From the Daily Mail in Britain:
Girl, 5, unearths 160 million-year-old fossil… using plastic seaside spade
Last updated at 10:23 PM on 17th March 2011
A five-year-old girl has discovered a huge 160 million-year-old fossil on her first ever archaeological dig – using a children’s seaside spade.
Emily Baldry unearthed the 130lb (60kg) specimen as she dug into the ground at Cotswold Water Park in Gloucestershire.
The curious youngster was prodding the earth with her green plastic beach spade when she struck something hard in the ground.
Her dad Jon Baldry and palaeontologist Neville Hollingworth helped Emily to dig the enormous fossil out of the ground.
They were amazed to discover she had found a rare 162.8million-year-old Rieneckia ammonite fossil – measuring 16 inches (40cm) in diameter.
The fossilised sea creature with a spiral-patterned shell was a mollusc that lived in the oceans during the Jurassic period – the same time as dinosaurs.
Emily’s fossil had spikes to ward off predators and was encased in a block of mudstone when it came out of the ground.
Proud dad Jon, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, recalled the moment when his daughter struck fossil gold.
He said: ‘We had only been digging for a few moments when the spades hit something. We tried to dig around it and that was when we realised the size of it.
‘She is a very inquisitive little girl and got very excited about going on a proper dig. To find something like this was very special.
‘Emily enjoys digging, usually right in the middle of the back garden, but this was the first time we had ever taken her to something like this.
‘We didn’t know what to make of it until we realised how excited the resident palaeontologist was.
‘She did it all herself – we’re very proud of her.’
Mr Hollingworth, the expert who was volunteering on the dig, said: ‘It is quite spectacular, and all the more special that a little girl discovered it.
‘To give you some idea of how rare this is, I have been looking for these for around 25 years – and have only ever found three.
‘This is also the biggest of its type that I have ever seen. They are incredibly rare – it was very exciting.
‘It is all the more remarkable considering Emily was using the type of spade children dig with at the seaside.’
The Cotswold Water Park stretches for 42 square miles across the Gloucestershire-Wiltshire border and has 150 lakes.
During the Jurassic period the area would have been a warm, shallow sea.
Society spokeswoman Jill Bewley said: ‘The chances of finding something like this [Rieneckia ammonites] are really, really slim.
‘It’s the proverbial needle in a haystack so to hit upon something like this is quite phenomenal.’
The fossil is now being cleaned and will go on display at the Gateway Information Centre along with a range of other fossils.
See also here.
Big Dinosaurs Were As Warm As Mammals. But Were They Warm-Blooded? Here.
Glow worms triple numbers in Cotswold Water Park: here.
ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2012) — Research led by scientists at the American Museum of Natural History shows that ammonites-an extinct type of shelled mollusk that’s closely related to modern-day nautiluses and squids-made homes in the unique environments surrounding methane seeps in the seaway that once covered America’s Great Plains. The findings, published online this week in the journal Geology, provide new insights into the mode of life and habitat of these ancient animals: here.