‘Never seen anything like it’: Impeccably preserved Jurassic fish fossils found on UK farm

A farm in England was the unlikely source of a Jurassic jackpot: a treasure trove of 183 million-year-old fossils. On the outskirts of Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds, beneath soil that is currently trampled under the hooves of grazing cattle, researchers recently uncovered the fossilized remains of fish, giant marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs, squids, insects and other ancient animals dating to the early part of the Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145 million years ago). 

Of the more than 180 fossils logged during the dig, one of the standout specimens was a three-dimensionally preserved fish head that belonged to Pachycormus, an extinct genus of ray-finned fishes. The fossil, which researchers found embedded in a hardened limestone nodule poking out of the clay, was exceptionally well preserved and contained soft tissues, including scales and an eye. The 3D nature of the pose of the specimen’s head and body was such that the researchers couldn’t compare it to any other previous find.