In the latest paleontological science discovery, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have discovered fossils of vertebrates belonging to the Jurassic period in West Texas. This discovery fills a gap in the annals of this state’s fossils and provides a unique opportunity to study the ecosystems that existed in the area some 150 million years ago.
Until this point, the only Jurassic fossils found in Texas were associated with marine invertebrates. However, the discovery of limb fragments and bones of a plesiosaur, a marine reptile that lived in shallow water, indicates the presence of vertebrates in this region at that time.
The discovery was made in the Malone Mountains on two hunting expeditions led by Stephen May, associate professor of vertebrate paleontology at UT Austin. The results of these expeditions provided scientists with valuable data on ancient ecosystems in Texas.
Geologic history of Texas and its implications for paleontology
One of the reasons why Jurassic fossils have been so rare in Texas is its geologic history. Unlike other regions, Texas has few outcrops of Jurassic-age rocks. Only 13 square miles of rocks from this period are in the Malone Mountains, making them especially valuable to researchers.
The search for fossils began after Stephen May discovered mentions of large bone fragments in a 1938 article by geologist Claude Albritton. This was the first hint of the existence of vertebrate fossils in this region. Subsequent research expeditions confirmed the presence of the fossils, which, although eroded and destroyed, still provided new information about ancient ecosystems.
Additional findings in the Malone Mountains
In addition to the plesiosaur fossils, the researchers also found other interesting specimens that will help reconstruct ancient marine ecosystems. These include fossilized snags filled with sea worm burrows, shells of ammonites, snails and clams, and plant fossils such as pine cones and wood with possible annual rings.
These finds are of particular importance to paleobotanists because plant fossils from the Jurassic period are relatively rare in this region. They provide new data about the paleoenvironment and will help scientists better understand which plants flourished in this area millions of years ago.
The significance of the discovery and its implications
The discovery of Jurassic vertebrate fossils in Texas is significant for paleontology and the sciences in general. These finds fill a gap in the annals of the state’s fossil record and provide new data about the ancient ecosystems that existed in the area millions of years ago.
They also open up new perspectives for further research and possible discoveries. Geologists and paleontologists will continue to explore the Malone Mountains in search of additional fossils and information about the ancient ecosystems of Texas.