Amazing Discovery – Cache in Chinese Mountain Reveals 20,000 Prehistoric Fossils
The discovery of 20,000 prehistoric fossils reveal how life has recovered after the most devastating mass extinction on Earth.
A giant cache of nearly 20,000 fossil reptiles, shellfish and a host of other prehistoric creatures has been unearthed from a mountain in China. The finding, which reveals how life has recovered after the most devastating mass extinction on Earth, could help point out which species might be more or less susceptible to extinction nowadays, as well as how the world might recover from the damage caused by humanity.
Only one in 10 species survived the cataclysmic end-Permian event where life was nearly wiped out completely about 250 million years ago by massive volcanic eruptions and devastating global warming
Researchers are uncertain about how life has pieced itself back together after the disaster, or even how long it has taken. Now they will have a clearer picture based on this recovery where they have excavated away half a mountain in Luoping in southwest China to unearth thousands of marine fossils, the first fully functional ecosystem seen after the end-Permian. The pattern and timing of recovery can tell them something about how life today might recover after human-induced crises.
Thousands of fossils found in an excavation site in Luoping in the southwest region of China
The 50-foot-thick (16 meters) layer of limestone holding these fossils dates back to when south China is a large island just north of the equator with a tropical climate. A smattering of fossil land plants suggest that this marine community has lived near a conifer forest. The fossils are exceptionally well-preserved including soft tissues, with more than half of them completely intact. Apparently they have been protected across the ages by mats of microbes that seals their bodies off from decay after death.
Soft tissues can give the researchers more profound information about larger patterns of evolution and relationships, such as the feathers on dinosaurs, and in some of the marine creatures, soft tissues may help us understand their diet and locomotion.
This is the fossil of a sea urchin, discovered as part of a giant cache of nearly 20,000 fossils in China
This is the fossil of a horseshoe crab, discovered as part of a giant cache of nearly 20,000 fossils in China
Ninety percent of the fossils are bug-like creatures consisting of crustaceans, millipedes and horseshoe crabs. Fish make up four percent, including the “living fossil” known as coelacanth which is still alive after nearly 250 million years, whereas snails, bivalves (eg. clams and oysters), squid-like belemnoids, nautilus-like ammonoids and other mollusks make up about 2 percent of the fossils. The largest creature the scientists found is a marine reptile known as thalattosaur, which is about 10 feet (3 meters) in length. Other predatory marine reptiles among the fossils include dolphin-bodied ichthyosaurs.
This is the fossil of a dolphin-bodied marine reptile “ichthyosaur”, discovered as part of a giant cache of nearly 20,000 fossils in China
This is the fossil of an extinct carnivorous fish “saurichthys’, discovered as part of a giant cache of nearly 20,000 fossils in China
This extraordinarily detailed diverse bygone ecosystem reveals that life has taken a long time to heal from the massive damage (10 million years), which is even more than it has taken life to recover after the K-T event that claimed the dinosaurs. Recovery after most mass extinctions seems to have taken 1 million to 4 million years. The end-Permian event has been so profound, killing almost 90 percent of species that the ecosystems has nothing left to hang their structure on.
The researchers are planning to explore the recovery of fossils from Luoping over the ecosystem’s entire life span to see which species recovered when and how the food web rebuilt itself. In addition, they hope to explore all the amazing fossils which will take many years to document in detail.