilized remains of giant fish and marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs, squids, insects and other ancient animals dating back to the early part of the era. Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145 million years ago).
Among the more than 180 fossils recorded during the excavations, one notable specimen was a preserved three-dimensional fish head belonging to the PachycormusIt is an extinct genus of finned fish. The fossil, which the researchers found embedded in a hard limestone knot outside the clay, was well-preserved and contained soft tissue, including scales and an eye. The three-dimensional nature of the head and body position of the specimen was such that the researchers were unable to compare it with other previous discoveries.
“The closest we can think of is a bigmouth billy bass,” said Neville Hollingworth, a field geologist at the University of Birmingham, who discovered the site with his wife Sally, a paleontologist and fossil curator. “The eyeball and socket are in good shape,” Hollingworth said. “It is usually flat in fossils, but in this case it is preserved in more than one dimension and the fish seem to jump off the rock.” Live Science.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Sally Hollingworth added. “You can see the scales, the skin, the spine – even the eyeball is still there.”
This scene so startled the Hollingworth family that they contacted ThinkSee3D, a company that produces digital 3D models of fossils, in order to (Opens in a new tab)3D interactive picture (Opens in a new tab) of fish to bring them back to life and allow researchers to study them more closely.
Related: A huge tomb of strange sea creatures has been discovered in “Jurassic Pompeii” in the center of the United Kingdom
Most of the Hollingworth fossils and a team of scientists and specialists were found behind the stable on the farm. (The farm is home to a herd of English longhorns—a British breed of longhorn and curved cows—many of whom have been keeping a close eye on the fossils.)
“It was kind of an annoying pit when a flock of tall trumpets were watching you,” Sally Hollingworth told Live Science.
At one point this region of the United Kingdom was completely submerged in a shallow tropical sea, and it is likely that sediments there contributed to the preservation of the fossils; Neville Hollingworth described the Jurassic bed as somewhat horizontal, with layers of fine clay beneath a crust of hardier limestone layers.
“When the fish died, it sank to the sea floor,” says Dean Lomax, a marine fossil reptile specialist, a visiting scientist at the University of Manchester in the UK and a member of the excavation group. “As with other fossils, minerals from the ocean floor are constantly replacing the original structure of bones and teeth. In this case, the site shows that there was very little or no faeces, so it must be buried quickly by sediment and when it reaches the bottom The sea was immediately covered and protected.”
During a four-day excavation earlier this month, Neville Hollingworth said the eight-person team used a backhoe to dig 80 meters through the banks of the grasslands, “pulling the layers back to reveal a tiny fraction of geologic time.” . A number of different specimens dated back to the Tora period (a phase of the Jurassic period that occurred between 183 million and 174 million years ago) and included plymenites (extinct cephalopods), ammonites (extinct cephalopods), bivalves and snails, as well as fishing and hunting creatures. other marine.
“It’s important that we can compare these fossils to other fossils from the Taurasian period, not only in the UK, but across Europe and potential sites in the Americas,” Lomax said. The strawberry bank Lagerstätte cited as an example, an Early Jurassic site in southern England.
The group plans to further study the samples and is working to publish the results. Meanwhile, a selection of the museum’s fossils will be on display in Stroud Park.
Originally published on Live Science.
Zombie specialist. Friendly twitter guru. Internet buff. Organizer. Coffee trailblazer. Lifelong problem solver. Certified travel enthusiast. Alcohol geek.