Extraordinary discovery: researchers find fossil animals in a sheep pasture

Extraordinary discovery: Researchers find animals more than 460 million years old in sheep pasture

Reconstruction of the opabinids

The opabinids are said to have lived in the sea over 400 million years ago

© Museum Wales

The fossil animals lived in Canada more than 460 million years ago. Now they have been found for the first time in Europe – on a Welsh sheep pasture.

Researchers in Wales have made an amazing discovery: two fossils believed to be the first of their kind in Europe.

The fossils were found in rocks believed to have been deposited under the sea more than 460 million years ago. At that time what is now Mid-Wales was covered by the sea, explains the Museum Wales in a press release. The researchers dr. Joseph Botting and Dr. Lucy Muir found the fossils in a sheep pasture. The larger of the two is 13 millimeter long, the smaller only 3 millimeter.

Joseph Botting and Lucy Muir holding fossils and a life size model of Opabinia

dr Joseph Botting and Dr. Lucy Muir with the newly discovered fossils and a life size model of the Opabinia

© Museum Wales

Proboscis noses and flaps on the sides

So far, the museum is undecided whether the fossils found are the first opabiniads found in Europe, or whether they are a separate animal species. In understanding the evolution of arthropods (a phylum that includes crabs and insects that have an exoskeleton and many articulated legs), this could be “crucially important,” the release said.

Fossil named Mieridduryn bonniae

One of the fossil animals was given the scientific name Mieridduryn bonniae

© Museum Wales

The Opabinia genus lived in water in Canada 500 million years ago and had a soft body with a long, narrow trunk. On either side they had a series of flaps that were probably used for swimming. Also, they had several pairs with triangular legs on the bottom.

The long, tube-like noses are particularly noticeable for opabiniads. It is believed that they used this to pick up bits of food from the sea floor and carry it to their mouth, which was behind the nose on the underside of the head.

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Fossils named after niece, brambles and proboscis

One of the fossil animals was now given the name Mieridduryn bonniae, named in honor of Bonnie, the niece of the owners of the property where the fossil was found. The rest of the name is made up of the Welsh words “mier” (in English: blackberry) and “duryn” (in English: trunk).

Sources:Museum of Wales, BBC

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