Bones of 325-million-year-old amphibian discovered in Co Clare

Chance discovery opens up whole new area of potential exploration along Clare coastline

A reconstruction of what the 325-million year-old tetrapod would have looked like and (inset) the bones uncovered in Co Clare. Image: Dr Eamon Doyle

A reconstruction of what the 325-million year-old tetrapod would have looked like and (inset) the bones uncovered in Co Clare. Image: Dr Eamon Doyle

 

The fossilised bones of a 325-million-year-old amphibian have been discovered in Co Clare.

Geologist Dr Eamon Doyle stumbled upon the small fossilised bones of an amphibian tetrapod while on routine assignment near the Cliffs of Moher.

The amphibians lived during the Carboniferous Period between 360 and 299 million years ago when they first evolved from fish and colonised the land.

“It was one of those serendipitous finds; I was looking at something else, for something else,” said Dr Doyle, who works for Clare County Council in the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Unesco Global Geopark.

“I knew what I was looking at almost instantly. It was essentially a lucky find but it gives us optimism and hope that there are other things there.”

It is believed to be just the third such location where tetrapod remains have been located on the island of Ireland.

The two small bones have been detailed by Dr Doyle and Trinity College Dublin fossil researcher Aodhán Ó Gogáin in the latest edition of the Irish Journal of Earth Sciences.

At just 10mm in length, they are from a leg and possibly the hip of a small amphibian that would have been an ancestor to the first lizards, those which ultimately evolved into dinosaurs 100 million years later.

“It opens up a whole new area of potential exploration along the Co Clare coastline,” Dr Doyle said.

The amphibian, which would fit in the palm of a hand, is likely to have lived along a swampy coastline either in an estuary or along rivers further inland.

This one, Dr Doyle explained, may have been washed out to sea during a storm or flood. Its bones eventually settled onto the muddy sea floor where they were buried and turned to fossils.