Muscat: A 500 million year-old fossil has been discovered by SQU researchers in Oman, the university announced on Wednesday.
During field trips carried out by a research team from the Department of Earth Sciences, a new discovery of a Thalassinoides trace fossil was made.
The fossil is well preserved, and the pattern of Thalassinoides, which are the fossilised work of organisms, cover a wide area within the larger Miqrat Formation.
“A trace fossil is like the tracks of the organisms that used to be living before our time, and these ones belong to the Cambrian era, which is 400 to 500 million years ago,” Dr. Mohamed El-Ghali, head of the research team told the Times of Oman.
“The formation of the rock that we found is the Miqrat Formation. The formation is well known, according to many past researchers working in the area, who have also found evidence of the Miqrat formation belonging to the Cambrian times.”
“The workers before us had carbon dated the formation to find that it belongs to the Cambrian era, though we still have some work to do to provide more detail regarding the age of the fossil,” El-Ghali added. The discovery comes as part of a grant that El-Ghali and his team received to explore and discover the fossil area.
“Finding the fossil was quite exciting, because this project has been ongoing since 2015. We identified the location then, and under a grant by His Majesty, we’ve been going to the site for three days every week, starting December until April, for the last couple years,” he explained.
El-Ghali also elaborated on how unique this discovery is for Oman, and how unusual it is for a fossil of this size to be discovered today.
“Finding a fossil from the Cambrian times is very rare. In terms of size, they’re always smaller than what we did find now. This definitely opens the doors for us to rethink and discover life during the Cambrian era, not just locally in the Oman area, but also globally and historically,” he said.
El-Ghali also explained that their research is ongoing, though it will come to an end towards the end of April.
“There is still lot of work to be done, so we’re hoping that this opens the doors for our research, or even others to keep the work going. There’s still hope for new discoveries within the next three weeks before the end of our research schedule.”
“The door is open for new research, it is exciting to visit these places and bring something new to the table, create a clearer picture of history here,” he said.
Many samples from the area have been collected for further analysis by the Department of Earth Sciences and College of Science Labs. The SQU researchers plan to publish the results of the discovery in renowned journals around the world.