Category: Geology

Ichthyosaur Fossil Discovered at Lyme Regis

New Ichthyosaur Fossil Discovery at Lyme Regis

Yesterday, team members at Everything Dinosaur received news that a beautifully preserved Ichthyosaur specimen had been discovered at Lyme Regis.  Our chum Brandon, a local fossil expert from Dorset, sent us some pictures and a video which illustrate the exciting discovery.   The specimen was discovered on the beach to the east of the town of Lyme Regis, near to where the council have been working to strengthen the cliff area and to improve the town’s coastal defences.

Video Footage of the Ichthyosaur Discovery

Video Credit: Brandon Lennon

 The video shows the block which contains the fossil specimen, vertebrae can be clearly seen along with some of the rib bones, the skull is only partially exposed.  The dig team will cut the block away from the surrounding material and carefully transport the specimen away so that it can be prepared and examined in detail.  From the video, the bones don’t look too compressed or deformed and although some of the distal elements of the skeleton are probably missing, this particular Ichthyosaur looks relatively complete.  It is a little difficult to get our bearings just from the video and the photographs that we have received but we think the specimen was discovered in the Blue Lias of the Church Cliffs section of beach, immediately east of Lyme Regis.

The Location of the Fossil Discovery

The location of the fossil find.

The location of the fossil find.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

Water is carefully removed from around the fossil matrix, sand bags will be put in position to help keep the fossil material protected and then the dig team will map the exposed bones and work out the best way to cut and remove the stone block.

The Fossil Material is Carefully Examined

Icthyosaur fossil find April 2014.

Ichthyosaur fossil find April 2014.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

Carefully the specimen is exposed and then the layout and orientation of the fossil material is studied.  Consideration needs to be given to the tide times as the specimen will be covered once the tide turns.

A Close up of the Ichthyosaur Fossil

The vertebrae can be clearly made out.

The vertebrae can be clearly made out.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

The hand in the photograph helps to provide scale.  The Ichthyosaur is lying with its head facing towards the bottom right and the tail up towards the top left of the photograph.  The vertebrae can be clearly seen in the picture.  It is certainly a member of the Ichthyosauria Order, but it is very difficult to assign a species name to the specimen at this stage just having the short video and the photographs to study.  As a guess, it might be an example of Ichthyosaurus breviceps, however, it is best to wait until the fossil material has been more thoroughly prepared before any precise identification can be made.

The Ichthyosauria were an Order of fast-swimming, nektonic and (as far as we know entirely marine), predatory marine reptiles with dolphin-shaped bodies.  As a group, these highly specialised reptiles evolved in the Early Triassic and thrived throughout the Jurassic and for much of the Cretaceous, before finally becoming extinct around 80 million years ago.

An Illustration of a Typical Jurassic Ichthyosaur

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Dolphin-like prehistoric animals.

Lyme Regis is an amazing place to visit and a fossil hunting trip to the beach is highly recommended, although we at Everything Dinosaur would advise that you take advantage of the local knowledge of a fossil hunting expert so that you can get the most from your visit.

To read more about guided fossil walks: Guided Fossil Walks (Lyme Regis)

We look forward to hearing more about this exciting fossil find and no doubt there will be more marine reptile discoveries made over the next few months.

Huge Extraterrestrial Impact that Shaped Our World

Impact Earth 3.26 Billion Years Ago

Scientists have discovered tell-tale signs in the geology of Earth which reveal a catastrophic ancient impact event that would have dwarfed the dinosaur killing asteroid of sixty-five million years ago.  Approximately, 3.26 billion years ago, the region we now know as South Africa was hit by a colossal rock from space, a rock that would have been at least three times the size of the space rock responsible for the Cretaceous impact event.  Such was the magnitude of the impact that the Earth’s crust shifted, giving rise to some of the tectonic features that are still found today.

The study, published in the academic journal “Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems” focuses on the geological formation called the Barberton greenstone belt in South Africa.  This formation can be found in the north-east of South Africa and it partially borders the sovereign state of Swaziland.  The rocks are mainly continental and consist of some of the oldest continental crust rocks known.  The research team examined the seismology of the region and they estimate that between 3.47 billion and 3.23 billion years ago the area was the site of a massive impact from outer space.

Huge Extraterrestrial Object Crashes into Earth Around 3.26 Billion Years Ago

Cataclysmic impact event.

Cataclysmic impact event.

Picture Credit: Don Davis commissioned by NASA

During that time in the formation of the Earth and the solar system, our planet had cooled sufficiently for oceans to form and primitive bacterial thrived, although at the time there was very little oxygen, the most significant gases in the atmosphere were nitrogen and carbon dioxide.  The impact event occurred after the “Late Heavy Bombardment – LHB” which was a period of several hundred million years ending around 3.7 billion years ago when the inner rocky planets and satellites of the solar system was bombarded by space debris, left over from the creation of the planets and other bodies that make up our solar system.  The space rock, perhaps an asteroid or even a comet from further out in the solar system crashed into Earth. The object measured between 37 and 58 kilometres across and smashed into the region of southern Africa at a speed of more than 20 kilometres a second (a speed of around 43,000 miles an hour).  The crater caused would have measured over five hundred kilometres in diameter (300 miles), although this has been eroded away.  The resulting impact sent seismic waves through the entire planet and it is likely that these seismic waves exceeded the amplitudes of typical earthquake waves. The duration of extreme shaking was also far longer, probably hundreds of seconds, than that from strong earthquakes.  Debris thrown up into the atmosphere would have sufficient momentum to leave the Earth’s orbit, firestorms would have ravaged the planet and tsunamis hundreds of metres high would have smashed into the nascent continents.  Indeed, water at the surface of the oceans would have been boiled away.  Such was the force generated that subduction might have occurred as a result, helping to shape the continents.

Geologist, Donald Lowe of Stanford University and a co-author of the scientific study explained:

“We can’t go to the impact sites.  In order to better understand how big it was and its effect we need studies like this. We knew it [the impact event] was big, but we didn’t know how big.”

The Earth and the primitive life upon it would have been devastated, wiping out whole genera of bacteria, but just like the extinction event that marks the end of the Cretaceous, other organisms would have evolved to replace those that had died out, just as the Mammalia rose to prominence with the extinction of the Dinosauria.  The shock of the impact could also have moved the tectonic systems around the Earth’s crust into a higher gear, making the planet more tectonically active.  The impact of this event, so long ago, is still being felt by the Earth today the researchers speculate.  Identified by the presence of spherule beds in the Barberton greenstone belt, this Archean impact event has shaped the way the Earth’s continents and oceans came about.

The Size and Scale of the Impact

Impact event in the Barberton greenstone belt of South Africa.

Impact event in the Barberton greenstone belt of South Africa.

Picture Credit: American Geophysical Union

The illustration above compares the extraterrestrial object responsible for the Chicxulub impact that may have helped wipe out the dinosaurs, with the Archaen impact event and the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest.  The impact craters illustrated are compared with the island of Hawaii for scale.  The estimated crater formed by the collision around 3.26 billion years ago may have been as much as five hundred kilometres across.

Commenting on the research, geologist Frank Kyte of the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) stated:

“This is providing significant support for the idea that the impact may have been responsible for this major shift in tectonics.”

Volcanoes at Yorkshire School

Year 4 Pupils Make Volcanoes

Whilst on a school visit to teach about dinosaurs and fossils one of our teaching team was given the chance to view an excellent display of volcanoes made by Year 4 pupils as they studied rocks and the formation of the Earth. There was some amazing artwork on display and under the teacher’s tutelage, some children had even made models.  Some of the models spouted lava flows made from coloured tissue paper, other volcano models had been prepared for use later on in the day, where with the addition of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, they were going to “erupt”.  Carbon dioxide produced in the plastic drinks bottle that helps to form the cone shape will force out the liquid lava as the gas pressure builds.  It is a good idea to put plenty of newspaper down to keep mess to a minimum and we like to add a few drops of washing up liquid to help the lava bubble.  Food colouring can be used to create, red, orange and even blue lava  - whatever colour takes your fancy!

Children’s  Models of Volcanoes on Display

Lava erupting from the cone shaped volcanoes

Lava erupting from the cone shaped volcanoes

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Hoylandswaine

 We discussed the extinction of the dinosaurs as part of our dinosaur workshop and we looked at other theories about the Cretaceous mass extinction, including volcanic activity leading to dramatic climate change.

To read more about alternative theories to the asteroid impact theory: Dinosaur Extinction Theory – Blame the Deccan Traps

It certainly was a most enjoyable day, one that delighted our geologist colleagues when the saw the pictures of the children’s work.

To read more about Everything Dinosaur’s work in schools: Dinosaur Workshops in Schools

High Risk of Landslides on the Dorset Coast

Beware of Landslides – Lyme Regis Cliffs

Many schools have broken up for the spring holidays and families might be tempted to take a day trip to visit the Jurassic Coast in search of fossils.  A visit to the beautiful coast of Dorset and to towns such as Lyme Regis is highly recommended, but we urge caution when on the beach searching for fossils as the cliffs in the area remain particularly unstable and rock falls are very common.

Just how dangerous the cliffs can be was brought home to us when local fossil expert Brandon Lennon sent us a video which captures one of the very many landslides that have occurred in the area over recent weeks.  In this short video (0:49), taken on Monmouth beach to the west of Lyme Regis heading towards the county of Devon, rocks and debris can be seen tumbling onto the beach within just a few yards of bystanders.

Landslide at Monmouth Beach (Lyme Regis)

Video Credit: Brandon Lennon

We are grateful to Brandon for sending Everything Dinosaur this video and we recommend staying away from the cliffs along the Dorset coast.  When it comes to fossil collecting, we advise that visitors to the Lyme Regis area look for fossils on a falling tide and to search around the tide line where the sea will have washed off mud and clay from rocks exposing a lot of potential fossil material.

Take advantage of a the help and advice of a professional fossil collector by going on an organised fossil collecting walk for further information: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks

In addition, here are some hints and tips to help fossil hunters keep safe whilst out fossil collecting on the beaches around Lyme Regis and Charmouth.

  • Always stay away from the cliffs
  • Do not climb on the cliffs or any recent landslips/mudflows
  • Tell a responsible person where you are going and when you are expected back
  • Have a mobile phone handy in case of emergencies
  • Beware of the threat of landslides, especially during or just after bad weather
  • Note the tide times particularly high tide and take the advice of the local coastguard etc.
  • Aim to collect fossils on a falling tide, be aware of the incoming tide especially around headlands where you could easily get cut off
  • In rough weather, be aware of strong winds and high waves and the fact that the footing underneath might be treacherous
  • Wear suitable clothing and shoes

The World’s Most Northerly Dinosaurs

Duck-Billed Dinosaur Bone from Axel Heiberg Island

Much has been discovered about the northern ranges of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs over the last two decades or so.  Palaeontologists now recognise that during the last few million years of the Cretaceous geological period a number of different dinosaur genera adapted to living at high latitudes, year round residents of territory which today is well within the Arctic Circle.  There have been a number of important fossils finds at locations such as those from the Prince Creek Formation (North Slope Borough, Alaska), only recently a new genus of pygmy Tyrannosaur was scientifically described – Nanuqsaurus hoglundi.

To read more about this new Tyrannosaur: The “Polar Bear” Tyrannosaur

Although the climate was much milder, the weather at these very high latitudes would have been seasonally extreme.  There would have been long periods of total darkness with the sun never ascending over the horizon with snow falls and temperatures close to or below freezing for prolonged periods.  In the summer, the high latitude would have have guaranteed twenty-fours of daylight for a number of weeks and the overall climate, based on studies of plant fossils and pollen suggests an environment similar to the state of Oregon in the United States or perhaps British Columbia (Canada).  The fossils found in the Prince Creek Formation are certainly important, but they do not represent the most northern dinosaur discovery to date.  That honours goes to a single, fossil bone found during a geological survey of the remote Axel Heiberg Island in 1992.  Axel Heiberg Island is seventy-nine degrees north and is one of the larger islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.  It is uninhabited, although some research teams set up seasonal summer camps.

The highly abraided dinosaur bone was determined as being a Hadrosaurine veretebra (back bone), although the genus remains uncertain.  It was found in the Kanguk Formation which consists of marine strata laid down during the Late Cretaceous.  A number of other vertebrate fossils have also been found but to date only one dinosaur bone.  It is likely that this fossil was deposited during the Campanian faunal stage of the Late Cretaceous (around 83 – 74 million years ago).

During the Campanian, the eastern Canadian Arctic was likely isolated both from western North America by the Western Interior Seaway and from more southern regions of eastern North America by the Hudson Seaway.  This fossil suggests that large-bodied Hadrosaurid dinosaurs may have inhabited a substantial polar insular landmass during the Late Cretaceous, where they would have lived year-round.  Being effectively marooned on the land mass, these dinosaurs were unable to migrate southwards  to escape the worst of the winter weather.  It is possible that the resident herbivorous dinosaurs could have fed on non-deciduous conifers, as well as other woody twigs and stems, during the long, dark winter months when most deciduous plant species had lost their leaves and others would have died back due to the lack of sunlight.

It is likely that other dinosaur fossil discoveries await on the islands that make up the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, however, the difficulty in reaching them, the extreme climate and the lack of a road network or suitable airstrip means that much more research has been carried out in Alaska than on the islands of the high Arctic.  Palaeontologists are confident that further research will establish a rich and diverse Late Cretaceous ecosystem that was dominated by dinosaurs.

New Data on Mesozoic CO2 Levels Can Help Map Today’s Climate Change

Mesozoic CO2 Levels Much Higher than Today

A new study published by University of Utrecht researchers and published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” suggest that for much of the Mesozoic, carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere were much higher than they are today, even with global warming caused by greenhouse gases such as higher levels of CO2.  Earlier studies had come to similar conclusions but this new research suggests that at the onset of the Triassic and into the Jurassic global CO2 levels could have been as much as five times their current levels.

The new methodologies used to model the ancient CO2 levels could have implications for how climatologists plot changes in our environment as CO2 levels rise.

Scientists have known for some time that a large amount of volcanic activity results in more CO2 being released, but with previous analytical methods, it had been tricky to weigh up all the variables and to come up with an overall assessment of CO2 concentrations.

Lots of CO2 Around in the Mesozoic with the Dinosaurs

A warm and humid Earth back in the early Mesozoic.

A warm and humid Earth back in the early Mesozoic.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

As the Mesozoic progressed so the super-continent of Pangaea began to break up into two smaller landmasses, essentially Laurasia in the northern hemisphere and Gondwana further south.   The huge amount of plate movements led to extensive subduction and a great deal of volcanic activity.  It was this volcanism that drove the release of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere, thus leading to a “greenhouse” world which was warm and humid and the dinosaurs thrived in.

Lead author of this new study, geoscientist Douwe van der Meer, (Utrecht University), explained that previous research had led to widely varying amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, making such work of limited use when trying to model current climate change.

The Utrecht University research team used a state-of-the-art imaging technique called seismic tomography to reconstruct 250 million years of volcanic CO2 emissions.  Seismic waves were analysed as they travelled through the rock layers that make up the Earth’s crust, this gave the team the opportunity to create a model of the structure of the Earth’s interior.

Lead author, van der Meer stated:

“This method is comparable to CT scans used in hospitals to image inside bodies.  With sufficient earthquake wave travel times, we can create a velocity model of the Earth.  Faster regions are more dense, colder material plates that sank into the Earth as a result of subduction processes due to plate tectonics.”

Carbon Dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas.  Herbivorous dinosaurs may have played an indirect role in global warming by producing a lot of methane as they digested large amounts of plant matter.

To read an article about the role of Sauropod dinosaurs in global warming: The Winds of Change – Methane Produced by Dinosaurs May Have Led to Global Warming

Diving for a Dinosaur Footprint

State Officials Go Diving for a Stolen Dinosaur Footprint

Back on February 22nd, Everything Dinosaur reported on the shocking theft of a three-toed dinosaur footprint that had been stolen from an adventure trail called Hell’s Revenge close to the town of Moab in Grand County (eastern Utah).  The Bureau of Land Management, responsible for the management of the site had said in a statement that the theft of such objects was becoming all too commonplace and an appeal went out to help try to locate the missing Theropod dinosaur footprint.

To read the article about the theft: Dinosaur Footprint Stolen in Utah

We are pleased to say that there have been a number of developments in the case, which might lead to the footprint fossil being recovered.  Over the weekend, officials from the State, organised a dive team to explore an area of river bed downstream of the Dewey Bridge over the Colorado River.  Unfortunately, the divers were unable to locate the missing fossil.  Their efforts were hampered by the very poor visibility and the fact that unfortunately, that part of the Colorado river has a very rocky riverbed.  It’s not the easiest of tasks groping around in near zero visibility looking for a rock amongst many hundreds of other rocks.

Divers Searching for the Missing Dinosaur Footprint Fossil

Looking for a dinosaur footprint

Looking for a dinosaur footprint

Picture Credit: Salt Lake Tribune

According to a statement from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, investigators had identified a suspect but this person’s name was not being released for the moment.  The area of river bed immediately below and just downstream of Dewey Bridge on State Road 128 is being explored as this is where the print is believed to have been dumped.  The dinosaur track which measures around twenty-five centimetres in length is thought to have been stolen sometime around the 17th or 18th of February.  No explanation for the reason for the robbery has been given, but it is known that dinosaur fossils such as this single foot print may fetch very high prices on the black market.

The Bureau of Land Management offered a reward for information leading to the identification of the culprit or culprits, other parties such as a group of off-road enthusiasts that use the Hell’s Revenge trail also chipped in and the various rewards offered now total somewhere in the region of $9,000 USD (£5,400 GBP).

Commenting on the loss of the 190 million year old Theropod footprint, Rebecca Hunt-Foster, a palaeontologist for the Bureau of Land Management stated that this specimen was one of the nicest tracks in the area and that the three-toed print was most probably made by a large, meat-eating dinosaur – a likely ancestor of the Utah State Dinosaur, the Allosaurus.

A Picture of the Three-toed Dinosaur Footprint

The stolen dinosaur footprint (from Bureau of Land Management files).

The stolen dinosaur footprint (from Bureau of Land Management files).

Picture Credit: Bureau of Land Management

Locals are incensed about the loss of this fossil.  The area is known for its dinosaur tracks and many visitors to the area come up to the Hell’s Revenge trail to view the evidence of dinosaurs preserved in what is now sandstone, but was once a sandy shoreline next to an early Jurassic lake.

A Picture of the Fearsome Late Jurassic Predator Allosaurus (A. fragilis)

Allosaurus attacks

Allosaurus attacks

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur wish the Utah State authorities well in their search for the fossil and hopefully this rare and very important dinosaur fossil will be found soon.

Longer Days and Low Tides Bring out Fossil Hunters

Fossil Hunters Warned to Take Care when Visiting Dorset Beaches

With the longer days and the relatively calmer weather the southern coast of England has been experiencing recently, fossil hunters may be tempted to venture out onto the beach to look for fossils.  However, team members at Everything Dinosaur are urging all would-be fossil hunters to take great care as they venture out to look for ancient remains of life that may have been washed out of cliffs as a result of the winter storms.

A spokes person from the UK based dinosaur company stated:

“Although many people will be tempted to visit the Dorset coast and other coastal locations looking for fossils, we urge everybody to take precautions.  Many of the cliffs remain extremely dangerous and land slides and rock falls are very common, it is best to stay away from the cliffs.”

 Hazardous Conditions for Fossil Hunters

Dangerous Conditions for Beachcombers

Dangerous Conditions for Beachcombers

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Brandon Lennon

Over the next few weekends, thousands of amateur palaeontologists will been drawn to the area, encouraged by news of recent fossil discoveries but many will be unaware of the risks they are taking by climbing or searching too close to the falling cliffs.  The arrow in the picture above shows a person stood next to a recent rock fall, this helps to provide a sense of scale for the landslide.

Richard Edmunds, a geologist who works for Dorset County Council stated that if people were sensible then fossil hunting on the beaches of Dorset can be a wonderful experience but he advised that it was best to stay away from the cliffs.   He echoed the sentiments expressed by Everything Dinosaur team members.

The geologist went onto add:

“Yes, the fossils are coming out of the cliff-falls, but they are impossible to find in the mud.  People do get stuck which is why we have a mud rescue team in the coastguard.  It is best to look [for fossils] on the beach, where the sea has done all the hard work of cleaning the fossils.

Earth was Cool A Lot Earlier than Previously Thought

Australian Zircon Suggests Earth Cooled Around 4.4 Billion Years Ago

An international team of scientists led by Professor John Valley (University of Wisconsin-Madison) have found evidence that our planet cooled much earlier than previously thought.  A cooler Earth could perhaps have led to an earlier start for life on our planet.

Our solar system is believed to be somewhere around 4.56 billion years old.  It was formed from an enormous cloud of gas and dust (the solar nebula) that started to collapse in on itself under the force of gravity.  As this collapse occurred the mass of dust and gas flattened into an ever-faster spinning disc of debris.  It bulged at the centre, becoming extremely hot and this formed our sun.  Orbiting debris went on to form the rocky inner planets (including Earth), as well as the gas giants, the dwarf Pluto and the asteroid belt.

Analysis of a tiny fragment of zircon, excavated from a remote outcrop of rock in Australia has helped the researchers to form a picture of how Earth may have become able to sustain life around 4.4 billion years ago, just 160  million years or so, after the planet first formed.

Writing in the academic journal “Nature Geoscience”, Professor Valley, a renowned geochemist, stated that the study of this tiny zircon, a fragment of the Earth’s crust from that time, confirms that the Earth cooled and became habitable, this research not only has implications for the study of life on Earth, but it may also provide scientists with a better understanding of how other habitable planets may form.

Building on previous lead isotope analysis that proved the zircons extracted from rocky exposures in Western Australia’s Jack Hills region were the oldest known bits of Earth’s crust, the microscopic zircon used in this study has been confirmed as the oldest known material of any kind on our planet.

Commenting on the implications, Professor Valley said:

“This strengthens the theory of a cool early Earth, where temperatures were low enough for liquid water, oceans and a hydrosphere to form not long after the planet’s crust congealed from a sea of molten rock  This study reinforces our conclusion that Earth had a hydrosphere before 4.3 billion years ago and possibly life not long after.”

A new technique was used in the analysis of the zircon sample, a technique called atom-probe tomography, that when used in combination with ion mass spectrometry allowed the scientists to establish with great accuracy the age and thermal history of the material.  The mass of individual atoms of lead was calculated in the sample.  Instead of being distributed in a random fashion it was discovered that the lead atoms in the zircon had clumped together “like raisins in a pudding”.  The clusters of lead atoms formed around one billion years after the crystallisation of the zircon material, by which time radioactive decay of uranium-235 had formed the lead atoms that formed clumps as the zircon was re-heated.  The re-heating took place around 3.4 billion years ago, this concentrated the lead atoms together and this formation allowed the research team to plot the thermal history of the zircon through deep time.

An Example of a Zircon Used in the Study

4.4 billion year old zircon crystals provide evidence of Earth cooling.

4.4 billion year old zircon crystals provide evidence of Earth cooling.

Picture Credit: Professor John Valley

Radioactive elements such as uranium decay from the moment of their formation at a steady, uniform rate.  The decay occurs when negatively charged particles present in each atom (electrons) are lost.  This results in the creation of a series of “daughter atoms” known as isotopes such as uranium-235 decaying into lead-207.  As the decay takes place at a regular, consistent rate it is like setting a clock in motion.  Scientists can measure the relative proportions of the isotopes and determine the amount of time that has passed since the material was formed.  Although the clumps of lead are microscopic (less than fifty atoms in diameter), the isotopes and their clumping provides a reliable record of the age and the history of the material.

In addition, Professor Valley and his team measured oxygen isotope ratios in a bid to gain further evidence of a stabilisation of conditions on Earth,

The Professor explained:

“The Earth was assembled from a lot of heterogeneous material from the solar system, the Earth also experienced an intense bombardment by meteors, including a collision with a Mars-sized object about 4.5 billion years ago, that formed our moon [probably] and melted and homogenised the Earth.  Our samples formed after the magma cooled and prove that these events were very early.”

Earth is unique amongst the known planets in that it has abundant surface water and H2O can be present in its three forms, as water vapour, as a liquid and as a solid – ice.  The presence of water would have acted as a catalyst to the start of life and zircon grains have been found that  were deposited by water some 4 billion years ago. Pillow lavas from western Greenland, formed by volcanic activity underwater have been dated to 3.8 billion years ago. When detectable life on Earth formed is still open to debate.  Whatever form this early life took, it was most probably tough, microscopic archaebacteria or eubacteria.  Evidence for single celled organisms have been found in Archean rocks dated between 3.49 and 3.43 billion years of age.

Placing the Jack Hills Material into a Timeline of Deep Geological Time

A simplified timeline showing where the 4.4 billion year old crystal fits.

A simplified timeline showing where the 4.4 billion year old crystal fits.

Picture Credit: Andree Valley

Stormy Weather at Lyme Regis

Violent Storms Continue to Batter the UK’s South Coast

Much of England and south Wales continues to get a battering from severe winter storms.  We have been somewhat sheltered at Everything Dinosaur, although our warehouse was rocking a bit last night as 80 mph (128 kmh) winds buffeted the building.  Elsewhere in the UK, especially on exposed coasts, the sea conditions remain extremely hazardous.  The Environmental Agency has been stressing the need for walkers and visitors to the coast to stay away from cliffs and other areas where landslips may occur.  Our advice to anyone considering going out on a fossil hunt over the next few days is to postpone it, the beaches and cliffs are just too dangerous.

Our chum Brandon sent us a short video, documenting some of the damage that the stormy weather has caused to properties and boats on Monmouth Beach.  We have received a lot of reports from various fossil collectors and rock hounds from around the UK over the last few weeks.  The high rainfall levels, the storms, severe gales and flooding are the worst in living memory.  Some parts of the coast will be unrecognisable by the time the bad weather subsides and experts can assess the full extent of the damage.

Best to stay away from the cliffs and beaches for the time being.

Storm Damage at Monmouth Beach (Lyme Regis)

Video Credit: Brandon Lennon

Our thanks to Brandon for sending in this short video.

Brandon knows a lot about the local geology of the Lyme Regis coast, he can be found down on the beach on most days leading fossil walks, to read more about Brandon’s fossil walks: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks

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