An emergency extraction has made it possible to recover a sea cow rib from 42 million years ago on a main road in Folgueroles (Osona). It is about 40 cm long and was discovered by geologists Jordi Vilà and Íngrid Soriguera, members of the Osona Naturalists Group, during a routine observation of the environment. The fossil was at risk of degradation because vehicles pass through it. They communicated this to the Archeology and Paleontology Service of the Department of Culture of the Generalitat, which authorized its extraction. It is believed that this mermaid, which inhabited Central Catalonia when it was a tropical sea between 48 and 37 million years ago, when the water died took it adrift to an area of deep water and outside the its habitat.
“A month ago we were inspecting the land and by chance we found it, in the middle of a main road where there is a lot of vehicular traffic from neighbors who pass by every day,” one of the discoverers, the geologist Jordi, told ACN. Town. Remember that at that time you could see a recent tire rut and how the fossil had some broken fragments.
The stone block already showed that the piece stood out. According to the geologist, “because of its length (about 40 cm) and the state of conservation, it was interesting to remove it.” He explains that it is an exceptional finding due to the “scarcity” of these pieces in Catalonia and especially because they saw that it was easy to extract without being destroyed. And it is that in the region there are cataloged similar fossils but that they are surrounded by hard rock and they cannot be touched because they would be destroyed. In this case, however, it could be extracted and is already in the process of consolidation and restoration. A job that will last for weeks.
Outside its habitat and in deep water
Geologists received the support of the staff of the Guilleries-Savassona Natural Area and, after analyzing the material around it, they came to a conclusion: the fragment of a sea cow from 42 million years ago was in an area of deep water that does not correspond to its habitat. The Central Counties were at that time a tropical sea.
These large mammals made “underwater pastures” and ate what would now be posidonia, plants that need light to survive. The hypothesis of the discoverers is that the animal died and its remains ended up floating adrift and scattered at different points by the action of different predators. That is why they rule out that there may be other fragments of the specimen nearby. Over the years, the fossil was hung by “layers and layers of hundreds of meters of sediment over the bone.” And wheeled traffic, he adds, may have also been an ally in bringing it to light.
Make pedagogy about a very sensitive material
Once the restoration work has been completed, the ribs will be donated to Folgueroles Town Hall for display to the public. “We want it to be visible to everyone because it is everyone’s heritage,” remarks Vila. And he stresses that it will also be an opportunity to do pedagogy on these pieces. He claims that out of ignorance or bad practice, there are people who plunder fossils and stay at home. And he wonders what they can do about it, apart from having it saved and doing a “grievance” to science and heritage. These practices are prohibited by law and have significant penalties.
In the event of a possible remnant, all you have to do is notify the City Council or contact entities such as the Osona Naturalists Group, the territorial delegation of the Catalan Institution of Natural History ( ICHN). And avoid manipulating it. In any case, photograph it in order to show the finding to the experts.
In Catalonia there are about thirty similar pieces discovered in different parts of the territory and of different species.