Amateur Palaeontologists Find Tens Of Thousands Of Fossils At Secret Site
A pair of amateur paleontologists managed to uncover what has been described as one of the most important Jurassic sites ever found in the UK after pondering their next dig during a coronavirus lockdown.
Sally and Neville Hollingworth used the country-wide shutdown as a chance to plan their next fossil-hunting trip through Google Earth, which they used to inspect sites that had previously been known to hide fossils.
During their research, they came across a quarry in the Cotswolds that looked promising to Neville, who has a PhD in Geology, so as soon as they were able the couple went to have a look around.
They returned home with a slab of rock that at first glance ‘looked a little bit boring’, but upon closer inspection it revealed to be a find of great significance.
Recalling the discovery to The Guardian, Sally said, ‘They look pretty boring and then you start revealing all this detail and the preservation is just amazing. I’m looking at this poor little critter, 167m years old. It’s unreal isn’t it. These little guys were around when the dinosaurs were about.’
Recognising the importance of what they had found, the pair contacted Dr Tim Ewin, a senior curator for Invertebrate Paleontology at the Natural History Museum, who was able to investigate the site further when restrictions allowed.
A three-day excavation by a team of scientists from the Natural History Museum uncovered tens of thousands of fossils at the site, which is no bigger than two tennis courts and would have been underwater 167 million years ago.
The exact location of the discovery is being kept secret from the public, but has been found to be home to an unprecedented collection of rare feather stars, sea lilies and starfish fossils, as well as three new species: a type of feather star; a brittle star; and a sea cucumber.
Ewin has described the site as being of global significance, saying, ‘It’s the greatest collection in terms of the quality of the preservation, just the sheer numbers of the individuals and the diversity of the individuals.’
While the single specimen found by the Hollingworths is exciting enough in itself, Ewin noted that paleontologists could ‘get even more specimens in greater numbers’; a prospect he described as ‘just unprecedented and incredibly exciting’.
He added, ‘I feel very honoured to be lucky enough to be alive at the right time that this find was made.’
The findings are now being prepped and studied by experts, with some of the finds set to be added to the collection at the Natural History Museum.
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