462 million-year-old fossilized eyes and brains uncovered in 'secret' Welsh fossil site

One of the most significant fossil deposits in the world may be found at Wales' new "Castle Bank" location.

According to a recent research, a "extraordinary" hidden fossil location in Wales holds the preserved eyes and brains of 462 million-year-old animals buried among a collection of unidentified species.

A new study that was published on May 1 in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution details the whole fossil deposit at the location known as "Castle Bank," which was the site of bizarre "bramble snout" fossils that were discovered there last year.

The location recalls the world-famous Cambrian deposits of the Burgess Shale in Canada and Qingjiang biota in China because it is home to a wide variety of soft-bodied marine organisms and their organs, which are seldom ever preserved in the fossil record. According to a statement made by Amgueddfa Cymru - Museum Wales, the rocks of Castle Bank are 50 million years younger and provide scholars a special window into how soft-bodied life diversified in the Ordovician Period (485.4 million to 443.8 million years ago).

More than 170 species, the majority of which are novel to science, are thought to have been retrieved by researchers from the location. These contain early evidence of creatures that developed later, such as barnacles, shrimp, and an unnamed six-legged insect-like species, as well as what appear to be late examples of Cambrian groups, including the most bizarre wonders of evolution, the nozzle-nosed opabiniids. The trilobite digestive systems and the eyes and brain of an unidentified arthropod, together with preserved worms and sponges, may also be found in the rocks.

In the announcement, Joseph Botting, an independent researcher and honorary research fellow at Amgueddfa Cymru, stated, "Every time we go back, we find something new, and sometimes it's something truly extraordinary." There are many unresolved questions, and this site will continue to provide fresh findings for many years to come.

During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, Botting and co-author Lucy Muir found the location close to their Llandrindod Wells home. For the sake of the site's preservation and at the landowner's request, the precise location is kept a secret, although according to the writers, it is a tiny quarry located within a sheep field.

The two meticulously excavated the fossils there for more than 100 days as the landowner's sheep kept an eye on them. In a brief summary that was included with the study, the scientists stated that the sheep "appears to have found us interesting, rather than disruptive."

According to a statement from the researchers, several of the fossils were at most 0.1 inch (3 millimeters) long. Because Botting and Muir are freelance researchers and not employed as academics, they raised money through crowdfunding to purchase a microscope to investigate the fossils in greater detail. To finish the recently published research, they later collaborated with a group of colleagues from around the world.

The sole juvenile specimens of the most widespread trilobite species, Ogyginus corndensis, were discovered at the site, suggesting that the environment maintained at Castle Bank may have acted as a nursery for young animals. The authors of the study added that the tiny size of the fossils was "striking" overall and may just be a characteristic of the local animal population.