Ice age and earlier fossils


This video is called Russian mammoth.

12 September 2010.

This weekend, there was fossil animal research at the natural history museum.

Bags of sand from the sea west of the Meuse river estuary near Rotterdam in the Netherlands had been brought to the museum. The material is these bags is about half a million to 10,000 years old. This is a time when glacial and interglacial periods succeeded each other. So, sometimes there were rather warm climate animals then; later, cold climate animals again.

This year, so many bags came to the museum, that for the first time, non-professional palaeontologists from the general public, including children, were asked to help the professionals.

The bags contain many pebbles; occasionally, a twentieth century human made piece of metal. About 99% of animal remains are seashells: bivalves, snails, sometimes also cephalopods.

Much rarer are bones of vertebrate animals. Practically all mammals: most reptile and amphibian remains are too small and too weak to survive in the fossil record.

This weekend, a small bit of ivory was found. Maybe from a mammoth? Today, a deer molar; it is still unknown what species of deer. And a beaver tooth; the same beaver species as today.

At least one of the seashells found is about 50 million year old, from the Eocene. It is the top of a shell of young specimen of Cardita planicosta. This species lived then in what were hot mangrove coasts near what is today Flanders.

It is thought that about 20,000-15,000 years ago, during the transition from the Weichselien, the last ice age, to the warmer Holocene, these Eocene seashells were brought to the Meuse estuary by a strong meltwater current. This is a recent discovery.

Near the Meuse estuary itself, the Eocene layers are 500 meter below the surface. So, the Eocene shells there must be from Flanders.

Some of the shell species in the sandbags still live in the Netherlands now. Some are totally extinct. Some still live in northern Europe; or, to the contrary, in southern Europe; dependent on whether the fossils are from ice ages or from warmer interglacial periods, A.C. Janse, seashell researcher of the museum, told me. The finds include seashells from the Pectinidae family.

From other research into the Pleistocene of the Netherlands and the North Sea, it is known that many rodents lived there then. Some of these species today live only in northern Russia. There is contact between Dutch palaeontologists and Russian rodent researchers to get an idea about how these mice lived in or near the Netherlands ten thousands of years ago.

However, this weekend, no mice fossils have been found so far. Probably, they were too small for the sieves which filled the bags.

A special find this morning is a part of a woolly rhinoceros tooth.

The finds include a shark tooth, probably from a great white shark relative. This kind of tooth is found only about once or twice a year.

All the interesting animal finds of today will remain in the museum. It will take about a year before the scientists really know what species they belong to. However, archaeological discoveries, like pieces of flint which may have been, eg, parts of spears or arrows, will go to the archaeological museum.

Just before I leave, a new discovery: Ocenebra erinaceus, a carnivorous marine snail from the Eemian interglacial period. Today, this species still lives in Spain and Portugal. Also from this morning: part of a crab. And a tusk shell. An extinct species? Specialist research will have to find out.

This is a video about the Maasvlakte fossils’ research.

Nearly 1,500 animal fossils dating to 1.4 million years ago were recently unearthed by a utility company working southeast of Los Angeles: here.

Construction Crew Unearths Ice Age Fossils. Mammoths and sloths among the discoveries found in Colorado: here.

Protein from bones of 600,000-year-old mammoth extracted successfully: here.

The discovery of a well-preserved juvenile woolly mammoth suggests that ancient humans “stole” mammoths from hunting lions, scientists say: here.

7 thoughts on “Ice age and earlier fossils

  1. Administrator on December 9, 2010 at 11:52 pm said:

    It’s a ‘beauty’ museum director says: fossilized hyena dung dredged up off Dutch coast

    By Associated Press

    12:27 p.m. EST, December 9, 2010

    AMSTERDAM (AP) — Researchers say a curled-up brown fossil dredged up off the Dutch coast is an ancient piece of hyena dung, the first found in the North Sea dating back to the Late Pleistocene era, 12,000-100,000 years ago.

    Jelle Reumer, director of the Rotterdam Natural History museum called the prehistoric piece of poop “a beauty.”

    It was found during work to expand Rotterdam’s port and went on display Thursday.

    Reumer, a paleontologist, said the dung was dated by its sediment layer. He hopes a second example is found so it can be broken apart, studied and dated more exactly.

    “Cave” hyenas were once common in Europe, and the fossil closely resembles modern hyena dung. But its color is misleading since before fossilization it would have been chalky gray.

    Like

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