A fierce-looking fossil fish has been unearthed from a stunning new Jurassic excavation site just outside Stroud, Gloucestershire.
The creature – a predator similar to a tuna called Pachicormo – is beautifully preserved in three dimensions.
With its large teeth and eyes, it gives the impression that it is about to launch an attack.
The specimen was identified by prolific West Country fossil hunters Neville and Sally Hollingworth.
“It was a real surprise because, when you find fossils, most of the time they have been crushed under time pressure,” Neville told BBC News.
“But when we prepared this, to gradually reveal his bones, it was great because we suddenly realized that his skull was not crushed.
“His mouth is open – and it looks like he’s coming out of the rock.”
The couple found the fish head in a grassy bank behind a stable in the village of Kings Stanley.
It had been encased in one of the many limestone nodules that were falling from an exposed layer of clay.
The landowner, Adam Knight, had no idea that his English long-horned cattle were grazing atop a rich fossil bed, remembering a time 183 million years ago when his farm would lie beneath the heat. tropical ocean waters.
Mr. Knight has given permission to Neville and Sally, and a team led by the University of Manchester, to investigate the bank further.
A digger was introduced to extract hundreds more of the nodules, which were carefully opened to see what they held inside.
The loot included more fish, squid, and even the bones of two ichthyosaurs, highly successful marine reptiles that looked a bit like a large dolphin.
“We have the whole food chain,” said paleontologist Dean Lomax of Manchester.
“So this Pachicormo he would eat the smaller fish and squid.
“Besides, the ichthyosaurs would have eaten the Pachicormo. “
Interesting for a marine environment, there is also fossil wood and insects in the clay layer, suggesting that the land was not that far away.
Play with a 3D model of Pachicormo here.
The exhibits are likely to keep researchers busy for a number of years.
There is particular interest because the specimens were extracted from a rare example in the UK of an early Jurassic time slot: the Toarcian Stage.
It is known for exceptional preservation, even of soft tissues, and the team has a fish, for example, in which the contents of the stomach can be seen.
“The last comparable exposition like this was the so-called Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte, Somerset, in 1800, which was rebuilt,” Sally said.
“The Court Farm site allows scientists to do modern research with fresh material in situ.”
The Hollingworths are celebrated for their extraordinary ability to identify highly productive fossil sites.
They recently discovered mammoth remains in nearby Cotswold Water Park, featured in a BBC documentary led by Sir David Attenborough.
They also made headlines with the discovery of thousands of fossil echinoderms – starfish, sea urchins and brittle stars – in a quarry in the north of the county.
“These sites tell you that there are still many significant fossil discoveries nationally and internationally still to be made in the UK,” said Dr Lomax.
The intention is to organize a public exhibit of the fossils at the Boho Bakery Café, which is very close to the Court Farm, in October.