One of the largest collections of rare marine fossils anywhere in the UK has been discovered by a couple using Google Earth.
Non-professional palaeontologists discovered the site in Wiltshire during the second lockdown, while researching the geology of the area online.
After being contacted by the duo, Dr Tim Ewin, a senior curator in earth sciences at the Natural History Museum (NHM), secured funding for a dig at the site, and was amazed at the number of specimens discovered.
The findings of hundreds of samples from the Middle Jurassic (174 to 164m years ago) should allow new research that was never before possible due to the small number of samples held in collections.
Neville and Sally Hollingworth, from Swindon, were the co-discoverers of the site.
Dr Hollingworth, is also an honorary research associate at the University of Birmingham’s school of geography, earth and environmental science.
He said: “About six months ago, at the beginning of the year, when we were doing some research on local geology we noticed on Google Earth this little quarry and got in touch with the site manager and asked if we could visit.
“So we came on down to the bottom of the quarry and we noticed that the floor of the quarry was a clay layer, and on the surface of the clay with lots and lots of little fossils which we call crinoids or feather stars.”
The couple took a slab from a site and cleaned it up at home, where they discovered an “incredible sight” of “beautiful” sea lilies, crinoids, starfish and brittle stars.
Hollingworth said: “It was amazing, the preservation is absolutely stunning. They are 167m years old, these little critters, and the preservation is just amazing.”