Alien-Like Sea Creatures Discovered at a Huge 'Jurassic Pompeii' Graveyard

Paleontologists discovered a huge fossil graveyard of alien-like Jurassic sea animals beneath a limestone quarry in Britain's Cotswolds area.Researchers said that the fossil found includes tens to thousands of marine invertebrates called "echinoderms" - which means "hedgehog skin" and includes the ancient ancestors and modern starfish, sea cucumbers sea urchins, frilly-limbed lilies, and starfish - all of which were immaculately preserved throughout their entire life cycle.Just as things were going well, the seabed community was hit hard by a mysterious disaster. It could have been a mudslide that was triggered an earthquake. The animals were left to die in the ocean for 167 millions years.Related: Photos: Spooky deep sea creatures"What we have here is a kind of Jurassic Pompeii," Neville Hollingworth (an amateur fossil hunter) said to He discovered the cache while hiking with his wife Sally."[The creatures] tried protecting themselves by adopting the stress posture of pulling their arms in," Tim Ewin (a senior curator at London's Natural History Museum of London) told BBC."They were pushed into sediment and buried alive."One of the slabs. (The Trustees of the Natural History Museum London)This site is from the middle Jurassic period (roughly 200million to 145million years ago), when giant sauropods, and bloodthirsty dinosaurs, ruled the land. Things were changing at sea. As many as half the marine species had been extincted in an extinction event that occurred at the end Triassic period. Spindly-armed Echinoderms were rapidly evolving to fill this gap.Researchers discovered that echinoderms are known for having limbs that radiate from their bodies in five sets. This makes them highly adept at picking up food with their spiny arms. Starfish and sea cucumbers could sense their way through the ocean's bottom. Some, such as sea lilies and starfish, could feel their way along the bottom of the ocean. They anchored themselves there and waited for food to arrive.The team stated that the seabed was probably quite shallow at 65 to 130 feet (20-40 meters) depth. It was found in central England, but it was actually closer to the North African mid-Jurassic. The waters were also much warmer than they are today.Although it is impossible to determine what caused this huge community to collapse, researchers are grateful for the discovery. These ancient creatures, if not kept under smothering water, would likely have been picked up by scavengers and left little to study, the team stated.The researchers have thousands upon thousands of specimens to study and hope to gain more information about the evolution of echinoderms during the Jurassic, including the description of many new species. The team discovered preserved wood and pollen in rocks that could provide more information about climate change at that time.Ewin stated that they would describe the new species in detail and the variability of the animals and plants found at the site. "A second project will examine the population dynamics of particular echinoderm group and what it tells us about their ecology.Similar Content:Photos: An ancient fish skull taken from SiberiaImages: Chilean Graveyard of Ichthyosaur FossilsPhotos: The first sex discovered in a square-dancing, fossilized fishLive Science originally published this article. You can read the original article here.