A fossil hunter found a “golden cannonball” rock on a beach, and when he opened it, he discovered an ancient fossil dating back 185 million years. Aaron Smith discovered the rock covered in iron pyrite while he was exploring Sandsend Beach in Yorkshire, England. Interestingly enough, the 22-year-old already has a huge collection of fossils that he found.
These pyritic concretions – or cannonballs – are often found in shales along the Yorkshire coastline. They get their “golden cannonball” name because of the smooth polished finish of the pyritic crust which appears to be a golden color when it’s polished.
Since Mr. Smith has been collecting fossils for a while, he had a hunch that the rock may have a fossil inside of it and that’s when he opened it to find a spiral-shaped cleviceras fossil inside which is a form of ammonite. Cleviceras are an extinct genus of cephalopod which once belonged to the Hildoceritidae family during the Jurassic period. The most commonly known cephalopods from the present time are octopuses and squids.
These ancient sea creatures lived between 240 and 65 million years ago before becoming wiped out along with the dinosaurs. Ammonites fed on starfish, small marine creatures, and other small crustaceans like shrimp. They moved in a similar manner as our modern-day squid by using a tube located near their mouth that squirted water.
Cephalopods are hardly found as fossils as they do not have a hard shell, which is why fossils like cleviceras and ammonites are often found perfectly preserved in the limestone core of the cannonballs which protects them.
Mr. Smith posted a video online of his discovery. He said, “It still impresses me that these 185 million-year-old fossils are along our beautiful Yorkshire Coastline waiting to be found.” He went on to explain how much he loves searching for fossils by saying, “I go fossil hunting twice a week when I’m at home from university. Fossil hunting is a hobby of mine, or perhaps more like a serious passion.”
He explained that he got into fossil hunting because his dad was interested in it. “I remember very distinctly searching for our very first ammonite, when we cracked it open we were all so excited! This lit the fire for our future passion to develop,” adding, “Often we can tell that a rock contains a fossil because you can see the edge of the fossil around the outside of the rock.”