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The Wave

In the Coyote Buttes ravine in Arizona, huge waves of richly-coloured sandstone undulate across the landscape, looking as though they were painted by a giant hand. 190 million years ago in the Jurassic era, these sandstone waves (dubbed “The Wave”) were actually sand dunes migrating across the desert, but over the years they have calcified both horizontally and vertically, becoming compacted rocks. Their strange ridges and troughs were created by millions of years of wind and rain erosion, whose twists and turns reflect changes to the wind patterns in the Jurassic period. Erosion still affects the Wave today, mostly by wind that is now naturally channelled through it. This formation is a snapshot in geological time, a breathtaking exhibit of the effect of natural forces on their environment. It can only be reached on foot via a five kilometre hike, and since the sandstone is fairly soft, visitors are highly regulated—only twenty people are allowed to walk on the Wave each day. Walking across the weird, topsy-turvy landscape would be a surreal experience in itself, but if you need another reason to visit, the formation also boasts the fossil burrows of ancient arthropods like beetles—as well as the imprints of dinosaur tracks.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)

‘Dad, look what I found!’ How five-year-old girl dug up rare 160m-year-old fossil with plastic spade

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A five-year-old schoolgirl discovered a rare 160million-year-old fossil while digging beside a lake using a plastic spade.

Delighted Emily Baldry found the Jurassic period rock at Cotswold Water Park in Gloucestershire while on her first archaeological dig with dad Jon.

And the 130lb fossil, which she has named Spike, has now been restored to its full splendour by palaeontologist Neville Hollingworth.

‘It’s so exciting to see him,’ said Emily, from Chippenham in Wiltshire, on being reunited with the ammonite. 'I was very happy when I first saw him and now he looks very shiny.

'I bring him into school and all my friends like him too.’

She yesterday presented the fossilised sea creature, which is 40cm in diameter and has 2cm spikes, to the Gateway Information Centre near Cirencester, Gloucestershire. Read more.

New species of marine reptile identified from Skye fossils

A new species of marine reptile that lived about 170 million years ago has been identified from fossils found on the Isle of Skye.

Measuring 14ft (4.2m) from snout to tail, it hunted fish and other reptiles in warm shallow seas around Scotland during the Jurassic Period.

Palaeontologists said they had given it a Gaelic name, Dearcmhara, to reflect its connection with the Hebrides.

Work to identify it was led by the University of Edinburgh and museums.

A team of palaeontologists studied fossil fragments of skulls, teeth, vertebrae and an upper arm bone unearthed on Skye over the past 50 years.

They identified several examples of extinct aquatic animals - known as ichthyosaurs - which lived during the Early to Middle Jurassic, including the entirely new species.

‘Uniquely Scottish’

Dr Steve Brusatte, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “During the time of dinosaurs, the waters of Scotland were prowled by big reptiles the size of motor boats.

"Their fossils are very rare, and only now, for the first time we’ve found a new species that was uniquely Scottish.”

He added: “Without the generosity of the collector who donated the bones to a museum instead of keeping them or selling them, we would have never known that this amazing animal existed.”

The work was carried out by a consortium involving the University of Edinburgh, National Museums Scotland, the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum, Scottish National Heritage and Skye’s Staffin Museum.

Dr Nick Fraser, of National Museums Scotland, said: “Not only is this a very special discovery, but it also marks the beginning of a major new collaboration involving some of the most eminent palaeontologists in Scotland.

"It has brought together key organisations, local collectors on Skye and specialists from further afield. We are excited by the programme of work and are already working on additional new finds.”

The study is published in the Scottish Journal of Geology.

Read more here.

Image credit: Todd Marshall