Jurassic sea world found in farmer’s field

Credit: University of Manchester

The discovery of an exceptional prehistoric site containing the remains of animals that lived in a tropical sea was made in the field of a Gloucestershire farmer.

Discovered under a field grazed by an ancient breed of English Longhorn cattle, the approximately 183 million year old fossils are incredibly well preserved, as if frozen in time.

Contained in three-dimensionally preserved limestone concretions, remains of fish, ancient marine reptiles, squid, rare insects and many more have been revealed for the first time by a team of paleontologists. The fossils come from an inland rock layer which was last exposed in the UK over 100 years ago and presented a unique opportunity to collect fossils from a time when this part of the country was deep under the ‘water.

The newly discovered site is at Court Farm, Kings Stanley near Stroud, Gloucestershire and was discovered by Sally and Neville Hollingworth, avid fossil collectors who recently discovered the mammoth remains at the nearby Cotswold Water Park which was featured in the BBC One documentary ‘Attenborough’. and the Mammoth Cemetery” in 2021.

Sally and Neville explained: “These fossils are from the Lower Jurassic, specifically from a time called the Toarcian. The layers of clay exposed at this site near Stroud have provided a significant number of well-preserved marine vertebrate fossils, comparable to the famous and exquisitely preserved similar fauna of the Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte in Ilminster, Somerset – a prehistoric site of exceptional fossil preservation Excavations at Kings Stanley over the past week have revealed a rich source of fossil material, in particular from a rare layer of rock that has not been exposed since the late 19th century.”

Dr Dean Lomax, paleontologist and visiting scientist at the University of Manchester, who recently led the excavation of the Rutland ichthyosaur which also dates from the Toarcian geological era, was part of the team and said: “The site is quite remarkable, with many beautifully preserved fossils of ancient animals that once lived in a Jurassic sea that covered this part of the UK during the Jurassic.Inland sites with fossils like this are rare in the UK -UniThe fossils we have collected will surely form the basis of research projects for years to come.”

Many of the specimens collected will be donated to the park’s local museum, Stroud, where they will form an important part of the museum’s paleontology collections. One of the team, Alexia Clark, the museum’s documentation and collections manager, said: “We are delighted to expand our knowledge of the geology of the Stroud district and look forward to when we will be able to share these amazing discoveries with our members and visitors.Being part of the excavation team has been a real privilege and I look forward to sharing the details of this experience through our members newsletter.

Among the best finds were several fossil fish with excellent detail on their scales, fins, and even eyeballs. One of the most impressive finds was a fish head preserved in three dimensions, belonging to a Jurassic type of fish called Pachycormus. The fish appears to “jump off the rock” in which it was contained. A digital 3D model of this fossil was created by Steven Dey of ThinkSee3D.

Field observations and preparation of the fauna found so far indicate that the Court Farm fossils were quickly buried, as suggested by the lack of encrusting animals or burrows in the sediments. The stratified concretions around the skeletons formed relatively early before the sediments were compacted, as the original stratification of the sediments is preserved. These concretions prevented further compaction and compression of the overlying sediments during burial and thus preserved the fossils in three-dimensional time capsules.

Neville added: “Using the latest fossil preparation and imaging techniques to understand this unique fauna in greater detail will create a rich repository. Additionally, we will leave a permanent reference section after the excavations are complete. Given of the location and the enthusiasm of the landowner and community residents to get involved, it is hoped to plan and develop a local STEM enrichment program as there will be opportunities for community groups and local schools to participate research, particularly from the Stroud area with a focus on targeting audiences in low STEM Capital areas.”

Landowner Adam Knight said: “I am delighted that after the initial work Sally and Nev carried out over three years ago, we now have a full scale dig on the farm involving a range of fossil experts from the Natural History Museum, The University of Manchester, University of Reading and The Open University.On Friday we were also joined by Emily Baldry (16) for a day of work experience before going at university to study paleontology – it is wonderful to see her enthusiasm for her chosen profession. It was a real pleasure to host the excavations and I am delighted to see the results of what has been found .”

Going forward, the team will continue to analyze the specimens and publish their research with the fossils planned for display at the Museum in the Park, Stroud, and the Boho Bakery Café at Court Farm, Kings Stanley, Gloucestershire.


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Provided by the University of Manchester

Quote: Jurassic marine world discovered in farmer’s field (2022, July 29) Retrieved July 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-jurassic-marine-world-unearthed-farmer.html

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