The fossilised stays of a turtle that lived between 25 and 35 million years in the past have been discovered inside a pillar from a historic Christchurch church.
Christchurch sculptor Paul Deans found the fossil embedded within the limestone core of a pillar from the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, which was constructed between 1881 and 1882.
When the church was demolished in 2011 after the Canterbury earthquakes, its pillars had been hollowed out in order that they could possibly be strengthened and reinstated as a part of the brand new constructing.
In 2020, Deans was gifted a number of sections of the pillars’ extracted cores to make use of in his work. Nonetheless, he quickly observed the fossil embedded in one in every of them and introduced it to Canterbury Museum for identification.
Senior pure historical past curator Dr Paul Scofield recognized the fossil as a at present unnamed historical species of turtle – and observed a connection to a different specimen within the museum assortment.
In 1880, an identical turtle fossil was donated to the museum by James Tait, a outstanding Christchurch builder who labored on most of the metropolis’s stone buildings.
Just like the fossil found by Deans, it was embedded in Oamaru limestone that had been quarried for constructing masonry.
After evaluating the fossils, Scofield concluded that it was possible they had been extracted from the identical quarry, and will even be completely different elements of the identical animal. Each fossils embody items of plastron (the underside half of a turtle’s shell) and varied different bones.
“Turtle fossils are actually uncommon in New Zealand. No comparable turtle fossils have been present in Oamaru in additional than 150 years of quarrying there,” Scofield stated in an announcement.
“The limestone these fossils are embedded in may be very comparable, which mixed with the truth that they had been each extracted round 1880 makes me assume they’re in all probability the identical animal. We might want to do extra analysis earlier than we’re in a position to say with any certainty.
“It is wonderful that this new fossil was sitting inside a pillar for 130 years. It might have been misplaced endlessly, so we’re very grateful to Paul Deans for recognizing it, bringing it in and donating it to the museum.”
Oamaru limestone – and the fossils it comprises – dates from the Ogliocene interval, when a lot of New Zealand was submerged beneath shallow, heat seas.
The turtle fossils usually are not at present on show on the museum.