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From a time before Dinosaurs

A team of scientists, led by experts from the School of Natural Sciences at University of Galway, have discovered an exceptionally well-preserved group of fossil sea urchins at Hook Head, County Wexford. The find is regarded as one of the most important in Irish palaeontology in recent times and is being described as “a dramatic moment now frozen in time on the rock surface of the south-east coast. Sea urchins are a group of marine animals, related to starfish. They have globular-plated bodies covered by numerous defensive spines, which fall away and are quickly lost after the urchin dies. Over 200 complete fossilised sea urchins are preserved in exquisite detail on a limestone surface, in an area of just over a metre. All of the Hook Head specimens have their spines still attached and they apparently died together on the seafloor almost 350 million years ago. The Hook Head site is now protected under law. Approval for the recovery was granted by several State agencies, as well as the landowner. The scientific team removed the fossil-bearing slab to the National Museum of Ireland for conservation and further study. The find has considerable potential to reveal important information about the nature of seafloor communities during the Carboniferous time period which occurred before dinosaurs ever walked on land. An astonishing find, about which full details are published in THE IRISH JOURNAL OF EARTH SCIENCES online.

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Tom MacSweeney

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