I’m posting this to celebrate the recovery of the second one along on the bottom row, found by me earlier today on Cromer East Beach while Crox Minor and I were walking the dogs.
It’s worth celebration because we don’t discover these very often.
They are all fossils of echinoids (sea urchins) that weather from the chalk cliff above Cromer East Beach. I think they are from the Turonian Stage of the Late Cretaceous, making them around 90 million years old. I’m not confident of identifying them to species, but with a copy in hand of the fifth edition of British Mesozoic Fossils (Plates 68 and 69) I suspect that they are all Echinocorys scutata, except for the fourth and fifth on the bottom row – the smaller, heart-shaped ones – which are probably Micraster sp. If you know better, please say.
Although there might be two or three more of these echinoids hanging around the place, this collection represents a family effort over the past six years. So, as you see, we don’t find them often. I admit our effort has hardly been systematic, and discoveries have tailed off in recent years. This is mainly because the best fossil hunter in the family is Crox Minima, who, in earlier years, combined a keen eye with being much closer to the ground than anyone else. There was one memorable day when, with her help, we discovered two of these in the space of five minutes. Now she is thirteen, much taller, and like most of her friends, spends much of her time in her room chatting to her friends on social media, and rarely comes to the beach.
It all goes to show that even fossils regarded as being common enough to figure in popular fossil-hunting guides are actually rare. The number of living echinoids to be preserved as fossils is a small percentage of those that ever lived. Even then, the number of fossils that survive long enough between having been weathered out of the cliff and ground by the tides into any other featureless pebble without having first being spotted by a passing beachcomber and recognised as a fossil must also be small.
Together, the probability of a creature surviving long enough to be memorialized on someone’s stylish IKEA display unit is so small as to be hardly worth mentioning. It’s amazing we know anything at all about past worlds.
This is a point I make in my Shameless Plug, which, while I’m on the subject, has sold in excess of 4,600 copies in all formats in just under four months, and is heading for a reprint, so thanks to all of you who have been spreading the word. I hear a paperback is planned for the autumn, and an audiobook is in the works.
(We’ve found belemnites, too, but they’re common as muck.)