COUNCIL CHRONICLE – Eleven-year-old Ryleigh Taylor thought she was just going fishing with her family at Douglas Lake near Dandridge Tennessee when she noticed something unusual in a rock.
The young girl picked up the rock and then kept on fishing with her family. When she got home, Taylor begged her parents to contact someone to find out what type of fossil she had discovered.
While her mother was very skeptical, she did, in the end, call Colin Sumrall, an associate professor of paleobiology at the University of Tennessee. After studying the rock, Sumrall confirmed that this actually was the fossil of an ancient sea creature.
The professor dates it as being about 475 million years old. Furthermore, he said it was one of the few fossil exoskeletons of a trilobite to be discovered whole.
What is a Trilobite?
Trilobites lived in Eastern Tennessee between 521 million and 250 million years ago. They are one of the oldest known marine animals and among the earliest known arthropods. The species is believed to have been wiped out in a mass extinction.
Since trilobites molt, it is highly unusual to find a complete one. Typically, only fossilized pieces are discovered. These are usually parts that the marine animal lost during the molting process.
Sumrall says that is unusual for people to find fossils. He continues by pointing out that finding a sea creature fossil in the middle of the United States is even more amazing.
The researcher says that he hopes the discovery of the 475 million years old fossil will encourage the 11-years-old girl.
“To find something like that, it could spark this youngster into a whole career. Maybe she’ll become a great paleontologist someday,” states Sumrall.
Ryleigh says that she has not decided what she wants to be when she grows up. Still, she hopes that her discovery of the sea creature fossil will encourage other children to go outside and discover the amazing world around them.
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