Sanral has announced the discovery of ancient marine fossils during its ongoing roadworks on the N2 in the Eastern Cape.
The roads agency said new plant and invertebrate species of an ancient marine ecosystem were discovered between Grahamstown and Fish River, as it was conducting its blasting operations.
“To advance scientific discourse and original research contributions of South African palaeontology and heritage scholars, we made provision in the environmental management programme for specialist examination and excavation of rock debris,” Sanral environmental manager, Mpati Makoa, told News24.
“The hills around this area are made up of quartz sites which formed from sandstones along sandy beaches and sandy coast line 360 million years ago,” said Dr Robert Gess, a researcher in Devonian Paleontology, which focuses on the geologic period from about 419.2 million years ago to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period, about 358.9 million years ago.
Gess explained that what makes the discovery so unique is that, within these sites, black shale is produced and those black shales formed in marginal marine environments near the coast which normally weather into a pale clay which makes it impossible to find their fossils.
What also stands out is the fact that such a unique discovery opportunity only comes around once every 150 years when Sanral blasts through roads in the area.
All paleontological projects and discoveries are recorded by Sanral and the paleontologists they sub-contract.
“We talked together with [Dr Gess] and thought ‘how could we best preserve this and allow public access to it so that it becomes general knowledge of what’s in this area and what was here millions and millions of years ago,” said roadworks Project Manager, Steven Robertson.
The existing road will be converted into a rest area for motorists where information boards about the discovery and the fossils will be put up.
Watch the video of the fossil excavations below.
[Source – Sanral]