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Prehistoric stingray remains discovered at County Durham quarry
A RARE fossil fish has been discovered among a pile of discarded rubble at a North-East quarry.
The prehistoric find was made during a community archaeological event at Thrislington Quarry, near West Cornforth in County Durham.
Almost 30 people had turned up for the fossil hunt and guided walk which was organised by the Limestone Landscape Partnership, hosted by Durham County Council, Natural England and quarry owners Lafarge-Tarmac.
While searching through a pile of marl slate, which is well known for containing fossils, heritage officer Ken Bradshaw chiselled away at a piece of rock which split to reveal the ancient stingray like fish called janassa bituminosa.
Mr Bradshaw said: “Geologists get excited about marl slate, it contains lots of remnants of fish and plants.
“At first I thought I’d found a collection of seashells but on closer inspection I realised they were teeth of the Permian stingray and when I looked further I saw part of the left side of the janassa.
“To find a janassa is incredible as they are very rare.”
There are some specimens in Sunderland Museum and the Great North Museum but Mr Bradshaw’s fossil is first one found at Thrislington.
The fish would have lived during the Permian era 250million years ago in the shallow coastal areas of the Zechstein Sea, where the County Durham shoreline is today. Thrislington was underwater and Britain just ten degrees north of the equator, on the land it was hot with fernlike vegetation and inhabited by reptiles and the sea was very salty.
The discovery was confirmed by Tim Pettigrew, former curator of Sunderland Museum. He said: “The animals inhabited the reefs feeding on shelled invertebrates.
“Because they inhabited the shallows, they are comparatively rare in the deeper waters of the Zechstein Sea as their dead bodies would only rarely drift out into the deeper water and sink down to where the marl slate was forming.
“So semi-complete specimens are quite rare.”
The fossil of the fish, which measured about 40cm across the fins and almost 1m in length, is expected to be used in education events but could ultimately become a museum exhibit.
For details of events held by the Limestone Landscapes Partnership and to view a series of films about its projects, including looking for fossils in marl slate, visit the website limestonelandscapes.info.
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