- Eli, 9, was walking along a Welsh beach with his father when he saw a 200-million-year-old ammonite fossil sticking out of a cliff.
Imagine strolling along a beautiful beach, enjoying the cool sea breeze, when suddenly you look up and see something strange embedded in a towering rock cliff lining the shore. On closer inspection, it is a large spiral, a shell.
In fact, it is the fossil of a 200-year-old ammonite, a mollusk from the Jurassic period. That’s exactly how a day on the beach at Llantwit Major turned into an extraordinary discovery for 9-year-old Eli and her father Glenn Morris. The Welsh boy find is rare in that area and exciting for researchers.
Eli lives with his family in Birchgrove, Swansea, in Wales. He’s not new to fossil hunting, even at such a young age. Usually, he goes fossil hunting with his father. “We’re always on the coast somewhere, usually on the Gower Way, but this was our first time here so it was really beginner’s luck,” Morris told the BBC.
“I was a bit of a nerd growing up and I was into dinosaurs and rocks and the same things that he’s into, to be honest, and I think I’ve passed that on to him.” Eli has collected some fossil samples for his own collection through these expeditions. He told the BBC: “They’re just interesting and I like their shape and texture. It’s just great.”
This day, the family had traveled a little further to the lovely rocky cliff beach. Eli said, “I was sitting here and I looked up and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s big!'” He had seen a spiral-shaped shell peaking from the cliff, a formation of blue lias. Dr Nick Felstead from Swansea University commented on the fossil: “The fossil that Eli found is an ammonite, which was a type of mollusc closely related to octopus, squid and cuttlefish, which is a rare find at Llantwit Major.
We can see that the internal chambers that would have been used for the ammonite’s buoyancy have been filled with quartz during fossilization, which is even rarer, and makes this one especially pretty.” The fossil is an impressive 200 million years old, and is contemporary with the dinosaurs.
Young Eli was clearly excited by the find, but the glories of being a paleontologist pale in comparison to his true life goal: to be a footballer (soccer player). However, if he keeps searching the beaches, he may find even more fossils. Average people in the UK have been known to stumble upon important fossils on beaches and on dairy farms.
Americans can find them too, with enough luck. No one is too young, as Eli shows, as well as another 9-year-old boy in Maryland who discovered a megaladon tooth. These young scientists continue to uncover pieces of Earth’s history.