Dorset microfossils

British Science Week 2017 logoBy Pam Hamer

It doesn’t need a lot of equipment to see something interesting in a small specimen collected on a country walk. The cliffs in Dorset are a great place for a stroll, or for a longer walk. There is the possibility of finding a significant fossil in the rocks on the beach which can be photographed and later identified. The rocks at Worbarrow are a complex mix, see Ian West’s description and images to help understand the sequences.

Sometimes it is smaller fragments of rocks which show the best microscopical detail. I picked up a small stone from the ridge leading down to Worbarrow Tout. The texture intrigued me and as this was a loose stone I felt it could be removed and taken home to look at in more detail.

This is what the stone looked like when it was washed and dried.

Stone before polishingStone before polishing

It looked a bit lumpy and there were some light coloured bits suggesting it was fossiliferous.

To see what was in it more clearly, one surface was ground flat on a small diamond plate, sold as a knife sharpener.

Knife sharpenersKnife sharpeners

Now we can see that the stone seemed to be chock full of microfossils.

Polished stone with microfossilsPolished stone with microfossils

To see the fossil remnants more clearly you do not need a lot of equipment. A simple magnifier like the one shown and a small pocket microscope can show a lot.

Dorset microfossils under simple magnifierSimple magnifier

Dorset microfossils under pocket microscopePocket microscope

The photographs were taken with a compact camera pointed above the lens of the magnifier and pocket microscope. They show the remnants of small shelly fossils – things that were alive millions of years ago when the area was a sea.

So even with a modest amount of equipment, exciting things can be collected and subsequently examined.

For a closer look at some Jurassic limestone from the Purbeck quarries near Swanage, Dorset, have a look under a virtual microscope (click “VIEW MICROSCOPE”)

↑ Top of page