A farm in England is the source of an undiscovered Jurassic gift: a treasure trove of 183-million-year-old fossils. On the outskirts of Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds, under the soil now trampled under the feet of cattle, researchers recently discovered the fossilized remains of giant fish and marine reptiles known as ichthyosaurs, squid, insects and other ancient animals. Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145 million years ago).
Among the more than 180 fossils recorded during the excavation, a remarkable specimen is a preserved three-dimensional fish head. Pachycormus, an extinct species of ray-finned fish. The fossil, embedded in a nodule of hard limestone outside of clay, contained soft tissues including scales and an eye and was well preserved. The 3-D nature of the model’s head and body position the researchers could not compare with other previous findings.
“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 eyepiece and socket are well preserved,” Hollingworth said. “Usually they’re flat in fossils, but in this case they’re preserved in more than one dimension, and it looks like the fish jumped off the rock.” Living science.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” added Sally Hollingworth. “You can see the scales, the skin, the spine — even the eyeball is still there.”
The sight shocked the Hollingworth family so much that they contacted ThinkC3D (opens in new tab)3D interactive film (opens in new tab) The fish allow them to come back to life and examine them more closely.
Hollingworth and his team of scientists and experts discovered most of the fossils behind the barn on the farm. (The farm also has a herd of English Longhorns — a British breed of long-horned, curvy cattle — many of whom keep a close eye on the digging.)
“It was kind of an annoying dig when a bunch of longhorns were looking at you,” Sally Hollingworth told Live Science.
At one point, this part of the UK was completely submerged in a shallow tropical sea, and sediments there may have contributed to the preservation of fossils; Neville Hollingworth described the Jurassic beds as somewhat horizontal, with thin layers of clay beneath a crust of hard limestone layers.
“Once the fish died, it sank to the bottom of the ocean,” says marine fossil reptile expert Dean Lomax, a visiting scientist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and a member of the excavation team. “As with other fossils, minerals from the sea floor continue to replace the original structure of bones and teeth. In this case, it shows that the floor was very shallow or had no excreta, so it must have been quickly buried by sediments, and when they reached the bottom, the sea immediately covered and protected them.
During their four-day drill earlier this month, Neville Hollingworth said, an eight-man team used excavators to dig 80 meters through grassy banks to “pull back the layers to reveal a tiny fraction of geological time”. .” Many different specimens date to the Tara period (a phase of the Jurassic period 183 million to 174 million years ago) for fish and other marine life.
“It is important to compare these fossils with other fossils from the Dwarsi period, not just in England, but across Europe and at possible sites in the Americas,” Lomax said. He cites the example of Strawberry Bank Lagerstedt, an Early Jurassic site in southern England.
The team plans to study the samples further and is in the process of publishing the results. Meanwhile, a selection of the museum’s fossils will be on display in Stroud Gardens.
Originally published in Live Science.