Monday, 9 August 2021

Jurassic Ark – Spectacular Fossils from an Ancient Somerset Sea

 Jurassic Ark – Spectacular Fossils from an Ancient Somerset Sea

A Summer Exhibition, with free entry, at the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution (BRLSI), 16 Queen Square, Bath BA1 2HN, until 2nd October, 10am–4pm Monday–Saturday.

The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is celebrating their unique collection of fossils from the Lower Jurassic of Strawberry Bank. Beneath the Somerset town of Ilminster, lies a beautifully-preserved Jurassic ecosystem, from which Victorian geologist Charles Moore collected hundreds of fossils. The fossils show exceptional preservation, revealing soft tissues such as muscles, guts, and traces of skin. Importantly, they retain the animals’ original three-dimensional shape. Uncompressed, three-dimensional fossils that preserve soft tissues are very rare, and the concentration of a diverse fauna at this site makes it one of the best-preserved Lower Jurassic marine ecosystems in the world.

Specially commissioned illustrations by John Sibbick, one of the world's foremost palaeontological illustrators, recreate the landscape in which these extinct marine reptiles, fish, crustaceans, squid-like cephalopods, and insects flourished.

Although Moore’s original quarry was infilled in 1860, a new excavation in 2019, headed by the BRLSI, opened two trenches to study the strata of what is now called the ‘Strawberry Bank Lagerstätte’.

These extraordinary fossils have been studied in depth as part of a four-year project of intensive research through the JESBI project, an exciting collaboration between the BRLSI Collections team and Bristol University, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Professor Mike Benton of the University of Bristol is excited to see the findings of the project presented to a wider audience. He said “The fossils may be old, and they were collected 170 years ago, but they are providing remarkable new scientific information.”


An introduction to the exhibition can be seen HERE.

A video of the making of the exhibition can be seen HERE.

A short film about the research done on a Strawberry Bank ichthyosaur skull from the exhibition, in collaboration with the University of Bristol can be found HERE.

A series of three talks connected to the Strawberry Bank fossils which can be viewed on the BRLSI YouTube channel.

The suggested order of viewing is:-

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