The Cabrières site, west of Montpellier, concentrates more than 400 fossils dating back 470 million years. It is one of the “richest and most diverse deposits in the world”.
An extremely rare discovery. A couple of amateurs passionate about paleontology have uncovered, after long-term work, a fossil deposit “exceptionally preserved”, reported the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) on Friday February 9. Initial research work – carried out by an international team – was published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution .
Located near Pézenas (a town west of Montpellier), the Cabrières site bears witness to “the closest environment to the South Pole at that time ever observed”, reports the research center. It is above all one of the deposits “the richest and most diverse in the world. for the Ordovician period [d’environ – 485,4 à – 443,4 millions d’années, NDLR]. And for good reason: it contains more than 400 fossils dating back 470 million years.
This large-scale discovery is explained by the remarkable preservation of the deposit, which will allow the in-depth study of“soft-bodied organisms” such as algae and sponges. Many specimens have already been studied in specialized laboratories in Lyon, Brest or Lausanne, reports the scientific journal Science and Future .
These findings will allow us to better understand the “pivotal role” of these organisms in the ecosystem of the time, explain the CNRS researchers. And this biodiversity already makes it possible to confirm the hypothesis “of a migration of species towards the southern hemisphere, as a refuge zone, to escape the excessively high temperatures of tropical zones at that time”, insist the researchers. Note that with plate tectonics, the continents were not located and organized as they are today.
However, these fossils will require years of additional research to be fully exploited. Large-scale excavations and “in-depth analysis of fossils using innovative imaging techniques” are thus provided. They will allow “to reveal in detail their external and internal anatomy, their relationships and their way of life”.