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Welcome to the Life on Earth gallery. I’m Joe Botting, the Assistant Curator of Natural Sciences, and I look after the geology collections. If you go to the sand pit in the middle of the room (the fossil dig) next to them there are three tall cases. Go to the first of these and stand in front of the label. This case has fossils in it.
Starting at the bottom there are some large slabs, the ones facing you are quite spectacular fossils. To the left there is a large crinoid, a sea lily, these are related to starfish and lived on a long stalk and filtered their food with lots of delicate long arms which unfortunately aren’t quite preserved in this specimen. The one to the right is much more obviously a starfish. Both of these have to be buried alive in order to have much chance of being fossilised because their skeleton falls apart immediately after they die.
Above them there are several light-grey specimens which are from the early carboniferous period. These are from coral reefs that covered the north of England and Wales and even up into Scotland and you see pieces of coral, shells and brachiopods it’s very similar to the Wenlock limestone slab, which is another audio tour, that’s to your right behind the ‘camouflage’ case.
Above the light-grey rocks there are some much darker reddish-brown specimens and these are mostly plant fossils. These are all from the coal measures, the late carboniferous period about 300 million years old and they were found mostly in the Yorkshire area, particularly around Wakefield and Barnsley but some of them also in Leeds. You’ll find that a lot of them are in large rounded nodules, these are lumps of iron-carbonate that grew in the sediment and enclosed the fossils as they started to decay. This explains why they are so spectacularly well preserved including cones and leaves in three dimensions.
The top part of the case has a selection of spectacular fossils from our collections. This includes a rectangular light-grey piece which has a shrimp on it from the Solnhofen limestone in Bavaria. This is a Jurassic period deposit where the famous early bird Archaeopteryx was discovered. Around the other side of the case, if you go to the back of it, there is a large round nodule, one of these coal measures specimens again, which has a horseshoe crab in the centre. Above them is another small rectangular slab with two small fish. To the top right is a sea scorpion, a eurypterid from the Silurian of Scotland.
If you would like to find out anything more about these fossils there is a ‘find out more’ sheet at the bottom of this case.
about 2 years ago
Curator Joe Botting talks about the fossils on display at Leeds City Museum.