Local Farmer Finds Spectacular Ammonite Fossil

With team members at Everything Dinosaur making frequent visits to the “Jurassic Coast” of Dorset on various expeditions you would think that looking at ammonite fossils would become rather “run of the mill” for us, however, I don’t think that any of us will ever lose our fascination for these creatures.  Even the smallest fossil find, perhaps a pyritised Promicroceras spp. from Charmouth, or an example of Arnioceras from further along the coast is greeted with excitement.  There is a real buzz when you first see a fossil, that moment of realisation that you are the first person to see evidence of that living creature for some 180 million years or so.

The Joy of Fossil Hunting

A Typical Ammonite - but not all types of this Cephalopod had coiled shells

A typical ammonite – but not all types of this cephalopod had coiled shells.

Each time we visit Lyme Regis, and get out onto the beaches to search for fossils we meet people who are first time visitors to the area.  We are always happy to answer their questions and provide advice on where to look, we even give most of our fossil finds away, especially to the Mums and Dads so that their children can take something “special” away with them.

The Dorset Coast

To get the best out of a visit to the Lyme Regis and Charmouth areas, we recommend going on an organised fossil walk with one of the local experts and guides.  The cliffs are particularly dangerous, and under the expert guidance and tutelage of a professional fossil collector visitors can be safe and they get the chance to learn about the geology and the fossils that can be found.

To read more about organised fossil walks at Lyme Regis: Lyme Regis Fossil Walks.

However, ammonite fossils are not restricted to the southern coast of England.  These extinct relatives of squid, cuttlefish and octopi are distributed world wide in Mesozoic aged rocks.  We were intrigued to read about the discovery of a large ammonite specimen by an Iranian farmer in the north-eastern province of North Khorassan.  Early reports state that this fossil is approximately 70 million years old (Upper Cretaceous).

The province of North Khorassan in Iran borders Turkmenistan, although fossils from this area have been known about for centuries, some parts of this region remain relatively unexplored and there are many more thousands of fossils awaiting discovery.

Ammonite Fossil

The fossil shows the shell of the ammonite, these creatures are rarely found as fossils with their soft parts preserved.  The animal lived in the outermost chamber of its shell.  Ammonites were pelagic (living above the ocean floor) and like other cephalopods they were active swimmers (nektonic), propelling themselves along by squirting water out of a siphon.  As the ammonite grew, it extended its coiled, tubular shell outwards, laying down new chamber walls behind it. These chambers contained a mixture of gas and water which the animal used to control its buoyancy.  As ammonite fossils are abundant and widely distributed these fossils are used by geologists as zone fossils in the correlation of strata (bio-stratification).

A Model of an Ammonite Showing the Soft Tissues

A model showing an Ammonite.

A model showing an Ammonite.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur team members wrote an article a couple of years ago about the discovery of marine reptile fossils in Iran, much of the fossil material from this region could represent new species.

To read about the discovery of Plesiosaurus fossils in Iran: Plesiosaur Fossils from Iran.

Local farmer Morteza Hemmati, discovered the large ammonite fossil, an internal mould of the shell of the ten-tentacled creature whilst digging.  The fossil which weighs around fifteen kilogrammes is very well preserved and it probably made its way up to the surface as a result of erosion.  The fossil looks to be in excellent condition, and where there is one ammonite fossil there is a strong possibility of a lot more being found in the area.

Let’s  hope that this specimen gets donated to a local museum or university so that it can be preserved and then studied.  Perhaps, it may even be put on public display so that local people can learn more about the geology of their province.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of replica fossils including models of ammonites: Models of Ammonites and other Prehistoric Animals.

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