In a previous article, we explored the arid deserts of the Triassic, but fast forward a few million years and the Jurassic Coast would have been a very different place! The boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic rocks exposed on the Jurassic Coast marks an intense period of transition that was partly the result of global climate change.
At the end of the Triassic the Earth’s crust began to extend and stretch; tectonically unstable regions of land subsided, and sea levels rose. Continental deserts were flooded and replaced by shallow tropical seas that persisted for much of the Jurassic. The Triassic-Jurassic boundary marks a major mass extinction event in the fossil record, and it is at this point in time that, sadly, the weird and wonderful creatures of the Triassic were wiped from existence.
Vast amounts of carbon dioxide pumped out into the atmosphere from volcanic events triggered by extensive global warming; temperatures rose, and much of the sea became starved of nutrients and oxygen. Only the most resilient creatures could survive these inhospitable conditions. Thankfully, our story has a happy ending and life, as it always does, began to thrive as conditions returned to normal. By the early Jurassic we find evidence of an abundant and diverse community of different creatures living in a tropical sea.
The mudrocks exposed around Lyme Regis and Charmouth are a significant source of well-preserved fossils dating back to the early Jurassic. Affectionately termed the birthplace of British palaeontology, the area has been the subject of palaeontological study for over 200 years dating back to the Victorian Period with pioneering characters such as Mary Anning, the Philpot sisters, and Rev. William Buckland. It should be no surprise then that our coastline remains a site for continued discovery and innovation.
One of the most remarkable aspects of leading the Jurassic Coast Collection has been the opportunity to witness the ingenuity and innovation shown by fossil collectors such as Lizzie Hingley to constantly evolve and progress palaeontology on the World Heritage Site. With a community of avid young collectors making their mark on the local scene, the potential for new and exciting discoveries is enormous.
Recently, it has become clear that collectors are beginning to turn their eyes to areas that are often ignored in favour of more well-known spots, and previously under-represented strata are being studied in exceptional detail. This rigorous approach will, undoubtedly, contribute to further scientific research on the World Heritage Site.