Prehistoric sea monsters are ready to appear

On the occasion of the preemptive excavations, exceptional finds dating back to the Lower Jurassic are expected at Bacharage, in the industrial area of ​​Bomelshire.

For two days, under the scorching sun, half a dozen paleontologists work in the industrial estate of Baumelshire in Bacharage. Here, there’s no little brush or Indiana Jones hat, but diggers, shovels, and hammers. at nearly 600 m2 From the site soon a storeroom. Therefore, as now required by the new Heritage Act (dating February 25, 2022), excavations must be carried out prior to any construction in order to “ensure the preservation, protection and enhancement of our collective memory.” Paleontologists have 15 days to find pieces of scientific interest.

Fossils are 183 million years old

And the least we can say is that the site promises to be rich in surprises: in barely 24 hours, paleontologists have already discovered a wonderful ammonite and above all a fish measuring about thirty centimeters, whose scales are clearly shiny. Some fossils… 183 million years old!

“Only one day of excavation and the search has already been crowned with success! I am very confident in the fact that we will find reptiles at this site,” Dr. Ben Thuy, paleontologist at the Museum of Nature, already rejoices. Paleontologists fervently hope to find in this fossil-rich layer, which lies between one and 1.50 meters from the surface, fossils of ichthyosaurs – marine reptiles that can reach a height of two to three meters, and even up to 10 meters for the giants – saltwater crocodiles , fish and other marine animals, as well as microfossils and chemical traces that will provide a better understanding of the ocean ecosystem that covered Luxembourg several million years ago.

Dr. Ben Thwai presents an ammonite fossil discovered at the site. It is an index or stratigraphic fossil, that is, a feature of an era, which makes it possible to accurately date the period of the stratum in which it was found. Pictured: Alan Richard

Indeed, during the Lower Jurassic period (201.3 to 145 million years ago), a subtropical sea covered the southern part of the country. However, it is interesting to understand this period that archaeologists are looking for in Pacharage because it corresponds to global warming on the order of 3 to 4 degrees, like the one that threatens us today … to be able to understand the main changes that this warming caused and that caused Mass extinction,” explains Dr. Ben Thuy.

Exceptional quality fossils

Once the fossils are completely removed, they will be sent to the National Museum of Natural History in Luxembourg (MNHNL) for study. “We will be working with fish specialists,” explains Dr. Ben Thuy, who is himself an expert in echinoderms (the starfish family). “We will try to identify the species and see if there are any unknown anatomical structures, for example the shape of a tooth that we have not seen before. But why not also discover a completely unknown species in the world, which must then be described!”

However, it is already possible to estimate that the first fish discovered by paleontologists must have fed on crustaceans and seafood, as its huge bulging teeth suggest. “Her teeth are not sharp, so they were milled,” explains the paleontologist.

Especially rich layer

The researchers’ expectations are enormous: they hope to find vertebrates (“still very rare”), a new species, or animals whose previously unknown parts, such as the skin, have been preserved. However, these predictions are not unrealistic, since the particularly rich layer of fossils in the industrial area of ​​Baumelshire in Bacharagh has regularly over the past decades made amazing discoveries of marine reptiles, fish and even pterosaurs, some of which are currently presented. The current temporary exhibition “Lost Ocean” is at the Museum of Nature.

In just 24 hours, paleontologists discovered this 183-million-year-old fish fossil. Pictured: Alan Richard

“Here we are in Lagerstätte, ie sedimentary deposits that contain a great diversity of fossils or very complete fossils,” confirms Dr. Ben Thoi. The area has a large concentration of fossils in a simply “exceptional” state of preservation.

“This amazing state of conservation is the result of climate change: the sea was stratified, so there was little exchange with the atmosphere. In fact, the lower layers were low in oxygen, which kept the scavengers away but also prevented bacterial decomposition.” Gather on May 24th at the Museum of Nature to enjoy the discoveries of paleontologists!

marine fossils exhibition

There are only a few days left to discover the sea monsters that inhabited the area about 183 million years ago! Until May 29, the Natur Musée in Luxembourg presents The Lost Ocean, a fascinating exhibition of marine fossils that combines research in paleontology with digital technologies. Visitors of all ages are invited to explore the region’s buried treasures from a whole new perspective and delve into the world of Jurassic sea monsters. The era was reconstructed with incredible accuracy, both in terms of the appearance and behavior of the animals, and on the climate at that time, even the color of the beach sand.

National Museum of Natural History, 25 rue Munster in Luxembourg. Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm

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