1. ITV Report

Leicester University finds rare marine fossil

Pauline avibella Ventral Photo: University of Leicester

Researchers at the University of Leicester have discovered a rare marine fossil that is related to crabs, lobsters and shrimps.

The fossil is special as it is exceptionally well preserved. It's 10 millimeters long and is complete with the shell and the soft parts, such as its body, limbs, eyes, gills and alimentary system.

Pauline avibella Oblique frontal Credit: University of Leicester

The fossils were reconstructed ‘virtually’, by using a technique that involves grinding each specimen down, layer by layer, and photographing it at each stage.

It was found in 425 million year old rock in Herefordshire. The rocks date back to the Silurian period, when southern Britain was a sea area on a small continent situated in warm, southerly subtropical latitudes.

They were covered by a layer of volcanic ash that preserved them frozen in time.

“The two ostracod specimens discovered represent a genus and species new to science, named Pauline avibella. The genus is named in honour of a special person and avibella means ‘beautiful bird’, so-named because of the fancied resemblance of a prominent feature of the shell to the wing of a bird.”

– Professor David Siveter, University of Leicester
Pauline avibella right lateral Credit: University of Leicester

The research was undertaken together with Professor Derek Siveter and Dr Sarah Joomun (Oxford), Dr Mark Sutton (Imperial College London) and Professor Derek Briggs (Yale, USA).