An 11-year old in Eastern Tennessee just offered the perfect reason to get outside this summer—you might discover a 475-million-year-old fossil.
Ryleigh Taylor was walking along the shore of Douglas Lake, near the Great Smoky Mountains, when she discovered something that didn’t quite look like a rock. Rather, the deep imprint looked like something embedded within a rock. Showing it to her family, she was fairly certain that it was a fossil.
The family reached out to a paleontologist at the nearby University of Tennessee, who was able to confirm that Taylor had found a complete trilobite.
Trilobites were one of the earliest known arthropods, meaning that it was an animal whose skeleton was on the outside, did not possess a backbone, had a segmented body, and appendages instead of limbs.
One of the most successful early animals, trilobites lived in variety of lifestyles. Some were predators, other were scavengers. While in the world of fossils they are relatively common, with over 17,000 found, Taylor’s find had the advantage of being complete.
“Typically when we look at fossils of trilobites, they molt when they grow. So what happens is, when the trilobite skeleton just crumbles into hundreds of little pieces. To find one where all the pieces are intact, it’s actually a pretty lucky find,” says Sumrall to local news station WATE.
Taylor hopes her discovery will teach other children the value of outdoor exploration. “I can show kids that are my age that they don’t have to sit inside and play games. They can actually go outside and find different things,” she says to WATE. She hopes the fossil will end up in a public museum.
It’s been a good year of amateur scientists. Earlier this year in Greenbelt, Maryland, an amateur paleontologist found a fossil showing distinct proof of mammals and dinosaurs interacting. And using a telescope on his roof, an Italian locksmith was able to discover the first burst of light from the supernova explosion of a massive star.
Previously Published by:Popular Mechanics USA