Taichoute site: Discovery of giant arthropods dating back approximately 470 million years

Taichoute site: Discovery of giant arthropods dating back approximately 470 million years

A team of researchers from different universities has discovered, at the Taichoute site in the Zagora region, giant arthropods that measure up to 2 meters long living, hundreds of years ago, in this part of Morocco once underwater.

According to the new study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, the desert site of Taichoute discovered in 2017 northeast of Zagora finally revealed the existence of a kind of giant insect with jointed legs, just like centipedes. and spiders, attracting the attention of a dozen researchers of different nationalities to these fossil deposits which date back approximately 470 million years.

In their report, the researchers state that the Fezouata biota from the Early Ordovician of Morocco is an exceptionally preserved fossil assemblage that contains a combination of non-mineralized extinct organisms that have become synonymous with the Cambrian explosion, such as radiodonts, lobopods, nektaspidids and marrellomorphs, alongside more derived forms that are representative of typical Paleozoic faunas, such as xiphosurans and machaeridians.

Furthermore, the study explains that the exceptionally well-preserved fossils in these deposits were buried in situ by storm-induced deposition. ” Here, we report a new continuous fossiliferous section of the Fezouata shale discovered at Taichoute, 80 km from the previously studied localities.“, says the study.

Lhe locality of Taichoute widens the range of depositional environments producing non-biomineralized fossils, reveals new modes of preservation for the Fezouata shales and extends the presence of fossiliferous strata within this formation“, add the researchers.

These sedimentological interpretations complement previous studies carried out on the Fezouata shales which have highlighted a difference in the fossil preservation mechanism between this Ordovician site and other Cambrian deposits preserving labile anatomy such as the Chengjiang Biota in China and the Quarry Walcott in the Burgess Shale in Canada.

According to Farid Saleh, lead author of the study and researcher at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, “ all previous knowledge of the Fezouata shales was solely based on fossil sites near the Zagora region“. The researcher continues: the dominance of large arthropods in Taichoute is unique. You can possibly find many specimens in a day. These arthropods were active swimmers and dominated this region 470 million years ago“.

For the author, “some of these arthropods have already been described, but there are a good number of new species”. While researchers are currently identifying the approximately 70 specimens collected from the fossil beds during the excavations, they have unearthed multiple examples of Aegirocassis, an extinct genus of filter-feeding arthropods, “free swimmers and could move about as they pleased in the water“.

Nevertheless, ” there is a lot to do in Taichoute and more work on the ground will bring much more in the future”he concluded.

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