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Fossils in Ireland

Fossils in Ireland

Although some of the most well-known fossils are those from the dinosaurs, there aren't many dinosaur fossils present on the island of Ireland. This is in part because Ireland does not have a full rock record from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous aka The Age of the Dinosaurs. Only two dinosaur bones have been found on the island of Ireland and they were both found on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland. The fossils are bones from the hind legs of two different dinosaurs: a herbivore called Scelidosaurus and a carnivore called Megalosaurus. It is likely the fossils were preserved by the overlying flood basalts of the Antrim Plateau. 

There are, however, lots of other fossils to find in Ireland. One of the most famous fossils in Ireland is the Valentia Tetrapod Trackway on Valentia Island, off of south west Co Kerry. This set of ancient footprints is so significant because it represents the evolution and transition of animals moving from water to land.

Tetrapod trackway, Valentia Island, Co Kerry

The fact that limestone bedrock is so abundant in Ireland (it makes up 43% of the Republic of Ireland's bedrock and 38% of the island of Ireland's bedrock) means it is very easy to spot fossils in the rock. If you look carefully at Irish limestone, you can see the fossilised remains of animals such as gastropods (snails), corals (both solitary and colonial), ammonoids, bivalves and crinoids amongst others. New species are still being discovered today - Dr Eamon Doyle, Geologist of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, discovered a new species, Crepidosoma doyleii, of brittlestar in 2017. 

The widespread bogs in Ireland are also home to numerous fossils. The Irish tradition of turf-cutting has exposed fossils such as ancient tree stumps, and even mummified human remains have been found. Old Croghan Man, from the Iron Age (500-332 BC) discovered in Co Offaly and Cashel Man, from 2000 BC discovered in Co Laois are examples of the well-preserved remains that can be found in bogs.

Other animal fossils found in Ireland are Giant Irish Deer, trilobites (ancient marine animals which look like present-day woodlice), fish and sharks.