Fossil capital Mação celebrates 455 million year old discovery

It’s the richest area of Portugal for fossils and is now celebrating a new and historic find: the discovery of the fossil of a 455 million year-old ‘animal’. The extinct marine arthropod is part of a class known as trilobites, and gigantic – five times bigger than any other previously discovered. It was unearthed from rocks in the region that 455 million years ago lay deep underwater.

Only four years ago, researchers discovered a distant cousin 445 million years old, explains geology professor Artur Sá. But this new discovery trounces even that and puts Mação well and truly on the map of scientific discovery.

“Mação is the best site in Portugal for the study of the large glaciation that took place on earth 445 million years ago and which was responsible for the disappearance of more than 90% of the species that then existed,” he told Lusa.

“The fossil wealth of the rocks in this borough… are unique in the country and their quality and diversity are recognised internationally,” he added.

Along with Mação’s famous trilobites, there have been fossils of many other extinct marine animals discovered over the years.

Sá explained that 445 million years ago not only was Mação ‘deep underwater’, it was “almost at the south pole”.

Photo: Sofia Pereira/UTAD