A 470 Million Year Old Ordovician Site Found in France

a, Trilobite of the genus Ampyx (UCBL-FSL713598). b, Gastropods associated with a tube-like structure, probably the conulariid Sphenothallus (UCBL-FSL713599). c, Biomineralized conulariid cnidarian (UCBL-FSL713600). d, Articulated brachiopods attached to a possible leptomitid sponge (UCBL-FSL713601). e, Assemblage formed of articulated brachiopods (centre), flattened carapaces probably of bivalved arthropods (centre left and right) and a calymenine trilobite cranidium (left; UCBL-FSL713602). f, A hyolith with possible internal organs (UCBL-FSL713603). Scale bars represent 4 mm in a and e, 1 cm in b and d, 5 mm in c, and 2 mm in f.
a, Trilobite of the genus Ampyx (UCBL-FSL713598). b, Gastropods associated with a tube-like structure, probably the conulariid Sphenothallus (UCBL-FSL713599). c, Biomineralized conulariid cnidarian (UCBL-FSL713600). d, Articulated brachiopods attached to a possible leptomitid sponge (UCBL-FSL713601). e, Assemblage formed of articulated brachiopods (centre), flattened carapaces probably of bivalved arthropods (centre left and right) and a calymenine trilobite cranidium (left; UCBL-FSL713602). f, A hyolith with possible internal organs (UCBL-FSL713603). Scale bars represent 4 mm in a and e, 1 cm in b and d, 5 mm in c, and 2 mm in f.
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In an amazing new find, around 400 extremely well-preserved fossils from 470 million years ago have been discovered in the South of France by two amateur palaeontologists.

The site was analysed by scientists from the University of Lausanne, in collaboration with the CNRS and international teams, who have indicated its importance in providing unprecedented information on the polar ecosystems of the Ordovician period.

These lucky paleontology enthusiasts happened to stumble upon one of the world’s richest and most diverse fossil sites from the Lower Ordovician period that occured around 470 million years ago. The site is located in Montagne Noire, in the Hérault department of France.

The 400 fossils comprise of very well-preserved fauna and in addition to shell components, the fauna also contains very well preserved rare soft elements including digestive systems and cuticles. The scientists reveal that this treasure trove of biota (now known as Cabrières Biota) was once located very close to the South Pole and provides information on the composition of the Ordovician southernmost ecosystems.

Analysis also reveals the presence of arthropods (a group that includes millipedes and shrimps) and cnidarians (a group that includes jellyfish and corals), as well as algae and sponges. According to the researchers, the high biodiversity present in the area suggests that it was “a refuge for species that had escaped the high temperatures prevailing further north at the time“.

“At this time of intense global warming, animals were indeed living in high latitude refugia, escaping extreme equatorial temperatures,” points out Farid Saleh, researcher at the University of Lausanne, and first author of the study. “The distant past gives us a glimpse of our possible near future,” adds Jonathan Antcliffe, researcher at the University of Lausanne and co-author of the study.

“We’ve been prospecting and searching for fossils since the age of twenty,” says Eric Monceret. “When we came across this amazing biota, we understood the importance of the discovery and went from amazement to excitement,” adds Sylvie Monceret-Goujon. They are the amateur paleontologists who discovered the site, amateurs who discovered the site.

Further research, excavations, and more innovative fossil analysis will reveal more about the biota including the internal and external anatomy of the organisms, phylogentic relationssips and modes of life.

This first publication marks the start of a long research program involving large-scale excavations and in-depth fossil analyses. Using innovative methods and techniques, the aim is to reveal the internal and external anatomy of the organisms, as well as to deduce their phylogenetic relationships and modes of life.

The results are published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The Cabrières Biota (France) provides insights into Ordovician polar ecosystems, Nature Ecology & Evolution (open access)

 

I am a Chartered Environmentalist from the Royal Society for the Environment, UK and co-owner of DoLocal Digital Marketing Agency Ltd, with a Master of Environmental Management from Yale University, an MBA in Finance, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics. I am passionate about science, history and environment and love to create content on these topics.

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