Fossils of the Soom Shale deposit

4 December 2010

At … a site near Table Mountain in South Africa has a rock layer a few metres thick that contains the petrified remains of bizarre early life-forms complete with eyes, guts, and muscles. It is a mystery how they were preserved in such a pristine condition but a paper in the December issue of Geology claims it was all down to the wind. A bitter wind blowing off an ice sheet. The fossils were examined under the microscope and revealed a myriad of silt grains neatly wrapped in marine algae. The silt grains are sedimentary aliens – much bigger than the marine mud flakes in which they are embedded. They could only have been blown by fierce glacial winds on the sea surface from a distant landscape, it continues, but it seems that it was rotting sinking vegetation that became stagnant and lifeless (the algae) that preserved the animal remains. It is alleged.

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