LifestyleAmateur French paleontologists unearth 470-million-year-old fossil treasure in Montagne Noire

Amateur French paleontologists unearth 470‑million-year-old fossil treasure in Montagne Noire

Such a rich concentration of fossils from the Ordovician epoch is a great rarity in paleontology.
Such a rich concentration of fossils from the Ordovician epoch is a great rarity in paleontology.
Images source: © Adobe Stock

11:33 AM EST, February 9, 2024

The pair unearthed a site bearing nearly 400 remarkably well-preserved fossils from 470 million years ago in southern France.

The site is nestled in the Montagne Noire mountains, in the French department of Hérault (in the Occitanie region), offering a rich number and diversity of fossils from the Lower Ordovician epoch, approximately 470 million years past.

Fossils of rare occurrence

Up to now, over 400 excellently preserved animal fossils have been catalogued at the site. These include shell remains and, unusually, traces of soft tissues in the fossils—such as traces of digestive systems or ancient animal skin. Preliminary analysis unveils the presence of arthropods, represented by millipedes and prawns, coelenterates (which include jellyfish and corals), along with several algae and sponges.

Remarkably, the organisms found at the site once inhabited areas near the South Pole. Their analysis provides valuable insights into the polar ecosystems typical of the Ordovician era. This is emphasized by the scientists from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique CNRS (France), and other centres that examined and documented the site in "Nature Ecology & Evolution".

Sanctuary from heat

The extensive species diversity at the surveyed site suggests that it served as a sanctuary for species migrating south to evade high temperatures prevalent at the time.

- During this time of intense global warming, animals resided in havens located at vast geographical latitudes to escape extreme temperatures near the equator - remarks Farid Saleh from the University of Lausanne.

The creatures, whose remains were found, lived up to 470 million years ago.
The creatures, whose remains were found, lived up to 470 million years ago.© Adobe Stock

This noteworthy site was unearthed by paleontology enthusiasts - amateurs Eric Monceret and Sylvie Monceret-Goujon.

Transitioning from surprise to euphoria

- We've been on the hunt for fossils since we turned 20 years old - states Eric Monceret. - The thrill was beyond comparison when we stumbled upon this extraordinary find and appreciated its significance - adds Sylvie Monceret-Goujon.

Scientists have planned a systematic extraction of the fossils coupled with their rigorous analysis. They aim to comprehend the internal and external structure of these animals, establish the relationships among these organism groups, and discern their lifestyle.

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