Fossil finds on the Greek island of Lesbos


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Fossils of living creatures were recently discovered for the first time in the geopark of Lesvos island with its unique petrified forest, and were presented at the 9th Congress of the European Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists (EAVP) held on Crete. 

Trunk of petrified forest tree, Lesbos

More than 20 million years ago, the massive lake in what is now the northwestern part of the island of Lesvos and the surrounding area, with its subtropical climate, was covered by layers of lava and became petrified. Today’s visitors to the area of Sigri, but also Antissa and Eressos, enjoy a tranquil natural environment and the singular geopark of western Lesvos with its unique petrified trees. 

Visitors to the Petrified Forest have justifiably been wondering about the apparent lack of animal life or, rather, fossils. The answer to their questions came a few years ago when excavations by scientists from the Sigri Petrified Forest Museum of Natural History brought to light, in the region of Gavathas, Antissa, the first indications of the existence of a large mammal. The first find, a fossilised lower jaw of a prehistoric form of a trunked animal, a proboscidean, was later identified by researchers as a representative of the Bavarian prodeinothere (species Prodeinotherium bavaricum). Although similar to today’s elephants, the prodeinothere had downward curving tusks located in the lower jawbone. It is one of the lowest fossils of a vertebrate animal found in Greece to date and comes from one of the first trunked animals that migrated from Africa to Europe. 

The most important animal fossils discovered are: the jawbone and other parts of the skeleton of two proboscides

And then…nothing. At least up until a few days ago, at the 9th congress of the European Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists (EAVP) organised by the Crete Museum of Natural History in Irakleio, where geologist/paleontologist Katerina Vassiliadou, researcher at the Sigri Museum of Natural History, unveiled an incredible world of inhabitants that once lived among the fossilized trees in the Petrified Forest of Lesvos: snails, lake fish, reptiles and even prehistoric crocodiles, as well as small mammals, living creatures that walked the earth in this small part of the world millions of years before the advent of man. 

The conclusions of the Lesvos Museum of Natural History’s recent research activities in the Antissa area and discovery of a small layer of lake sediment rich in fossils of small animals were presented at the 9th EAVP annual meeting in Irakleio, Crete. 

Source: ANA-MPA [June 28, 2011]



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