Ancient Sea Cow Fossil Discovered In Paving Stone Of Spanish Street

Posted: Oct 30 2016, 4:44am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 30 2016, 11:47am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

Ancient Sea Cow Fossil Discovered in Paving Stone of Spanish Street
The skull of ancient sea cow exposed on the paving slab. Credit: Manja Voss and Oliver Hampe
 

The fossil belongs to a genus of extinct sirenian or sea cows called Prototherium that lived around 50 million years ago.

Fossil discoveries not always happen out in the field on a far-off region. Sometimes, fossils can lie in an ordinary-looking path right under your feet.

Last year, paleontologists stumbled upon a rare fossil of ancient sea cow in a very unexpected place – in a slab of a pavement on a Spanish street. The unusual pavement is situated in the town of Girona in northern Spain and was first spotted by a local geologist. Then, it was visited by the paleontologists of natural history museum in Berlin. 

Closer inspection of the paving stone revealed that the complex shapes on the pavement are actually the parts of the skull and backbone of an ancient marine mammal or a sea cow, which is related to modern day plant eating marine mammals like manatee and dugong. The discovery is amazing since hundreds of people likely walk on the pavement everyday but no one realized that an ancient fossil is buried inside the pavement.

“While the limestone used to build the city of Girona are enriched by fossils – it is quite common to identify invertebrates for example – finding a marine mammal on which thousands of people walked over the last two decades is indeed very peculiar.” Dr. Manja Voss, a paleontologist from the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin said.

The fossil apparently belongs to Prototherium – a genus of extinct sea cows from Italy and Spain. The rocks from which the paving slabs are excavated are 40 million years old, making this newfound specimen one of the oldest known sea cows found in Europe. 

The paving stone, which contains the pieces of fossil, has been removed from the street for further study. The stone will be CT-scanned to digitally piece together the fragments of Prototherium. The scanning can reveal more clues of the anatomy of the specimen and can provide more insight into the evolutionary history of this marine mammal group that lived around 50 million years ago.

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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