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Earth sciences news

May 2012
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Phew! We are all somewhat tired but very inspired by our long weekend in Lyme Regis, and some us have the sniffles from hanging about in the cold weather and doing too much talking! The Fossil Festival's own broadband was disconnected before I could update my blog on Sunday evening , so I am writing from the comfort of my office at the Museum.

 

Sunday was possibly the busiest day of the whole weekend! The sun came out and the weather warmed up, bringing in lots of visitors. Some of them brought yet more local fossils for us to identify - two that I remember were an uncommon Chalk sea urchin called Conulus, that I recalled seeing only once before many years ago, and a rather lovely black coprolite. Do you know what that means? It means 'poo rock', and it was probably produced by one of the Jurassic marine reptiles or fish whose skeletons are found in the rocks at Lyme. Its young owner was very pleased with himself! Here it is:

 

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Coprolites contain the remains of meals - things like fish scales, bone fragments or whatever the animal had been eating. Cool eh?

 

Those of us that were staying until Monday were very kindly invited to join the fossil walk departing from Lyme Regis Museum at 11.30, led by expert collectors Chris and Paddy. They provided their own brand of lively fossil edutainment for over three hours, and the sun shone for most of that time!

 

We heard an explanation of the geology and palaeontology at this site, and before approaching the toe of the landslip, we were briefed on how to find fossils safely. At the end, Paddy split some nodules and gave all the youngsters an ammonite to keep. Apparently I wasn't young enough.

 

Paddy+hammering+3 (Custom).JPG

 

Do note that Paddy wears eye protection and uses a proper geological hammer. He still has both of his eyes and all of his fingers, and would like it to stay that way.

 

Maybe you were wondering what I found? Here is is. Can you guess?

 

Lornas+shark+poo (Custom).JPG

 

Yes, it's another coprolite, but mine was left by a shark. They have a spiral valve in their intestine, which causes the poo to come out in a spiral shape, like a fat corkscrew. Or a 'Mr Whippy' as one lady said. Some people asked how I spotted it - I am not sure, but I do own a small dog... He wasn't with me on this trip though! (sorry Dookie, maybe next time).

 

All too soon, it was time to leave the beach but we are already looking forwards to the next Fossil Festival. I will leave you with a view of Lyme seafront and the huge festival marquee. See you there next year?

 

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The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival really does get bigger and better each year! There was not enough room to swing a geological hammer in the marquee today- there must have been thousands of people visiting the festival, and there will be more tomorrow. We have seen a selection of specimens brought in for identification, mainly local ammonites, as we expected. Luckily we also had several Dorset ammonite experts on our stand.

 

The live satellite link to the Museum's Attenborough Studio could not have gone better. Everything worked as it should have, but it was so cold on the beach that I suspect the Nature Live audience could hear my teeth chattering! Thanks to Natalie and Lee 'on location' and to the team in the studio.

 

As we were about to sit down to a home-cooked curry (thanks Val), we were rudely interrupted by the ceiling collapsing, so I am writing this on a slightly dusty laptop. We still haven't had our curry!

 

Do come down to the festival if you can. We're there until 5 pm on Sunday 6th May.

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Lyme Regis Fossil Festival starts this Friday 4 May so, no, we are not there quite yet, but preparations are now well underway (at least, I hope they are!); in fact today we will practice assembling the Baryonyx model we will be taking along in the safety of the Palaeontology Building. We all have plenty of experience of flat-packed furniture, so we should be OK, as long as all the bits are in the box.

 

I will soon be rounding up scientific literature which will help me to identify the finds that will be coming my way all weekend, courtesy of the fossil-mad public that will be thronging to our Fossil Roadshow. I won't be alone though; I will have Noel Morris and Martin Munt on hand for the inevitable fossil molluscs (I usually recognise them, but can't think of their names!) and Jerry Hooker to identify any mammal remains, whether fossil or recently deceased (a few years ago someone brought in a badger skull!).

 

No doubt other colleagues will be flitting in and out, dispensing knowledge as required. Do come and see us in the marquee on the sea front - we will have lots of fun activities, includiing the ever-popular sieving for fossil shark teeth - you get to keep your finds too! There will be lots of other organisations and traders with trinkets to suit every pocket.

 

I'm hoping to catch up with some of my friends on a fossil hunting trip too. Now I must go, but I will be blogging from the Festival over the weekend, and someone from our team (me perhaps?) will be linking live to the Museum's Attenborough studio for Nature Live. Check out the events for the 5 May and 6 May for more on that, and search online for 'Lyme Regis Fossil Festival' to find out more about what's going on this weekend!

 

West+of+Lyme (Custom).jpgLooking for fossils on the Jurassic Coast near Lyme Regis