A new fossil site of global importance has been discovered in the south of France due to the abundance and excellent preservation of animal specimens.
Two amateur paleontologists have discovered nearly 400 exceptionally well-preserved fossils dating back 470 million years in southern France. This new fossil site of global importance was analyzed by scientists from the University of Lausanne in collaboration with the CNRS and international teams. This discovery provides unprecedented information about the polar ecosystems of the Ordovician period.
Paleontology enthusiasts have unearthed one of the world’s richest and most diverse fossil sites from the Early Ordovician Period (about 470 million years ago). Located in Montagne Noire in the French department of Hérault, this site contains more than 400 fossils and is characterized by an exceptionally well-preserved fauna. In addition to gelatinous components, it contains extremely rare soft elements such as the digestive tract and cuticle in a remarkable state of preservation. Furthermore, this biota was once very close to the South Pole, revealing the composition of the southernmost Ordovician ecosystems.
At the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment at the University of Lausanne (UNIL), scientists worked with the CNRS and international teams to carry out the first analyzes of this site, known as Cabrières Biota. The results are published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Ordovician climate protection areas
Analysis of the new biota reveals the presence of arthropods (a group that includes millipedes and shrimps) and cnidarians (a group that includes jellyfish and corals), as well as a large number of algae and sponges. The site’s high biodiversity suggests that this area served as a refuge for species escaping the high temperatures that prevailed further north at the time.
“During this period of severe global warming, animals essentially lived in refuges at high latitudes, escaping the extreme equatorial temperatures,” says Farid Saleh, a researcher at the University of Lausanne and lead author of the study. “The distant past gives us a glimpse of our possible near future,” adds Jonathan Antcliffe, a researcher at the University of Lausanne and co-author of the study.
For their part, Eric Monceret and Sylvie Monceret-Goujon, the amateurs who discovered the site, add enthusiastically: “We have been searching and digging for fossils since we were twenty years old,” says Eric Monceret. “When we found this amazing biota, we understood the significance of the discovery and went from amazement to excitement,” adds Sylvie Monceret-Goujon.
This first publication marks the beginning of a long research program that includes large-scale excavations and in-depth analysis of the fossils. The aim is to use innovative methods and techniques to uncover the internal and external anatomy of organisms and to deduce their phylogenetic relationships and lifestyles.
The Cabrières Biota (France) offers insights into Ordovician polar ecosystems