Dinosaur Age Seabed Found in Mining Area All

KOMPAS.com – A husband and wife couple who are also researchers and non-professional paleontologists discovered the seabed of the Jurassic era, when dinosaurs still dominated Earth.

This is one of the biggest and most important discoveries of researchers at the University of Birmingham Research Associate, from a beautifully preserved Jurassic echinoderm.

Echinoderms are species of thorn-skinned marine animals such as starfish and sea urchins.

Reported from Phys, Saturday (24/7/2021), the ancient seabed site, is in an undisclosed location in the Cotswolds, a rural area in south-central England.

The site was discovered by Neville Hollingworth, an honorary researcher at the University of Birmingham, and his wife, Sally Hollingworth.

Sally and Neville, both non-professional paleontologists, told the Natural History Museum of their potentially important find.

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Initially, during lockdown, the couple will examine a site that previously unexpectedly turned out to be the Jurassic seabed during the heyday of the dinosaurs, and then get permission from the landowner to investigate further into the area.

“We’re looking for a new site to explore after lockdown end. We do this by scrolling google maps around areas we know fossils have been found. The site we finally found, a small quarry, looked perfect,” Sally said.

Neville added: “We thought we would find some interesting specimens, but never expected the site to be so special. As soon as we realized what we were dealing with, and its scientific importance, we contacted the Natural History Museum.”

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About 167 million years ago, the site was a warm and relatively shallow sea.

At a site thought to be the ocean floor of the dinosaur age, in the Jurassic era, researchers found fossilized remains of species such as echinoderms, a group of animals including starfish, brittle stars, feather stars (stemless crinoids), sea lilies (stemmed crinoids), sea cucumbers and echinoids (sea urchins and sea potatoes or dollars).

Also read: 20 million years ago, giant worms terrorized their prey on the seabed

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/Sam Wilson Sunflower starfish illustration. An endangered species of sea creature.

Experts at the Natural History Museum have also excavated the Jurassic seabed site.

Senior Curator Dr. Ewin’s team, said that the extraordinary preservation of so many individuals belonging to this diverse group of echinoderms is remarkable and makes this site comparable to the best in the world.

“It appears that the river flowing into the nearby ocean carries high levels of nutrients that attract the large number of echinoderms we found,” said Ewin.

Ewin further said it appeared the entire area was quickly buried during the underwater landslide.

According to him, this is evidenced by the fact that these researchers have found several creeping and non-creeping crinoid fossils at the ancient seabed site, which they call the ‘death pose’.

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“Where animals have died, try to protect themselves by wrapping their arms around their bodies,” explains Ewin.

This series of events resulted in almost the entire ecosystem being preserved with exceptional quality.

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Inhabitants of the seabed in the age of dinosaurs such as feather stars, sea lilies and fossil sea stars are usually very rare.

Because, their multiplate skeletons quickly disintegrated after death meaning only instant burial would allow them to be preserved intact.

The research team believes that so far, they have discovered three new species, a type of feather star, a brittle star, and a sea cucumber.

There are quite a number of other species excavated at the Jurassic-era seabed site in the mine area, which are well known to science.

Also read: Earth Seabed Mapping Mission, One-fifth of the World’s Oceans have been Mapped

However, many were described more than 100 years ago and are based on incomplete or poorly prepared specimens.

Therefore, this new site will provide important new information to describe and contextualize the ancient marine animal species that inhabited the Jurassic seafloor.

Later, this information will lead to a better understanding of how this iconic group evolved and diversified into the ecologically important organisms that they are today.

So far the team has spent three days excavating the site and has collected around 100 slabs, which are now being prepared for future study and public engagement.

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Mark Graham, senior fossil maker at the museum, explains that many of the specimens that have been excavated are trapped in large slabs of clay in clusters.

“We now need to explore these blocks carefully to find the most scientifically important specimens and prepare them for public display,” explains Graham.

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“We have collected enough material, but I hope these fossils after cleaning will provide a large amount of new information about how these creatures and their long-lost ecosystems functioned.”

Furthermore, the researchers hope to return to the site of this Jurassic-era dinosaur seabed site in the near future and begin the process of identifying potentially new species.

Also read: Earth Seabed Mapping Mission, One-fifth of the World’s Oceans have been Mapped


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