Incredible fossil find

At the Natural History After-School ClubWe’ve been looking forward to sharing this story with everyone for a while and following a big splash in the national media here this morning we can now post it on the blog too. The picture above is of our Education team’s Natural History After-School Club and in the front is Bruno Debattista, a 10-year-old pupil from Windmill Primary School in Oxford.

Bruno with horseshoe crabs

What’s exciting is what Bruno is holding in his hand: a piece of shale that he collected while on holiday in Cornwall and correctly identified as containing a faint fossilised imprint. Members of the After-School Club are encouraged to collect specimens and bring them in each week to identify and talk about them. When Bruno brought his rock along we were somewhat stunned by what appeared to be a very rare trace fossil – a fossilised mark or imprint, rather than the more common fossilised body parts.

There was some discussion and microscope-peering amongst our expert geologists before the fossil find was finally confirmed by the Museum as being the foot and tail prints left by a pair of mating horseshoe crabs, crawling up a muddy shore around 320 million years ago. You can see in the picture here what a fully grown horseshoe crab looks like; a specimen of the size that made the trackways is perched on top of Bruno’s fossil.

The footprints left by the horseshoe crab can be seen in a trail running from the top left to the bottom right of the shale slab.
The footprints left by the horseshoe crab can be seen in a trail running from the top left to the bottom right of the shale slab.

It takes a very keen eye to spot such faint tracks and plenty of enthusiasm to go hunting for them. It’s exactly this kind of enthusiasm that the Natural History Club is trying to nurture, so we’re delighted to be able to report Bruno’s incredible find and we are especially pleased that Bruno and his family have decided to donate the fossil specimen to the Museum’s collection.

Scott Billings, Communications coordinator

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