Incredible Fossil Fish From The Jurassic Unearthed In Farmers Field - Science And Nature

Jul 30, 2022

Incredible Fossil Fish From The Jurassic Unearthed In Farmers Field

A remarkably well preserved prehistoric fish has been unearthed in a farmer’s field in Gloucestershire, UK. Thought to be around 183 million years old, the 3D fish complete with eyeball was found alongside a host of marine animals which had been concealed beneath a field grazed by English Longhorn cattle.

“These fossils come from the Early Jurassic, specifically a time called the Toarcian,” said fossil collectors Sally and Neville Hollingworth in a release emailed to IFLScience.

“The clay layers exposed at this site near Stroud have yielded a significant number of well-preserved marine vertebrate fossils that are comparable to the famous and exquisitely preserved similar fauna of the Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte from Ilminster, Somerset – a prehistoric site of exceptional fossil preservation. Excavations at Kings Stanley over the last week have revealed a rich source of fossil material, particularly from a rare layer of rock that has not been exposed since the late 19th Century.”

The treasure trove of fossils at Court Farm, Kings Stanley, was combed over four days by a team of eight scientists (including Dr Dean Lomax who you may remember from this epic Ichthyosuar) who were armed with a digger. Their efforts unearthed hundreds of limestone nodules which were cracked open to see what they contained.

fossil fish
The incredible fossils included skin and even eyeballs. Images courtesy of Dr Dean Lomax


The fossil fish were some of the more remarkable finds, discovered with their scales, fins, and eyeballs still intact. A particularly furious-looking find was the Jurassic fish, Pachycormus, which researchers were able to create a 3D model of.

“Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Give a palaeontologist a fossil fish and they will tell you the species, the age of the rock, the climate of the time when the fish was alive plus the water depth and salinity and plenty of other information,” said Nigel Larkin, specialist palaeontological conservator and Visiting Research Fellow at Reading University, in the release.

“This site – already an interesting farm in a beautiful setting – is one big outdoor classroom and the lessons now include geology, palaeontology, evolution and climate change. They tell farmers to diversify but this goes one step beyond!”

The limestone nodules were once deep underwater, and after being unearthed for the first time in 100 years, turned out prehistoric squids, marine reptiles, and insects, as well as fish. Spurred on by their fantastic finds, the team hope to continue their work on the fruitful fossil site.

“We’re excited to expand our knowledge of the geology of the Stroud District and we are looking forward to a time when we can share these amazing finds with our members and visitors,” said Alexia Clark, who works at the local museum where some of the fossils will be housed.

“Being part of the excavation team has been a real privilege and I can’t wait to share details of that experience through our members’ newsletter.”

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