Amateurs Find World-Class Fossil Site From 470 Million Years Ago

A couple of amateur paleontologists found 470 million-year-old fossils at a world-class site.

Nearly 400 well-preserved fossils are in the Montagne Noire mountain range in southern Hérault, France. First site analysis results published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

An international team, including scientists from the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) in Switzerland and the French National Centre for Scientific Research, analyzed the fossil site, known as the Cabrières Biota.

Rich and diversified fossils preserve animals from a sea habitat hundreds of millions of years ago. The biota contains shelly remains and unusual soft elements like digestive tracts and cuticles preserved in extraordinary condition.

"Soft-bodied fossil sites are always exciting—they are globally rare and are a critical part of understanding ancient ecosystems," UNIL study author Jonathan Antcliffe told Newsweek.

Researchers say the find is important internationally because it provides unprecedented insights into Early Ordovician polar ecosystems.

"When we came across this amazing biota, we understood the importance of the discovery and went from amazement to excitement," said the other amateur, Sylvie Monceret-Goujon.

The first biota investigation found arthropods, a varied group of animals with exoskeletons. This group comprises insects, crustaceans, arachnids, and others. They molt to grow, shedding their old exoskeleton to show a new one.

High biodiversity suggests the location was a haven for creatures escaping high temperatures further north around 470 million years ago, experts say.

The first site investigation begins a long study program of large-scale excavations and in-depth fossil examinations. Scientists want to learn more about the preserved remains' anatomy, evolutionary links, and behavior during this program.