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10-Year-Old Tourist Discovers 90-Million-Year-Old Fish Fossil In Monastery

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A young tourist in Colombia discovered the fossilized remains of a never-before-seen ancient fish species. The child's discovery is actually quite a rare discovery of an intact deep water fish from the Cretaceous period.

Young Tourist's Discovery

In the past, fossil record of the extinct Dercetidae family in South America is quite sparse and was only restricted to outcrops of Brazil. Amazingly, it was a young tourist who discovered the intact remains of a never-before-seen extinct fish species. Evidently, the 10-year-old Rio Santiago Dolmetsch was on a walking tour of Monastery of La Candelaria in Colombia when he noticed the shape of a fish on one of the flagstones on the ground. He took a photo and showed it to the staff of a local museum a few days later.

The staff at the museum immediately recognized the shape in the image as a fossil and shared their findings with their colleagues. Incidentally, the local museum, Centro de Investigaciones Paleontologicas, is in collaboration with researchers from the University of Alberta in protecting and studying fossils in the region.

When the team found the flagstone in question, they found the intact and almost perfect fossilized remains of a then unknown fish. It is now known as the Candelarhynchus padillai, a 90-million-year-old ancient fish with no more modern relatives.

Rare Fossil From The Cretaceous Period

The fossil find in Colombia is quite rare for the region but even more so as it is the first fossil find of a "lizard fish" from the Cretaceous period in Colombia. Amazingly, the specimen is almost perfectly preserved even after being in the walkway of a monastery for 15 years.

Apart from being such a rare find, the fossil is also relevant in the quest to understanding fossil records in the tropics as well as in understanding fish diversity. As it stands, researchers believe that the relevance of fossil fish is quite underestimated, but that in trying to understand these ancient fish, they may be able to see how the creatures adapted to the changes in its environment.

"Studying fish diversity gives us amazing predicting power for the future--especially as we start to see the effects of climate change," said Oksana Vernygora, PhD, lead author of the paper published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

Young Paleontologists

Interestingly, the discovery of the Candelarhynchus padillai isn't the first fossil discovery by young individuals. Recently, 9-year-old Jude Sparks was playing with his siblings when he literally stumbled upon a part of a "tusk" which turned out to be the fossilized remains of a 1.2 million-year-old stegomastodon.  

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