Fossil Site Sheds Light on Arthropod Dominance 470 Million Years Ago

Fezouata Shale Fossils

Revealed: The Secrets our Clients Used to Earn $3 Billion

Fossils from the Fezouata Shale. From left to proper, a non-mineralized arthropod (Marrellomorpha), a palaeoscolecid worm, and a trilobite. Credit: Emmanuel Martin

New fossil website in Taichoute, Morocco, suggests big arthropods, as much as 2 meters lengthy, dominated the seas 470 million years in the past. The website provides new insights into the Fezouata Biota and formative years on Earth.

A brand new fossil website in Taichoute, Morocco, reveals that big arthropods dominated the seas 470 million years in the past. The website, a part of the broader Fezouata Biota, incorporates quite a few massive free-swimming arthropods, some doubtlessly as much as 2 meters lengthy. The findings are distinct from different beforehand studied Fezouata Shale websites and provide new insights into paleontological and ecological analysis. The Fezouata Shale has been acknowledged as one of many 100 most essential geological websites worldwide for understanding evolution throughout the Early Ordovician interval.

Discoveries at a serious new fossil website in Morocco recommend big arthropods – kin of contemporary creatures together with shrimps, bugs, and spiders – dominated the seas 470 million years in the past.

Early proof from the positioning at Taichoute, as soon as undersea however now a desert, information quite a few massive “free-swimming” arthropods.

More analysis is required to research these fragments, however based mostly on beforehand described specimens, the large arthropods might be as much as 2 meters (6.5 toes) lengthy.

An worldwide analysis workforce says the positioning and its fossil document are very completely different from different beforehand described and studied Fezouata Shale websites from 80km away.

They say Taichoute (thought-about a part of the broader “Fezouata Biota”) opens new avenues for paleontological and ecological analysis.

Large Fragments of Nektonic Arthropods

Large fragments of nektonic arthropods. Credit: Bertrand Lefebvre

“Everything is new about this locality – its sedimentology, paleontology, and even the preservation of fossils – further highlighting the importance of the Fezouata Biota in completing our understanding of past life on Earth,” stated lead writer Dr. Farid Saleh, from the University of Lausanne and Yunnan University.

Dr. Xiaoya Ma, from the University of Exeter and Yunnan University, added: “While the large arthropods we found haven’t but been totally recognized, some could belong to beforehand described species of the Fezouata Biota, and some will certainly be new species.

“Nevertheless, their large size and free-swimming lifestyle suggest they played a unique role in these ecosystems.”

The Fezouata Shale was recently selected as one of the 100 most important geological sites worldwide because of its importance for understanding the evolution during the Early Ordovician period, about 470 million years ago.

Fossils discovered in these rocks include mineralized elements (eg shells), but some also show exceptional preservation of soft parts such as internal organs, allowing scientists to investigate the anatomy of early animal life on Earth.

Fezouata Shale Fossil Site

The newly discovered site from the Fezouata Shale. Credit: Bertrand Lefebvre

Animals of the Fezouata Shale, in Morocco’s Zagora region, lived in a shallow sea that experienced repeated storm and wave activities, which buried the animal communities and preserved them in place as exceptional fossils.

However, nektonic (or free-swimming) animals remain a relatively minor component overall in the Fezouata Biota. 

The new study reports the discovery of the Taichoute fossils, preserved in sediments that are a few million years younger than those from the Zagora area and are dominated by fragments of giant arthropods.

“Carcasses were transported to a relatively deep marine environment by underwater landslides, which contrasts with previous discoveries of carcass preservation in shallower settings, which were buried in place by storm deposits,” said Dr. Romain Vaucher, from the University of Lausanne.

Professor Allison Daley, also from the University of Lausanne, added: “Animals such as brachiopods are found attached to some arthropod fragments, indicating that these large carapaces acted as nutrient stores for the seafloor dwelling community once they were dead and lying on the seafloor.”

Dr. Lukáš Laibl, from the Czech Academy of Sciences, who had the opportunity to participate in the initial fieldwork, said: “Taichoute is not only important due to the dominance of large nektonic arthropods.

“Even when it comes to trilobites, new species so far unknown from the Fezouata Biota are found in Taichoute.”

Dr. Bertrand Lefebvre, from the University of Lyon, who is the senior author on the paper, and who has been working on the Fezouata Biota for the past two decades, concluded: “The Fezouata Biota keeps surprising us with new unexpected discoveries.”

The paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports, is entitled: “New fossil assemblages from the Early Ordovician Fezouata Biota.”

Reference: “New fossil assemblages from the Early Ordovician Fezouata Biota” by Farid Saleh, Romain Vaucher, Muriel Vidal, Khadija El Hariri, Lukáš Laibl, Allison C. Daley, Juan Carlos Gutiérrez-Marco, Yves Candela, David A. T. Harper, Javier Ortega-Hernández, Xiaoya Ma, Ariba Rida, Daniel Vizcaïno and Bertrand Lefebvre, 13 December 2022, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-25000-z