Imagine strolling down a beautiful beach, enjoying the crisp sea breeze, when all of a sudden you look up and see something strange embedded in a towering rock cliff lining the shore. On closer inspection, it's a large spiral, a shell. In fact, it's the fossil of a 200-year-old ammonite, a mollusk from the Jurassic period. This is exactly how a day at Llantwit Major beach turned into an extraordinary discovery for 9-year-old Eli and his dad Glenn Morris. The Welsh boy's find is rare in that area and exciting for researchers.
Eli lives with his family in Birchgrove, Swansea, in Wales. He is not new to fossil hunting, even at such a young age. He usually goes fossil hunting with his dad. “We're always on the coast somewhere, usually down Gower way, but this was our first time here, so it was beginner's luck really,” Morris told the BBC. “I was a bit of a nerd growing up and liked dinosaurs and rocks and the same things he's into to be honest and I think I've passed it onto him.” Eli has gathered some fossil samples for his own collection through these expeditions. He told the BBC, “They're just interesting and I like their shape and the texture. It's just cool.”
This day, the family had traveled slightly further afield to the charming rocky, cliffside beach. Eli said, “I was just sitting here and looked up and thought ‘Oh my God, that's big!'” He had spotted a spiral-shaped shell peaking from the cliff, a blue lias formation. Dr. Nick Felstead of Swansea University commented on the fossil: “The fossil Eli found is an ammonite, which was a type of mollusk closely related to octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, which is a rare find at Llantwit Major. We can see that the inner chambers that would have been used for buoyancy of the ammonite have been infilled with quartz during fossilization, which is even rarer, and makes this one especially pretty.” The fossil is an impressive 200 million years old, and is contemporaneous with the dinosaurs.
Young Eli was clearly excited by the find, but the glories of being a paleontologist pale in front of his true life goal—being a footballer (soccer player). If he keeps searching the beaches, however, he may find even more fossils. Average folks in the UK have been known to stumble across important fossils on beaches and dairy farms. Americans can find them too, with enough luck. No one is too young, as shown by Eli, as well as another 9-year-old in Maryland who discovered a megaladon tooth. These young scientists continue to discover pieces of Earth's history.
9-year-old Eli was walking along a Welsh beach with his dad when he spotted a 200-million-year-old ammonite fossil peaking out from a cliff.
The ancient mollusk is showing from an eroded section of rock on Llantwit Major's beach.
The young fossil hunter has his own collection of cool fossils, but he wants to be a footballer.
Watch Eli recount his discovery to BBC: