Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Boy finds fossilised footprints

Ten-year-old Bruno Debattista shows off his fossil to the rest of the Natural History Club (PA/Oxford University Museum of Natural History)
Ten-year-old Bruno Debattista shows off his fossil to the rest of the Natural History Club (PA/Oxford University Museum of Natural History)
The fossil found by Bruno Debattista, with footprint trackways and tail marks running through its centre (PA/Oxford University Museum of Natural History)
Schoolboy Bruno Debattista holds a large horseshoe crab and a fossil (PA/Oxford University Museum of Natural History)

An Oxford schoolboy has discovered what appears to be an extremely rare fossil of footprints from more than 300 million years ago.

Ten-year-old Bruno Debattista, who attends Windmill Primary School in Oxford, found a piece of shale rock containing what he thought might be a fossilised imprint while on holiday in Cornwall.

Later Bruno took it to an after-school club at Oxford University's Museum of Natural History.

University experts were astonished to find that it appeared to contain trackways left by horseshoe crabs crawling up a muddy shore around 320 million years ago.

Chris Jarvis, education officer at the museum and organiser of the after-school club, said: "Footprints of this age are incredibly rare and extremely hard to spot, so we were amazed when Bruno produced them.

"Still more impressive is the fact that Bruno had a hunch they might be some kind of footprints, even though the specimen had some of our world expert geologists arguing about it over their microscopes."

The museum believes Bruno's fossil shows footprints of a pair of mating horseshoe crabs laid down during the Carboniferous period, some 308-327 million years ago.

Bruno and his family have decided to donate the fossil specimen to the museum's collection.

The natural history after-school club is run by the museum's education department and encourages year six children to develop their interest in the natural world, in the hope that some might become the next generation of geologists and zoologists.

Mr Jarvis said: "Unfortunately, the excitement and motivation that many children instinctively feel for studying nature is often lost during their teenage years as it is seen as 'uncool' or a bit 'weird', and science can become text-book oriented and exam-driven during secondary school."

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