Bizarre ‘Dwarf World’ Fossil Site Discovered In Wales

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Robert McGreevy Contributor
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A 462-million-year-old fossil site containing over 150 miniature species has been discovered in Wales, according to a study published Monday in the journal “Nature Ecology & Evolution.”

The Castle Bank site, discovered by a team of researchers from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS), is one of the most well-preserved and unexpected fossil sites in the world. Some of the fossils contain soft tissue and completely preserved organisms.

Almost all of the world’s fossil sites with soft tissue preservation are from the Cambrian period of between 542 million and 482 million years ago. The Castle Bank site, however, is from the Ordovician period, which began 462 million years ago. 

The specimens discovered range from horseshoe crabs to starfish and sponges. Many of the fossils were discovered with completely intact internal organs, digestive systems and even nerves. 

This type of preservation is seen in the best of the Cambrian fossil sites, but is nearly unheard of for the Ordovician period, according to The outlet, which described the site as a “Marine Dwarf World,” also noted that scientists uncovered fossils resembling cephalocarid shrimps, a species which previously had no fossil record at all.

Scientists say this discovery can help them bridge the gap and answer questions about the shift in animal life from the Cambrian fauna to the far more advanced and diverse species we see in the world today. This shift, known as the Cambrian Explosion, signified the evolution of more complex life like arthropods with legs and compound eyes.

It will likely take years for scientists to truly discover the impact of this discovery. Dr. Lucy Muir, one of the authors of the Nature study, told that “[m]ost fossil deposits of this importance are studied for many decades, and this is likely to be no different.”